Prices of apartments, bungalows in South Mumbai rose by 10-15% last year

MUMBAI: Mumbai prides itself on its egalitarianism, famously on display in its local trains where diamond merchants rub shoulders with chauffeurs. But even in this cultural landscape your address matters, and there is little dispute that South Mumbai - often referred to as So-Bo or South Bombay in defiance of official dictates that the City of Dreams should be called Mumbai - is at the top of the hierarchy.

Clear proof of this is the fact that many enriched by India's economic boom are willing to pay top dollar for a SoBo address driving up prices of sea-facing apartments and bungalows. Such demand, property brokers say, has led to prices of old apartments in Malabar Hills, Peddar Road, Napean Sea Road and Marine Drive - areas that are at the top of the SoBo pecking order - rising by between 10% and 15% in the last year, even as demand for new apartments remains weak. Independent bungalows available for Rs 100-150 crore just a year ago can now fetch between Rs 300 crore and Rs 400 crore.

Those in the hunt include 42-year-old Vikas Oberoi, chairman of Oberoi Realty, which completed a successful public offer last year. Oberoi has a bungalow in Juhu, but is on the lookout for a sea-facing penthouse in South Mumbai, as that will signal his arrival on the big stage. The search, so far, has been a frustrating one. "I am ready with a cheque of Rs 50 crore, but it is difficult to get a decent deal," he says.

Oberoi, a top builder, has a peculiar problem - he cannot reside in a new flat in a building constructed by a rival. "Everyone who's getting successful wants a home here. But with supply not being able to match the growing demand, prices are firming up, despite the overall slowdown," says Lata Patel, president of IOS Relocations International, which works with HNIs and MNCs.

Adani also on the Prowl

In August, Ajay Mittal, the chairman of supply chain and logistics management firm Arshiya International bought a one-storey bungalow Morena House on Carmichael Road for 300 crore. Gautam Adani, chairman of Adani Group, is also on the prowl for a South Mumbai address.

Adani is looking for a sea-facing bungalow for his personal use, brokers say. The Gujarat, Ahmedabad-based tycoon, whose interests range from edible oil to power and ports, has made two separate bids for Hindustan Unilever's Gulita property at Worli Seaface, another redoubt of the city's elite.

Worli Seaface, though high in the prestige hierarchy, is in fact in central Mumbai. Yet another aspirant for a South Mumbai home is a London-based Indian businessman, who's married to a film actress, and owns a cricket team, brokers said. But this couldn't be confirmed.

Property brokers who operate in the area say new money is chasing these trophy apartments and homes. The battle for a top address is often hard-fought as new entrepreneurs vie with those who have been for long a part of the city's business elite. 

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