REAL ESTATE: Brokers and Decisions
Tongue in Cheek
By Cecil Pinto
Everybody I know is doing a little bit of real estate on the side. From the local motorcycle pilot to the aristocratic Portuguese speaking bhatkar, everyone is suddenly a 'broker' of sorts and conversations are dominated by terms like '2%', 'conversion', 'agreement for sale' and 'stamp duty'. So what exactly is happening? What is driving this boom? Is there a boom at all? How come the builders are not beaming all the way to the bank as they did in the mid-1990s? Who is making them money? And, most importantly, how do I get a share of the loot?
I decided to meet a proper experienced real estate consultant to find out more about the business. Maybe he suspected that I was trying to learn the trade myself so he kept his cards quite close to his chest and I learnt nothing I didn't really know already. Getting nowhere I approached my friend Michael from Calangute. Now Michael has dabbled in everything from shacks, to massage parlours, to shady drug deals (he claims he only did light drugs; and anyway even that has stopped now because the hafta makes the whole risky business rather uneconomical), to tour operations to rave parties and now he's dived into real estate brokerage.
"So Michael how did you get into this business?"
"It's like this. About three years back I found this Irish couple who wanted to buy a small house somewhere in South Goa. I introduced them to this big real estate agency and they were very happy with the services provided and purchased an apartment in Arpora. A few months later I took this nice gentleman from New Delhi to the same agency and at that time they gave me Rs. 7,500/- as my commission for bringing them the Irish couple. I calculated that as half a percent. This was quite generous considering the precious nothing that I did. So for the next two years I kept introducing this agency to buyers and sellers of property and when any deal clicked I got my "finder's fee".
"But if the couple wanted a small house in South Goa how come they got saddled with an apartment in Arpora?"
"See Cecil, you don't quite understand. There are lots of houses for sale in Goa but when you actually get down to doing the paper work you realise that the ownership is not as clear. People assume that since they have Form I & XIV that the house is theirs. There's lot more than that involved. Apartments on the other hand have relatively clear title. Now foreigners are very insistent on an absolutely clear title. Indian clients on the other hand know how the system works, and that possession is 9/10th of the law."
"So when did you strike out on your own?"
"About a year back a German couple I had sent to this same agency complained to me that they were being shown places that didn't match their criteria at all. They wanted a big house in the interior of North Goa and the agency was showing them row houses on the beach and tiny holiday apartments. And they were being charged Rs.300/- each time they were shown some lousy place that was completely the opposite of what they had asked for. They were quite disgusted so I took them around directly to some owners of houses in Bardez and charged them nothing per visit. Of course we went around in a hired van driven by my cousin Alvito. He's now into the real estate business himself, competing with me! Finally when they found just the right place at Olaulim, I introduced them to my brother-in-law who is a lawyer and the deal came through. I got 2% from both sides, buyer and seller, and it was such a big amount that I decided to become a full-time broker myself. Of course I still organise rave parties during peak season but this business is so much less risky."
"But isn't there always the risk that the buyer and seller might collude and not give you your percentage?"
"That happens to other brokers, not me. I make myself a friend of both parties. I do not inflate the price like some other brokers do. I take them over to my sister's restaurant and get them a major discount and special service. Once I even threw in a complimentary overnight boat cruise for two for the price of one. My neighbour has these boat cruises. And of course I recommend foreigners to the best dentists, massage parlours and pharmacies for bulk purchases. Trust begets trust. "
"And how do you handle this six month continuous residence Reserve Bank rule for foreigners?"
"That is my trade secret. That I cannot reveal. Just remember, trust begets trust."
"Doesn't it bother you that the demographics of Goa are changing with foreigners and non-Goans buying prime land here?"
"The houses I sell were lying vacant. They were falling apart in some cases. Isn't it better that they are looked after and lived in? Or perhaps you would prefer that some greedy mundkar with a house of his own claims rights over it and then just allows it to fall apart?"
"But why are our people selling their houses? Don't they want to own a part
of the land of their ancestors?"
"That's easy for you to say Cecil. The last house I sold belonged to a family settled in Canada. The parents, children and grandchildren are there. They haven't been to Goa in ten years. The last time they did they stayed in a hotel because it didn't make sense to do up the house just to live there for two weeks. The grandchildren have never been to their ancestral house and wouldn't care less. They are Canadians. Their Goanness consists of taking part in the Viva Goa carnival once a year and chorusing the first verses of exactly three mandos. They are quite content with reading, in Goan cyber space, about happenings in Goa. The vagaries of the Bush administration are much more important to them than the Konkani script debate. Most of them can't speak Konkani anyway! They don't love Goa. They wouldn't care less what happens here. They only claim to be Goan to
differentiate themselves from other Indians abroad."
"I tell you Cecil, these people who are buying houses here truly love Goa and plan to live here. Maybe these are the people who will bring about a better Goa. Our own people have flown to other lands. It is the outsiders buying land here who are putting their money where their mouth is. Maybe they will appreciate and improve Goa, since our own people are not doing that! "
The column above appeared in the November 2005 issue of Goa Today magazine.
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