10 Steps to Finding An Awesome and Cheap Flat in Delhi

Hi, I’m Brittany, I like mozzarella cheese, and I have been known to dress up in a feather boa and high heels while parading around town calling myself ‘B Spears.’ But that’s besides the point, so let’s hunker down and discuss the real reason why you’re here: you’re a foreigner moving to New Delhi, and since you’re an absolute baller you need to figure out how to navigate yourself into a sweet and stylish apartment while also giving yourself total street cred for getting it at the utmost decent price. As a fellow baller myself, I’ve got you covered: here’s 10 easy steps to lifelong bragging rights of being a master apartment negotiator.

Step One: Stop calling it an apartment.
You’re in India, my friend. We call them flats here. Get those crazy American notions out of your head and put down the Candy Crush!

Step Two: Get a phone.
This may seem like an obvious step, but obvious doesn’t knock on your door and keep you warm at night, does it now? Run out and get yourself a sim card, and remember that it takes up to 2 days for it to be activated. Don’t forget your passport, a passport photo, and a ‘current residential address’ in India (freebie tip: depending on the stall you go to, you could get away with not having an address, but you may be levied a ‘special foreigner price’).

Step Three: Spend hours fruitlessly searching for apartments on Magic Bricks, Yuni-Net, JustDial, and ‘Flatmates in Delhi’ Facebook Groups.
Because why not? You want feel productive while you are surreptitiously watching LiveCams of puppies.

Step Four: Scrap that and have your friends and connections in Delhi email you some of their brokers they use. Call them.
The world is small: you know someone who knows someone that lives in Delhi. Use your master networking skills to get some broker information and give them a call. If you don’t speak Hindi, prepare to be very confused. Tell them in your Hindlish that you want to meet them the next day to tour some flats, and set a time. If you’re super driven you could also call brokers you find online, but we all know by this point in the day you’re really watching YouTube videos of cat sandwiches.

Step Five: Take off work and rent a car for a day, meet up with landlords, and just tour apartments.
I know it sounds confusing and scary, but as Nike likes to say: just do it. You will get a much better sense of what’s available and for what price. Don’t get in that rickshaw! Rent yourself a nice air-conditioned car that will drive you around everywhere for the day. After riding around hot Delhi for 8 hours, you will absolutely get the best bang for your buck- and let’s face, you’re a boss, so treat yo’self.

Step Six: Don’t Settle.
Our first apartment we toured looked like a scene out of ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre,’ including fuzzy mold, chipped paint falling from the ceilings, and a creepy landlord that quoted us at a ridiculous sum of 40,000 rupees a month. Quell that incoming panic attack and move on to the next one! You’ll find your dream pad for a much more reasonable price that does not look like a horror movie.

Step Seven: Have the same landlord take you to a few flats and firmly establish a lower price than the first you’ve seen.
Break out those negotiating skills and don’t be afraid to go big or go home. If a landlord shows you a flat for 27,000 rupees a month, tell them that you are looking for a place with a maximum of 22,000 rupees a month. Don’t listen when they tell you there isn’t one available. Plug up those ears when they say there are no 4 room flats in your asking price- there are, I’ve seen ‘em. Keep on touring, and be firm. Chances are, the next place he’ll take you to will suddenly and magically be 22,000 rupees.

Step Eight: Bargain like the hard-ass you are.
Get ready to rumble. When we found our current place, we finally bargained it down from 22,000 to 20,000 rupees. Be nice and don’t be afraid to throw in a smile, but your eyes should be really intense and clearly say “don’t mess with me fool.” While you’re at it, practice that look in the mirror for all future endeavors.

Step Nine: Negotiate with your company to pay for the brokerage fee and security deposit.
Many real estate agents require a brokerage fee worth 1-2 months rent, plus a security deposit worth one month’s rent, plus a 1-2 month’s of rent advance. This is quite costly. You could either rob a bank, try to wheedle your company into covering at least part of the fee, or take a Volunteer stipend so that they feel obligated to cover your security deposit (*cough* thanks AIF). If you’re super savvy, you could try to bargain for a ‘cut’ on the brokerage fee. Our AIF friend and fellow Mohit got the broker to cut our price down 1/3rd from claiming that ‘he was in real estate.’ Ace status right there, Mo.

Step Ten: Have chai with your landlord and ‘seal the deal.’
Get your mind out of the gutter and put on those charm pants. You want your landlord to like you, so crack some American jokes and try to say something unintelligible in Hindi. Singing old Bollywood songs are a definite crowd-pleaser. Get that lease signed, sealed, and delivered!

Break out the champagne and thumsup, you have just found yourself a flat in Delhi!
If you can find a super nice Indian friend who has lived in Delhi before and loves helping out hapless foreigners, you can eliminate about seven of these steps, but Mohit is currently taken up by 3 other Americans so back off and find your own master negotiator. Oh right, did I mention that’s pretty crucial to finding anything worthwhile? Fine, I didn’t say it was really easy. B Spears out!

Brittany has spent the past five years exploring economic development and social enterprise abroad, and is excited to continue her journey as a William J. Clinton fellow in India. As a recently returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Brittany spent the last two years teaching entrepreneurship and consulting on a number of small businesses in Paraguay. As Project Manager of Joívenes Empresarios del Paraguay, she also led the first national business plan competition, as well as a following national business case competition, raising over $10,000 for both projects and acquiring national partnerships to continue the program into the future.

As an undergraduate at Global College of Long Island University, Brittany worked with a number of micro-finance initiatives, including Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, Fundacioín Paraguaya (a micro-finance NGO) in Paraguay, and as President of an online start-up, iShop4Microfinance.org. Brittany additionally worked with Acumen in New York while writing her undergraduate thesis on social entrepreneurship. After graduating in 2010, Brittany worked at Faulu Kenya (a micro-finance institution in Nairobi) as a Kiva fellow, and attended the StartingBloc institute.

Brittany has previously spent 6 months in India studying and traveling, and she is excited to return as a William J. Clinton fellow. She plans to get an MBA in the future and continue working in international business.

Supported by IL&FS

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8 thoughts on “10 Steps to Finding An Awesome and Cheap Flat in Delhi

  1. Haha, I love this Brit! So glad it worked out. You’ve definitely got the process of finding a flat in Delhi down. This should be shared with every bewildered expat moving to Delhi. Would save them a lot of aggravation. Having a thumsup here in your honor.

  2. Dear Brit,

    Your sassy voice shines through this beautifully, and I love it! I hope that you sign all of your future blogs with “B Spears Out!”


  3. You have to be B Spears at Midpoint!!!!!. Believe ‘Flat’ is quite good. So it all worked out including your employer helping out a bit. Good for them.

  4. Brit..u really have to mention one more point…Step 11-If your Landlord call your name Preity instead of Brittany, then also focus just on bargaining rather than correcting your name..Lols…Apart thank yous o much for mentioning my skills

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