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Show business: Should you buy your home based on a fancy sample flat?

Sample and display flats typically have thinner walls, higher ceilings and larger windows. Check layout and dimensions before you buy.

real estate Updated: Nov 25, 2016 21:07 IST
Hindustan Times

Numan Githum, 34, a US-based software developer, decided to give his parents a new flat for their 40th wedding anniversary.

On his subsequent visit to India, in 2011, he began scouting for the perfect home, and found what he was looking for in a display flat in Mira Road.

“It looked really fancy, with walls and sofas done in perfectly matching beige, wall-mounted TV cabinets, and a foldable dining table. All the fittings and furnishings were branded,” Githum says.

Imagine his surprise when he visited his parents six months later to find that their flat looked nothing like the one he had been shown.

“The rooms were smaller, the ceilings lower, and there was no full-wall picture window,” Githum says. “The flat hadn’t even been painted, and the corridors were so much narrower that the fold-out table I had liked so much was basically unusable.”

These are all common complaints among first-time buyers who make their purchases based on the promise of a display flat.

“Whereas a sample flat is an indication of what you can expect to get, a display flat is more like a form of advertising. Many first-time buyers make the mistake of confusing the two,” says Gulam Zia, executive director at real-estate advisory Knight Frank India. “A display flat is just an indication of what your home can look like if you decorate it in a similar fashion. In such cases, you have to check the fine print to confirm which décor and design elements will actually be included in your home.”

Githum, for instance, didn’t notice the fine print. “When I re-read the terms and conditions, I found one line explaining that the flat I saw had been a display flat and not a sample, but by then, of course, it was too late,” he says.

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While most buyers think looking at display flats will help them make a more informed choice, Sunil Mishra, CEO of property consultancy, says displays might actually be more confusing than helpful.

“It’s tough to imagine the space minus the décor, and that’s essentially what you need to do if you are to accurately assess what you are being sold,” he says.

Displays are never to be taken at face value, adds Manju Yagnik, vice-president of Nahar Group developers. “Such flats acts like décor planners, fitted with chandeliers, designer cabinets, exquisite flooring or combination of such elements to give the customer an idea of how to recreate the space when the flat is owned by them. Sample flats, on the other hand, are meant to show you exactly what you are investing in, including dimensions and layouts, placing of walls and windows, tiling, flooring, even bathroom fittings.”

Samples can be manipulated too, however. In many sample flats, buyers should remember that the walls are typically thinner and ceilings higher, creating an illusion of space that will not match what you actually get. Also, sample flats are usually westerly facing and have no internal doors, creating an added illusion of sunlight and airiness.


In addition to reading the fine print and verifying the dimensions of the actual flats, buyers need to keep in mind that sample and display flats are often not on the same plot and sometimes not even in the same locality as the actual building site.

“This is why it is important to visit the actual site and verify the layout yourself,” says consumer rights lawyer Uday Wavikar. “Not every flat will have the same layout as a sample, and a lot of people realise this difference only after they take possession.”

Dharmesh Shah, 31, director of a packaging exports company, is hunting for a second home and finds sample and display flats so confusing that he’s begun to bypass them altogether.

“I don’t find it helpful to walk through over-decorated flats with branded amenities and perfect remodeling when I know that the final product will not be the same,” he says. “Instead, I’m focusing on price range, locality and getting the best deal.”

He’s now locked in on a couple of township projects in Karjat and Khopoli. “Both are offering fully furnished flats but I’m trying to crack a deal with the developer to give me just the shell without any amenities built in,” he says. “I’d rather get a better price and do my own interiors.”

Read: Builders splurge on sample flats to woo high networth buyers amid slump


While a sample flat is an indication of what you can expect to get, a display flat just shows you what your home can look like if you decorate it in a similar fashion. Many first-time buyers make the mistake of confusing the two

* In both cases, check the fine print to confirm which décor and design elements will actually be included in your home.

* Ask about the floor plan and confirm whether the layout will be the same.

* In both display and sample flats, walls tend to be thinner, ceilings higher and windows larger. There are also usually no doors. All these elements combine to give the illusion of more space, light and air. Confirm the actual dimensions.

* If it is a display flat, visualise the home without the decor.

* Display and sample flats may not be situated on the same plot or even in the same area, so visit the actual building site for a better idea of views, light and air flow.

First Published: Nov 25, 2016 20:31 IST