If you were a youngster in the ’60s to the ’80s and living in North India, chances are that you spent most of your vacations driving in the hills of Shimla, Mussoorie, Nainital, or even as far as Gulmarg. Going abroad was unheard of, and if your parents did, it would be the talk of the town, with a number of friends and relatives going to see them off and receive them from the airport.
All our memories were in those hills, trekking up and down the khud side, berry picking, stopping at streams or at a dhaba. Ambassadors and Fiat cars with luggage on their carriers, struggling to get up slopes. Those were fun days filled with simplicity.
During those decades, far and few were wealthy, and only a handful of families actually owned homes in the mountains. However, a mental note was made by that young child that one day, I will own my piece of heaven in these mountains.
People moved into Metros, not for a better standard of living or livelihood. That they had in their smaller towns with larger homes, green spaces and loving relatives. They moved to create wealth.
Fast forward 30 years, most of them have created wealth, bought their apartments and fancy cars, travelled the globe several times, and lived up their life either for their own desires or to live up to the Joneses.
All this to only realise that it is the simplest things that give them maximum pleasure. This is when childhood drives in the misty mountains bring back those nostalgic memories. Those memories are still vivid, and so is the aspiration of owning that quaint home in the hills. However, there is one difference now. This latent aspiration is now backed by income.
Homes with small spaces, overlooking the neighbours. Hours spent in the car in traffic Jams, standard pollution of 400 PM dust that chokes your kids isn’t fun anymore. This is not the life they signed up for. PEOPLE WANT OUT. They are now considering getaways in the midst of nature – where mankind is truly at home.
They want a place where they can spend time with themselves, or with immediate or extended families. A place amidst nature where they can recharge their souls and then get back to the hectic metro life, if at all. A place where they can etch memories with their children, just like they created theirs with their parents.
With numerous flight connections, and a good network of roads, the mountains are closer than we thought. With work from home becoming a reality, video calls becoming an acceptable norm and high-speed internet in most parts of the country, you can now be at your office at 6000 ft, the only difference being that you are significantly more productive, both at work and with your family.
However, owning a home in the hills is not easy. A buyer has to deal with several pain points, which he/she must consider before buying their dream.
The legality of owning a home – States like Himachal, Uttarakhand and even the North East have strict land laws, where only residents of that state can purchase land. A buyer must ensure that the seller is able to transfer a clean, freehold title. The lease of land will not withstand legal scrutiny.
Quality of construction. Most hill stations are tier 3 towns, where good contractors just don’t exist. A home that is being built needs a lot of supervision by the owner. Therefore, one must ensure that if you are building a stand-alone home, somehow you must opt for the best contractor in the area, or sign up with a developer who has a reputation for delivering quality.
Maintaining your nature home isn’t easy. Any home which is not lived in will have problems. Homes in the Mountains as well as on the ocean are in harsher climates and will require more care. The owner usually spends the first part of his stay only rectifying these glitches, as getting skilled labour in these areas is not easy. It may be a good idea to have your caretaker check your entire place before you arrive and get everything fixed, else find a good developer who does proactive maintenance for you.
Facilities are equally important. We are all spoilt by the infrastructure of city life and will want to do things. Living in an isolated home, with no facilities such as a restaurant, bar, pool, gym etc can get boring. So, you can either build these in your home, which brings along its own set of problems with maintenance and repairs or find a developer who gives you all these.
Neighbours. In the good old days, and still, in small towns, it is your neighbours who become your support system. Good neighbours with your fundamental values, similar education, life experiences and background make your living experience even more pleasurable. In places like Mashobra and Naldehra (Shimla), it is such a pleasure to see folk lunching and dining together every single day. They have built such strong bonds that many of them prefer living in their mountain homes to going back to city life. So choose the neighbourhood carefully or a developer who sells by invitation.
All in all, Nature living, away from the hassle of a city will become an attractive option now. Keep the above in mind and you will not go wrong.