MUMBAI: Call it Realty Spring. Homebuyers in the country are taking to Facebook and Twitter to deal with errant builders in issues ranging from delay in possession to mismanagement, to good effect.
Sample this: 1,200 homebuyers in DLF's New Town Heights project in Gurgaon got together through a Facebook page to protest the delay in possession of their homes. Three protests later, the builder agreed for 20 per cent discount on each apartment and also doubled the compensation for the delay.
In another high profile case, Anand Mahindra, who has leveraged Twitter craftily over the years to market his cars to hear consumer voices, is now at the receiving end on the social media network after a homebuyer at the Mahindra Group's maiden realty project, Mahindra Park CHS in Mumbai, created an anonymous Twitter handle recently to protest mismanagement at the society. While people within the society's managing committee denied any knowledge of the Twitter handle, they did accept that there are numerous issues with the builder.
There are many such examples. Irate homebuyers across Indian cities have set up hundreds of Facebook pages and Twitter handles to protest against builders—against delays in possession, or quality of work, or even maintenance of the properties.
"Customer redressal is a big issue in the real estate space. People have always found it difficult to get their voice heard because they were either talking alone or in small groups," Ramesh Nair, managing director — west at property consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), says. One of the biggest problems is delay. Around 5 lakh homes are supposed to be delivered to buyers in 2013, but a significant chunk will get delayed.
Homebuyers log on to Facebook, Twitter to voice their complaints against builders
"Delayed delivery of residential projects has become asignificant issue on the real estate market, leading to high levels of ire among customers," JLL said in a recent report. It said more than 25 per cent of the committed supply has not hit the mar-ket as per schedule.
In Mumbai and Pune just over 40 per cent of the committed supply have been delivered as per scheduled so for this year. In Gurgaon and Noida it has been even worse with delivery of only one-third and one-fifth of committed supply, respectively.
Affected buyers seem to have taken inspiration from Arab Spring and numerous other cases of successful social media activism, to use social networking sites as a megaphone of sorts to raise their issues and take on developers.
These sites offer wide geographical reach and easy access, plus everyone is on social media today. Facebook had 82 million monthly active users in India at the end of June, while Twitter has over 20 million users in the country. "There was no way we could have connected with so many buyers. We couldn't have done it without Facebook," Nitin Grover, president of DLF New Town Heights Residents' Association, says.
"It helped us organise our protests and due to the strength of our movement, the builder had to give us a discount," he says.
In another recent case, owners of homes as old as 25 years in Mumbai's Worli area are using social media to raise their cause after a court ordered to demolish a portion of the complex because of irregularities by the developer. They have now got support from the likes of Union minister Milind Deora, MP Priya Dutt, social activist Medha Patkar and jurist and former Sheriff of Mumbai Nana Chudasama through Twitter and Facebook.
Social media analyst Michael Tchong says wordof-mouth can spread faster on social media. "Call it the 'Twitter effect'. It's very easy to 'Like', forward a message or post a link about a certain topic, which, again, is not something other media support easily," he says.