Even as the real estate sector is facing a slowdown, Aditya Birla Group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla is buying the iconic Jatia House bungalow in Malabar Hill here, for close to Rs 425 crore. This will be the second big transaction in the vicinity after the Godrejs took over Homi Bhabha's bungalow for Rs 372 crore last year.
Built in the 1920s, Jatia House belongs to the Pudumjee group. The 2,900- sq-ft plot, with 25,000 sq ft of built-up area, was put on sale three months ago by its current owners.
When contacted, a Birla spokesperson declined to comment but sources in the real estate sector said the deal has been finalised and lawyers are in the process of registering the property.
The metropolis is witnessing some big-ticket investments in bungalows by the city's billionaires. After Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani constructed a $1-billion house on a Peddar Road plot, Raymonds chairman Gautam Singhania is constructing a similar multi-storey building in the vicinity.
The Lodhas also bought Washington House - a US government property - on Altamount Road for Rs 375 crore in 2012. A year later, diamond merchant Dilipkumar Lakhi took over Cadbury House for Rs 350 crore. Ajay Piramal also bought a one-acre plot in Worli Seaface from Hindustan Unilever for Rs 453 crore for personal use. The bug to live in old bungalows also bit Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar, who bought a house in Bandra for Rs 80 crore.
This buying activity also comes at a time when Yashovardhan Birla, chairman of Yash Birla group, has applied to the state government to transfer the development rights of the iconic Birla House to developers.
The demand for old bungalows in Mumbai comes in the backdrop of a steep fall in real estate prices. Mumbai developers say prices are down 15-20 per cent and are expected to fall further. A recent report by Ambit says real estate volumes have come down 10-15 per cent for three consecutive years and new launches have also drastically come down on a pan-India basis.