Fulbright to India Guide – 2021-2022

Housing in India 

Finding suitable housing for Fulbright grantees can be difficult, especially in big cities.  The task becomes a bit more time-sensitive especially for those grantees who have to register at the Foreigner’s Registration Office (FRO) (for Student visa holders), as housing has to be finalised within 14 days upon arrival in India. Registration requires grantees to produce address proof in India (please check the FRRO page for accepted residential proof)

Rent value varies greatly not only from one city to another but also within the city. Housing in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad, will be significantly more expensive than outside these metropolitan areas.

While it is natural to compare prices, grantees should keep in mind that there are several factors that determine rent in India such as neighbourhood, tenure of stay, housing amenities (furnished vs. unfurnished accommodation) or proximity to services (healthcare, school, transport terminus like metro)

While looking for accommodation, grantees will come across the BHK acronym, meaning bedroom-hall-kitchen. 1BHK means 1 bedroom, hall and kitchen, 3BHK means 3 bedrooms, a common hall and kitchen and so on and so forth.

Furnished Apartment:  These types of apartments have a few amenities such as air conditioner/s fitted in the rooms, refrigerator, water purifier, furniture (bed, mattress, sofa, dining table, shelves), cooking utensils, etc. The rent of these apartments is usually 30 to 40 percent more than unfurnished apartments.

Unfurnished Apartment: These apartments have no amenities and grantees have to arrange everything on their own starting from cooking utensils, water purifier as well as furniture.  

Serviced Apartments: These kinds of apartments can usually be found in metropolitan cities. These furnished apartments also include housekeeping and sometimes provides basic breakfast. They are like AirBnB or Bed and Breakfast with more privacy for the family. These serviced apartments are typically expensive in India and usually the expat population stays in these accommodations.  

USIEF highly recommends grantees to consider furnished apartments as it takes away the time and associated challenges of arranging for housing amenities like room air conditioner, cooking wares, buying/renting furniture and then disposing these same amenities at the end of the grant.

It is absolutely a grantees choice whether to live in a shared apartment with other grantees or choose to live independently.  However, student researchers who usually come without accompanying dependents prefer to live in a shared accommodation to save costs. It also helps to have peers around you when you are homesick or going through a tough period of cultural adjustment and most importantly have a support system while living in an unfamiliar country.

Eating out is usually expensive in India too, so often Fulbrighters employ cooks to come over once a day to make food for all the room-mates. Keep in mind that when you employ a cook, you are helping the economy and providing livelihood to an entire family.

Senior scholars usually opt for a 1 to 3 BHK apartments depending on whether they have accompanying dependents or not.

Once you arrive in India, USIEF will put you in touch with a realtor to help you find appropriate house of your choice. Do let USIEF know your housing requirement around a week in advance before your arrival. This will help the realtor to identify houses as per your requirements and arrange visits to check the houses upon arrival. 

There are several online portals in India to find houses such as Magicbricks, 99accres, etc., but USIEF strongly advises our grantees not to finalise housing or make any advance payment before seeing the apartment, unless it is recommended by someone you trust. Online pictures can often be deceiving and once you see the apartment, it may not match your expectations.

While the real estate broker will try his best to find houses as per your requirement, you must personally check the following before finalising your housing:

  • Ensure that all the electrical fixtures and appliances (plug points, water purifier, air conditioner, water heater, etc) are in working condition.
  • Run each water sink tap and switch on buttons to see if the water flow is fine and the lights are working all right. Also check that the house is freshly painted and there is no seepage inside the house.
  • Ask the landlord about regular water supply and back-up electric power (if any)

If you like a house, it is advisable to book it immediately by giving a nominal advance payment to the landlord.

Once you confirm your choice of apartment, the realtor  will help you with the documentation required for renting in the property. The realtor will arrange a rent agreement which is a legal contract that lays down the terms and conditions between you and the landlord. Usually in India, agreement is for 11 months even if you stay for a short period of time. You have the option to move out anytime by serving required notice period as stated in the lease agreement.

 Please read the agreement carefully before you sign the document.

If you find an apartment inside a gated community, check for any other additional maintenance charges (security, power back-up) etc

Note that you will be required to make a refundable security deposit of at least 2 months rent (or more in some cities) while making the final agreement of the house. This deposit will be returned to you at the end of your stay or may even be adjusted with your last month rent payment in some cases.

Do remember to ask for the mode of rent payment-. Most houseowners prefer cash payment but in case they want a bank transfer, you need to wire transfer the rent to the landlord’s Indian bank account from your U.S. bank account which will attract some charges.

Normally realtors charge one month’s rent as broker fee. This should ideally be paid within 1 week of signing the lease agreement.   For Fulbright-Nehru grantees, brokerage will be reimbursed by USIEF up to a certain amount depending on the grant category. Please refer to your grant authorization sheet for brokerage allowance.

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