The bottom has dropped on real estate. So far that it's simply not visible anymore! Just when every industry expert was calling for an end to price cuts and moaning about the declining demand for residential property in India, Prime Minister Modi has exterminated Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes. And without doubt, the land and property markets in India will take a big knockdown.
It's no secret that the property markets in our country were hugely inflated. They are an easy place to park undeclared money and evade taxes. And for everyone claiming otherwise, there's a simple enough argument. Any apartment or home you buy should give you, at the very least, inflation + 1% rental return. The current consumer inflation in India averages 5% per annum. Do the math. Will your apartment which costs Rs. 1 crore fetch you Rs. 50,000 as rent every month? You'll be lucky if you can get Rs. 30,000, or a 3% rental yield. The defenders of the property bubble always wanted you to believe that India is not a property market for rental returns, but for capital appreciation. In short, they insisted property was the best way to multiply your money.
Of course it was, especially because cash was keeping the capital appreciation going. Even if the first-time home-buyer took a loan and bought a property the proper, accountable way while using cheques, when it came time to sell that house at a profit and declare the capital gains, more often than not, he or she decided to take the well-evangelised, institutionalized route: accept 20% to 30% of the sale value in cash. Cheat on taxes, use that cash to buy a larger property, and, in the process, artificially inflate prices.
Top industry voices corroborate this round-robin of cash bubble in India's real estate which has made buying a home unaffordable for a majority of Indians.
"Large and organised housing developments in India's top seven cities have cleaned up over the years. The ability of developers to collect cash while selling 100-200 apartments is very difficult. My hesitation in calling it clean is in the secondary market and transactions on land" says Anuj Puri, chairman and country head of global real estate firm JLL.
"You will see a lot of secondary market transactions coming down in volume. For every ten buyers out there, there is only one buyer willing to pay all-cheque. And usually, people want to take at least 20 to 30 percent of the amount in cash, but this will now go away. This will also act as a big de-motivator for people who were generating more and more cash to be able to park into real estate all this time. It will create a lot of transparency in the long term, but in the short term, there will be a lot of pain," said Samir Jasuja, founder and MD of PropEquity.
While views and arguments will fly several ways over the next few months – a shakeout is imminent. Here are your options:
1. For a while, property sales will freeze. Be it land, primary apartments or secondary sales. The psychological blow is a big one.
2. Sellers waiting on the side lines will now see the writing on the wall. With black money sucked out, there is very little hope of prices climbing up soon. So desperation will creep in and with it, prices will drop.
3. Prepare for the largest blow to be felt in luxury and ultra-luxury properties. In cities like Hyderabad and Pune, this could mean a price tag of a crore, in Gurgaon, 2-crore plus and 3-crore plus for Mumbai.
4. Cities like Lucknow, Jaipur, Surat, Rajkot and Madurai will melt. There's no way out.
5. And if anyone will brave the tsunami, it's the budget and affordable homes priced at 50 lakhs and below. There is enough pent up demand for these. Every correction will bring in new buyers.
The good news is that once the shakeout happens and black money is drawn out of the system, right-priced homes will be built for those who want to live in them.
(Manisha Natarajan is Senior Vice President – Corporate Affairs and Executive Editor – Business & Real Estate at NDTV.)
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