KOCHI: The demand for heritage homes in Fort Kochi area has taken a hit following skyrocketing realty prices, tough heritage zone laws and low tourist turnout.
According to market sources, there are no buyers for many of the 75 homes that fall under the heritage zone in the area.
Owners who want to restore their buildings and turn them into homestays are also finding the process expensive under existing heritage laws.
"The sale of heritage homes has fallen in recent times, mainly due to the dip in tourist inflow. Existing heritage homes that function as hotels and homestays are struggling to survive as they don't have enough customers," said Fort Kochi sub-collector S Suhas. The current land value in the heritage zone is approximately Rs 25 lakh per cent, depending on location and road access with Princess Street being the most expensive.
"Most of the investors are NRIs who want large properties with at least 20 to 40 cents of land. Ideally, one must pay a certain amount for the building itself as a great deal of timber, brass fittings and so on are common in such houses. They are not willing to pay for houses as the cost of restoration is equivalent to building a new home. Also, the law dictates that the original structure of the building cannot be tampered with. For most buyers, that's the deal breaker," said a real estate broker from Fort Kochi.
"We inherited this house from our great grandmother. The house is estimated to be around 250 years old. Though, we have not done any renovation, it's still in pristine condition. But finding a buyer is proving to be impossible," says Howard La'frenais.
Howard's home is on Quiros Street in the middle of Fort Kochi's heritage area. Like Howard, there are many such heritage homeowners in Fort Kochi. "Not all houses are in good condition. Last month, an old house near Parade Maidan came crashing down in the middle of the night. One side of the house had completely collapsed. Thankfully, it was unoccupied. Most homeowners try to sell the land as they know that buyers are reluctant to do renovations that can run into lakhs of rupees," said Peter Raberts, who owns a heritage home on Princess Street.
According to Dr M Nambirajan, head of monuments, ASI Delhi, "There are no laws in Kerala to protect or fund these heritage houses. But according to ASI classification, any building that's over 100 years old is considered heritage. There is need to preserve our heritage buildings. But whether the government can fund these buildings is the big question," he said.