Shambhu Kumar, 42, a London-based IT professional, is keen to buy a luxury property in Gurgaon, Bangalore or Pune. Since the amount of money at stake is high, Kumar is keen to learn about the factors to which he should give primacy in his search.

Contrary to popular perception, experts suggest that more than the bells and whistles—the amenities and specifications—you should giv

e primacy to location when hunting for a luxury property. As the adjacent table shows, the market for luxury apartments thrives in plush locations. "Often developers develop super-premium apartments at peripheral locations. Even though they provide very high-end facilities, the project fails to command the pricing demanded because the location is unattractive," says AS Sivaramakrishnan, head of residential services, CBRE South Asia.

"The location should inherently command the kind of premium pricing being asked for," emphasises Shweta Jain, executive directorresidential services, Cushman & Wakefield. Any project that is located in a peripheral area or in areas that lack social infrastructure should not make the cut.

Space-lots of it

The second criterion that defines luxury is space. An apartment that is branded as luxury should be of above 3,500 sq. ft. In the NCR, depending on the location, the FAR (floor area ratio) norms allow anywhere between 1,000 and 1,500 apartments to be constructed over 10 acres. For a project to be classified as luxury, the number of dwelling units should be much lower and there should be lots of open space.

Top-end amenities

Only after getting the first two parameters right should you turn your attention to this one. Today, of course, the sky is the limit on this parameter. Top-notch security features, imported flooring materials, high-end kitchen and bathroom fittings—there is no end to what the globally travelled customer demands and gets. "In the ideal scenario, the developer should create the basic framework and allow the customer to choose the specifications he wants," suggests Sivaramakrishnan.

The right developer

The developer should ideally be someone who has delivered luxury properties in the past. "Developers who lack experience of developing luxury properties may find it difficult to deliver the kind of end-toend experience that today's topbracket buyers expect," says Jain. Operating in the luxury segment calls for the developer to be highly customer oriented. That's where the inexperienced player may be found wanting.

If a project comes up to the mark on these criteria, you should then do the basic due diligence: whether the developer has the land title, if his financial position is sound, and all permissions are in place.

What should you avoid?

In India, very tall projects with 70-80 floors or more automatically gets classified as luxury. This should not be so. "Ask what value such a building brings to your lifestyle," says Jain. Another ploy to attract deep-pocketed customers is to tie up with the world's leading luxury brands, or with developers of the world's well-known luxury projects. Often these tie-ups are purely cosmetic. Again, the buyer should cast a discerning eye and ask: what value does that brand bring to the table?