October 29, 2020
India’s Real Estate sector is the second biggest source of employment on the subcontinent, and a key driver for meeting housing and infrastructure demands across the fastest growing population on the planet. But, of course, COVID lockdowns brought a sudden halt to construction, with many workers returning to their hometowns and leaving sites at a standstill. So, as the industry emerges from its enforced slumber, what do current trends in the Indian housing sector demand tell us about the wellbeing of this vital part of the economy?
Well, the first point to make is that, like most economic shocks, COVID will inevitably be short lived in the long life of the country, but it will also accelerate key changes in the near term …
Phased construction activities have already resumed and more property sales were registered on the subcontinent from June onwards than in COVID blighted March to June. As a result developers are reporting that between 80% and 90% of their labour force is now back on site, and there has been a parallel blizzard of Government MOU’s inviting tenders for new public sector building projects, especially in Bangalore and Chennai (more of which in a moment).
The Indian Government has been particularly anxious to kick start supply side metrics by offering developers a wide variety of incentive packages, including a recently announced six-month extension in project deadlines under the RERA Force Majeure clause.
And back in March The Reserve Bank of India announced a three-month moratorium on developer loan interest (later extended to the end of August: (www.rbi.org.in), as well as a typically aggressive quantitative easing programme which injected a further $ 24.4 Billion into the economy, enhancing short term liquidity for developers and home buyers alike: stamp duty was also reduced as were property registration fees in many States.
On the demand side, rates for buyers looking for loans are currently running at their lowest for twenty years (about 7%), with added tax exemptions too including a rebate on loan repayments up to $4,747 annually. Small wonder then that key economic indicators have been showing an uptick in the subcontinent’s property markets since September, with a much more positive growth trajectory (expected to tick up further over the next twelve months).
JLL India reported recently that the first signs of this recovery in the housing market are being seen in major conurbations (with IT magnets like Bangalore and Chennai leading the way: www.jll.co.in), manifesting itself in particular in the affordable and mid-price segments: the Survey found more than 50% of prospective homebuyers are expecting to complete their purchase within the next six months, so it seems the uncertainties of COVID have actually reinvigorated that most basic of human instincts: a home of your own…and one you can move into quickly.
The way Indian homes are being bought is changing too: consumers are determined to move in as quickly as possible and that, combined with GST exemptions, means so called ready homes are currently winning out over off plan sales (which, by their nature, take longer to deliver). That trend will inevitably favour developers making use of modular technologies. Speed of delivery is, after all, everything in the post COVID era and Modular Technologies deliver three times quicker than conventional construction techniques (www.modulex.in).
In turn this has led to a demand side shift in property price structures: off plan properties for completion in six to eight months may not qualify for stamp duty exemption, but the inbuilt delay in completion means they are now 10% cheaper than the ready home alternative: this will fuel greater near term demand as buyers seek out less expensive options, so both models should see benefits as we emerge from the cloud of COVID.
And as we pointed out on this site recently, government funded programmes are also playing their part. India continues to expand its infrastructure base like never before (COVID or no COVID), and that brings us back to Chennai…
Property prices in in and around the conurbation were more or less static between April and June, but from June onwards analysts reported a rapid increase in demand for the ready home, affordable and mid-price segments (see the Insite quarterly report produced by property portal www.99acres.com). Demand for affordable housing in Chennai has risen by more than 60% this quarter, and a key factor is public infrastructure. Affordable properties within easy reach of the new Siruseri IT Park saw a 9% increase in demand (for sales and rentals), and new highways and improved connectivity to the northern and southern belts of the City have seen sales from Sholinganallur to Tambaram skyrocket. The influx of IT workers together with all those new highways and science parks are pushing prices the roof.
So across the vast territory of the subcontinent, demand in the Indian housing sector is trending inexorably upwards…COVID or no COVID. That can only be good for the future of the economy.
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The subcontinent’s real estate markets are starting to move steadily forward: supported by innovative Government and Central Bank initiatives, but most of all by resurgent levels of consumer demand.
Construction is already (and always has been) a key element of the economy so that can only bode well for the future.