The Cause Behind Rise of 3-Marla Houses in Pakistan’s Metropolitan Centres

Before we go into the details on why 3-marla housing units are being sought after across Pakistan, let’s take a look at the trend of urbanization (as it pertains to the country – and elsewhere) from a broader lens.

A Look at the Stats

Of all the estimated 7.7 billion people who presently comprise the world’s total population, more than 54% inhabit its various urban settings – and this figure is projected to more than double by the onset of 2050. The bulk of the research reports that present these stats also suggest that this high growth rate continues to be spearheaded by the Asian and African (90%) continents.

As such, we, as Pakistanis, are living in an age characterized by an unprecedented ‘urban explosion’ in the region. This new-age phenomenon (which has a lot to do with a decrease in mortality rates, increasing life expectancy, and access to greater food reserves) has created a dire need for shrunken housing spaces to accommodate a larger number of people on the same land tracts.

These figures, as can be expected, paint an even grimmer picture in the case of Pakistan; which is currently ranked as the 36th largest country in the world and the 7th most populated. According to a recent estimation, eight of Pakistan’s metropolises are inhabited by over a million people each – with 18,916,456 people living in Karachi alone (as per 2017’s national population census).

Another study indicates that 36% of the Pakistani population resides within the cities, making it the highest-ranking South Asian country with regard to successful urban integration.

From these stats, we can infer that population explosion in the metropolitan cities of Pakistan is one of the primary contributing factors – if not the driving force – that has fostered the demand for smaller housing units sized between 3 and 5 marlas.

On this front, the analysis of web traffic received by Pakistan’s major property portals (most notably Zameen.com) totally backs this high local interest.

Here is a listed breakdown of all the other important factors that have entrenched the demand for the aforementioned residential spaces across the country.

1. The ‘Cost-Efficiency’ Element

Everyone knows that real estate is an expensive business. Property rates have grown by leaps and bounds compared to what they were only a decade ago; not to mention that the market for 3-marla housing units in Pakistan is majorly comprised of genuine buyers (people interested in taking up residence over the long haul, and who wish to split into nuclear family setups from their more traditional family arrangements). For these people, large space isn’t a top priority – contemporary structures and amenities are. In fact, this trend of owning ‘small, efficient urban homes’ is spreading throughout the world like wildfire.

It also figures that if these people were to develop or construct these homes for themselves, given the recent hike in the prices of raw materials, the cost of developing 3-marla houses will be lower than what they would otherwise have to put up with for building a larger structure.

2. Small Housing Units = Lesser Taxes

Smaller housing units often enjoy exemptions from certain taxes. Sometimes, this is one of the major factors that cajoles new homeowners with limited budgets into buying a 3-marla house.

The government of Punjab, as a suitable case-in-point, exempts:

  • Housing units constructed on an area less than 5 marlas, and located in ‘B’ or a lesser category locale.
  • Properties that fall short of attaining PKR 4,320 in annual rental yield, or a single house that does not attain rental amounts in excess of PKR 6,480 annually (if occupied by the owner for personal residence)

The tax laws vary across the provinces, but this rubric provides a good indication of how 3-marla housing units – irrespective of where they’re located – will prove to be tax-efficient.

3. The Metropolitan Lifestyle (Convenience Personified!)

The rural areas of Pakistan, since the country’s mid-20th century years of independence from British colonial rule, continue to lag far behind on the infrastructural and human development scales. These locations, which make for the majority of landholdings present within the country, generally lack the basic life amenities of accessible and quality healthcare, education, and suitable employment. Plus, the localized market structures here – and particularly the rental and housing markets – are limited in their scope.

This ‘developmental dearth’ causes most people to move to cities every day to earn a better living for themselves. And based on the basic demand-supply mechanism, the more people relocate to the urban centres, the lesser the availability of land – which, in turn, results in price hikes and makes people more amenable to small-compartment living.

Also, housing units that lie in close downtown proximity present an attraction that most Pakistanis find difficult to resist – even if that means moving to smaller housing units.

4.   The Unexplored Potential of Apartment living

Aside from Karachi, flats and apartment units don’t come about as preferred choices for residential accommodation for Pakistanis living elsewhere in the country. Also, the vertical housing trend has only recently started to surface in the country. People, somewhat misguidedly, judge apartments to be unsafe and risky investment avenues; being more sure about private houses located within the suburban areas (for both residential and investment purposes).

Lately, the millennials who are bent on moving to the metropolitan centres to pursue jobs or education have started to express interest in apartments – and this unfolding trend could change things. However, it still needs to be conceded that the fixed mindset regarding ‘proper homes’ being single housing units continues to tempt people to invest in 3-marla homes over other property options.

On a Parting Note

Although 3-marla housing units comprise a perfectly good residential recourse for a large number of Pakistanis, the land still constitutes one of those planetary resources that cannot be replicated. For this reason, we need to develop our rural areas to lift the population burden off of cities.

Now the government, for its part, seems vested in making good on this cause and elevating rural living standards – but it is still an inescapable fact that we, as a nation, also have our own mandatory role to play (towards alleviating this concern).


  • Housing developments are wasting precious agricultural sweet land and very soon the Pakistani society will realize its negative results. The per capita “useful” land in Pakistan is diminishing rapidly due to housing colony culture.

  • In Pakistan, there is no FBR notice on sale/purchase of 3 marla house. So, if at all, this the reason of our newfound interest in small houses. No need to ponder over applicability of far fetched theories to understand the trend. Its obvious i.e. tax evasion by investors and sundries.

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