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BW Businessworld

Home Away From Home

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How many times have we seen the tag line ‘Home away from home’, as part of hotel brochures? But we all know it doesn’t really work. You can’t just pack up your bags and leave without any advance notice — reservations have to be made — and let’s not even talk about the food that one has to put up with. Then there are all these rules to follow (don’t pluck flowers, don’t leave wet towels on the floor) and your four-legged friend is hardly ever welcome. 
If you truly want a home away from home, buy your own. A second home in a hill station, near the beach or any other pristine location — your own little haven where you could de-stress over weekends or vacation with family and pets. And when you are not using it, you can offer it to friends or even rent it out. 
“The idea is that the second home should provide what the first one cannot,” says Om Ahuja, CEO of residential services at Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) India. So if you are living in a hi-rise apartment in the city, buy a cottage with a garden and give your green thumb some practice. Laze around on a hammock, have a barbeque or like Delhi-based Rekha Agarwal have another place to keep all “my beautiful furniture and art work that wouldn’t fit into the Delhi apartment”. 
While for most, easy connectivity, natural surroundings and beautiful weather are the key deciding factors when it comes to selecting the destination for a second home, for some the place has a sentimental value. Agarwal bought her second home in Ranikhet as she spent her summer holidays there as a child. Reaching the destination within a few hours’ drive makes it the ideal weekend getaway. 
Here are some popular second home destinations.
The Hills Are Alive...
If you are a Delhiite you probably dream of living in the mountains. And it helps that most popular hill stations such as Shimla, Kasauli, Rishikesh and Mussoorie are within driving distance. However, remember that there’s a restriction on buying land in Himachal and Uttarakhand unless you have domicile. So it’s best to buy a row house or a villa from an organised developer.
But these towns are already popular and hence, crowded. Mukhteshwar and Binsar in Uttaranchal are relatively new on the second-home market front, but are almost a 10-hour drive from Delhi.  
For those residing in Chennai, the hill station of  Yercaud (near Salem) is ideal.  It’s not as crowded as Ooty and is still relatively unspoilt. The flip side to that is that there aren’t too many reputed developers there.  Coonoor and Kotagiri in the Niligiris with their huge tea estates are also attractive second home destinations. 
Wild Life Calling
Wildlife buffs may consider scouting around for a second home in Corbett, though be warned that it’s not an all-year round destination as it enjoys good weather only for a few months. 
Sun, Sea and Sand
“Goa tops the list when it comes to second homes. There’s both supply and demand there,” says Shveta Jain, executive director of residential services at Cushman & Wakefield. You can take your pick from apartments, row houses or villas. Since Goa is a popular tourist destination, you have the added advantage of renting out your place. Says Chandigarh-based Vikrant Singh who has a two-bedroom apartment in a gated community in North Goa: “We have registered it online on a few websites and during season rent it out for Rs 15,000-20,000 a night.” 
New Towns
What could be cooler than having Amitabh Bachhan for a neighbour? Shell out a few crores and buy a villa in Aamby Valley. Every now and then a few of these come on the market. Currently there are a few listed with online real estate portals for between Rs 2-5 crore, but they are probably acres away from Bachhan’s villa. If you do have more than a few crores, there’s also Lavassa. Though the regulatory tangles have delayed the overall project, JLL’s Ahuja expects it to take off once the second phase is fully operational and delivered. 
Green Pastures
Lonavala’s lovely weather, greenery and close proximity to Mumbai and Pune makes it a popular destination. Being on the Mumbai-Pune expressway,  it can be reached within a couple of hours. It also has several trekking trails and old forts to explore for the adventurous.
French Connection
If you live in Chennai, you probably drive down the beautiful East Coast road on weekends to Pondicherry — or Puducherry, as it is now called — to enjoy French cuisine along with a drink or two. The former French colony has many second home options available by both local and national developers. 
Clean City
The neighbouring city of Mysore, famous for its cleanliness (it was voted the second most clean city in the country), has always been a hot favourite with Bangalore residents.

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(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 22-04-2013)