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Finding, Buying and Renting for Expats in India

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: September 2013

Finding Property

Reasonably cheap, good quality accommodation is hard to find in many Indian cities. Hence you will probably need to do a fair amount of searching. There is a wide variety of accommodation available, including houses, studios, larger flats and luxury accommodation in gated communities.  

From a language point of view it is probably easier to use an estate agent. The commission they charge for rented accommodation is usually one month’s rent. If you’d prefer to look for property on your own initiative, there are more than 140 English-language newspapers published in India, including plenty of local ones. A list of Indian newspapers can be found on this webpage:


Otherwise there is the internet. Some of the best-known websites are given below:


If you are single and looking for rented accommodation, bear in mind that some landlords may take exception to you, particularly if you are an unmarried woman. Providing a character reference may help to mitigate this. Some landlords, especially in the South, may stipulate that you cannot prepare meat and fish on their property. Note also that a property advertised as ‘unfurnished’ will usually have no oven, no refrigerator, washing machine or other white goods.

Rent is in Indian cities is very reasonable by Western standards. You can expect to pay around ₹8,000 to ₹20,000 per month for a flat, depending on the area. On the other hand, the initial outlay can be relatively high. The security deposit payable varies from two months’ rent in many places to ten months’ in Bangalore.

Contracts can be quite informal in India. However,  if you need proof of residence, it is advisable to get at least some kind of tenancy agreement in writing from the landlord. You should also ask for a receipt for your deposit and monthly rent payments, and for other payments. These may include maintenance fees and various taxes. As bank transfers are uncommon in India, you will have to pay in cash or with a cheque which must be from an Indian bank.

The standard rental period is twelve months. However, since a twelve-month contract makes the lease subject to rental control laws, landlords often prefer a term of eleven months. Though a twelve-month contract gives you more legal protection from possible wrongdoing by the landlord, eleven-month contracts are more common as they enable both parties to be more flexible.

Your landlord may be open to negotiation regarding a shorter or longer stay and indeed many other matters. However, you should give at least two months’ notice if you want to leave the property before the lease expires.

Buying property

With the economy still growing, the housing market is booming at present and many expats are considering buying property in India. Particularly popular areas for bargains are the south-western states of Goa, Karnataka and Kerala. However, property purchase for those living outside India is restricted to those with proof of their Indian roots, that is, an NRI (Non-Resident Indian or PIO (Person of Indian Origin) card.

If you are non-Indian and have a work and residence permit, you must also satisfy the following conditions:

Citizens from many of India’s neighbouring countries are forbidden from buying any property. This affects citizens from Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and also Iran.

It is highly advisable to get an English-speaking property lawyer when buying a property in India. This will help with the bureaucracy, small print and legal uncertainties arising from a rather chaotic housing market. A lawyer will also be invaluable in helping you to check out the veracity of titles, documents and possession certificates. Legal fees are around 1.5% of the total purchase price.

Payments by cash may be of questionable legality, so it is best to ensure that you make all payments by cheque. You can further safeguard yourself by arranging for the payment to be made via a bank, who will charge a small fee for this service. Stamp duty varies from 4% to 10%, and you will also need to pay property registration fees of 1-2%. Around the same amount again will be payable if you have taken on an estate agent.



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