Looking to buy a house? Here's what builders have to say
Here's a round-up of what India's real estate developers, industry experts and private equity players have to sat about how the industry will shape out in the next one year.
Cash is king in today's real estate market but don't get your hopes up for bigger discounts and freebies this festival season for developers feel the worst is over for Indian realty. Here's a round-up of what India's real estate developers, industry experts and private equity players have to say about how the industry will shape out in the next one year.
Current realty trends from the RICS Real Estate Conference 2013:
Only distress sales:
On an average, most developers expect the next 24 months to be better off for corporate and retail real estate. However, residential real estate, which comprises 77 percent of India's total real estate market largely depends on economic recovery and job confidence. According to Sanjay Dutt, Executive Managing Director, South Asia for property consulting firm Cushman and Wakefield, residential sales are just distress sales or value buying. While demand remains intact, uncertainty about job security and political stability is keeping home buyers at bay.
Why investors are staying away
Despite a weak Indian rupee, non-resident Indians are not lapping up properties in India due to volatility in the rupee. In fact, real estate is actually proving to be a victim of the weak rupee rather than the beneficiary. This is because after the rupee broke the psychological barrier of 60, there is a clear uncertainty on whether it will fall to 65-70 or more and how long it will continue to languish at these levels. According to Akshaya Kumar, Founder and CEO of Park Lane Property Advisors, investors are holding on to their cheque books until the rupee stabilises around the 60-61 levels.
Michael Hollande, Member RICS, South Asia Board, believes most foreign investors are apprehensive about investing in Indian realty due to lack of governance and accountability in the sector. "When I asked my Austrailian friends whether they would park money in Indian real estate, they had only one thing to say. INDIA means I will never do it again," he said. Add to that lack of clarity on funding projects.
Price is the problem, say experts; but developers rule out any cuts
Retail real estate has proved to be a negative for investors due to the time lag in such projects.Moreover, even though India has a housing demand for at least 1.2 billion people, such demand has not resulted in investor projects. Only those projects invested in land and sold as land have made maximum returns. Anshul Jain, CEO of property research firm DTZ, believes the crux of the problem is pricing, "Cut real estate prices by 30-40 percent and real estate sentiment will improve," he said at the conference.
Developers acknowledged that speculative demand from the market has diminished while end-user demand still intact. However, buyers are on a wait and watch mode since current valuations do not match affordability. However, they ruled out panic and desperation in the market which was witnessed before the prices crashed in 2008. They have attributed the current slowdown to negative sentiment due to political instability and job uncertainty. In other words, builders are not promising any kind of price correction as construction finance has shot up but expect property values to remain flat for the next couple of years. Only those builders who miscalculated execution risks or are burdened with high debt are willing to lower prices currently.
Without a price cut, how will developers lure buyers?
Take for instance Mumbai, where a 2BHK does not cost less than Rs 1.5 crore. In order for you to afford this, you need to earn at least Rs 2.5 lakh a month, without servicing any other loan. Clearly, at this price point, demand is bound to remain subdued. However, Bharat Dhuppar, CMO, Omkar Realtors and Developers, says a price cut does not always translate into sales since buyer sentiment has been hit. Instead, he believes builders should focus on complete transparency in communication with prospective buyers right from the approval stage until the Occupation Certificate is handed over.
Following are the five ways builders plan on retaining customers:
1. More research into consumer insight to match their aspirations
2. Convenience of location is key. Offering all amenities.
3. More square feet for the same price, i.e. offering 1/5 and 2.5 BHKs.
4. Focus on restricting construction cost and building a brand based on timely delivery.
5. Getting the funding right with the right mix of private equity and financial institutions.
And how are PE firms planning to raise more money?
Currently, the new real estate funding is primarily driven by domestic investors as foreigners are afraid that they will burn the fingers again. According to fund managers, the only way to attract more foreign funding is by selling them India's long-term growth story.
"If you want to be part of India's growth story, forget about the next 24 months of the next 3-5 years. You need to think long, at least 7-9 years if you want to make money here," said Ritesh Vohra, partner real estate, IDFC. According to him the biggest challenge today is government policy. Most investors fear that once the new government comes in, investments will be eroded due to policy flip flops.
Given the volatile environment, managers are now calibrating the compensation packages and are not promising unrealistic returns.
V Hari Krishna, Director, Kotal Investiment Advisors, believesintroduction of real estate investment trusts (Reits) as an investment product will boost the liquidity situation of cash-starved developers, which are struggling to find funds for their construction activities.
Says Ambar Maheshwari, Mamaging Director, Corporate Finance at Jones Lang Laselle, "Reits will institutionalise small investor savings and will provide the much needed exit option for investors for it willprovide an investment avenue which is less risky than under-construction properties, as well as easier exit routes along with regular income.
However, Rihit Salhotra MD, and CEO, ICICI Home Finance cautioned that while these trustsare expected to bring in globally accepted practices to real estate funding and revive the interest of both global and domestic investors in the sector, the fine prints require clarity, especially on the taxation front. Most fund managers, however, were unanimous, that once REITS are set up small retail investor wealth will shift from safe-haven gold to real estate.
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