Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What impact will RBI move of changing currency notes printed before 2005 and coming Loksabha Elections have on Real Estate sector in India?

Author: Sachin Gupta | Find me on Twitter

  • Land purchase may slow down due to RBI move to change currency notes printed before 2005

We all are aware of the fact that virtually all land deals whether large or small takes place with huge amount of money paid in cash to avoid stamp duty charges. Now, Let’s assume, there is a land transaction that is going to take place between party A and party B and the market price of the land is rupees 5 crores. As per the circle rates, the land price comes out to be rupees 2 crores. The remaining 3 crores will be paid in cash by party A to party B. Given that, RBI has announced that currency notes before 2005 needs to be exchanged. In this situation, Party B is not going to accept cash amount with currency notes printed before 2005. Therefore, it puts pressure on party A to exchange his/her currency notes with the banks. And in certain instances, party A may not be in a position to go to banks for the exchange of currency notes due to the fear of income tax authorities taking note of such huge levels of unreported income. However, it is yet to be seen what impact will there be on realty sector, but there is all the likelihood of fewer land transactions due to the RBI’s latest move to change the currency notes printed before 2005.

  • Elections and real estate

Elections are a democratic phenomenon, which happens every 5 years in India. There are two kinds of election namely assembly elections for respective states and general elections for parliamentary system in India. All political parties whether small or large, regional or national strive hard to win elections and form the new government. It is commonly known that to win elections, political parties use all kinds of methods from announcing distribution of laptops, offering cycles, to free subsidies. The idea is to target the voters with such schemes in order to swing the pendulum in their favor.

And to win these elections, large amount of money is spent on advertising, organizing rallies, pamphlets, banners, press, traveling to various constituencies. About Rs 10,000 crore was spent in Lok Sabha campaign in 2009. And according to some estimates, this time that figure will be between Rs 15,000 crore and Rs 20,000 crore. There is no hidden fact that, the huge amount of money required is spent in form of cash. So, where does this money come from? Well, political parties will claim that this money is raised from their followers, supporters. Who are these followers? To put it bluntly, there is no free lunch here. All these so called followers who provide cash to political parties will like to claim their spending if the party they support comes in power. These claims may vary from allocation of natural resources, tax benefits, subsidies, dissolved cases, etc.

Now, how are all these followers able to provide such large amount of cash to these parties? We all know that in India even though most businesses claim to do business by the rule of law, but in reality they do under report their income and it is that income that is ploughed in real estate, gold, or elections. All these sectors have the unending capacity to absorb unaccounted cash. Therefore it is fair to say that when elections are round the corner, the investment in gold or real estate may dip and funds may be diverted towards elections.

  • Impact of elections on property sector in India?

As observed earlier that during the time of elections, the funds are diverted towards political parties’ election campaign. And the sectors that suffer the most are real estate and gold. Large amount of unaccounted cash is provided to these political parties which until now would have been parked primarily in real estate. In fact, during election times one can notice the increase in distress sale activity in real estate. Since, huge amount of money is required for elections; properties worth millions are sold at below market rates to generate sufficient cash for elections. It is also highly likely that real estate developers will cut down on new launches of housing units or commercial real estate and will solely focus on selling the existing inventory.

  • Should I buy the property during election times?

From the end-uses point of view, it is possibly the best time to buy. One can focus on buying from secondary market or resale market. As suggested earlier, there is strong likelihood that distress sales will increase and it presents end-users with an opportunity to buy at lower rates. However, buying in secondary market means, one has to pay huge amount of property value in cash. It is also the good time to negotiate hard with the developer if one is buying directly from the developer.  Since developers are only focusing on clearing the existing inventory, it presents end-user with an opportunity to bargain hard and get substantial discounts on the property.

Have any Questions?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Reasons why NRIs prefer investment in Indian Real Estate over stock market, NRE/NRO accounts, and bonds

Author: Sachin Gupta | Find me on Twitter

Continuing with the discussion about Non Resident Indians and their propensity for investing in various investment classes, we recently conducted a survey among NRIs and asked the following question:

“Fall of rupee opens up new vistas for NRIs to invest in India. Which asset class is more likely to see increased investment activity?”

About 43 people responded and 27 chose real estate as the preferred investment asset class, the second preferred choice was NRE/NRO account with 12 people opting for it.

What could be the possible reasons for these results?

Also, have a look at our research report showing returns on investment classes such as real estate, gold, bond, and stocks.

  • Volatile stock markets

Let’s face it. For last 2 years, the stock markets have been volatile to say the least. With growth slowing down and investment climate at its low due to poor policy making on part of the government of India, investors are looking for assets that are less risky. Unless, the investment climate gradually improves, we may continue to see retail investors abandoning stock markets and invest in relatively risk free asset class such as real estate or bonds.

  • Low returns on bond markets

Bonds are risk free and therefore, returns are lower. However, bonds continue to provide stable return over a period of time and many prefer stability over high returns. With volatile stock markets, Indian investors are either preferring real estate or bond market. Non Resident Indians have been no exception to this rule.

  • Rupee depreciation

In last 2 years, rupee has fallen substantially. This presents NRIs with an opportunity to invest in Indian real estate. Because of falling rupee, real estate looks attractive to NRIs and they are able to get property at almost 20% discount. For example, if one were to invest rupees 1 crore in commercial real estate such as Office Space in Gurgaon or housing in Chennai, he/she would have paid about 200000 USD. And since the falling of rupee, the same real estate would cost 170000 USD to an NRI. This is a major factor why real estate prices are still not coming down in India despite the sluggish demand at home. With money flowing in from NRIs, real estate prices are stable, if not appreciating.

  • Family considerations

For people living abroad, there is the comfort factor that some of their relatives either parents, siblings are in India. And this leads them to buy a piece of real estate, which can be used in times of need for parents or siblings. Many also cherish the dream of returning to India one day and investment in real estate gives them the luxury to come back without worrying about housing or relocation.

  • Hedge against inflation

Real estate has always been a preferred investment destination for Indians. It not only provides them with the availability of land or housing, but at the same time hedges ones savings against inflation. With low interest rates offered in deposit accounts, many prefer locking their money in real estate in order to hedge against inflation.

Our research shows that of all the various kind of investment vehicles, returns on gold and real estate have yielded better results over a 6 year period.

Have any Questions?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Non Resident Indian (NRI) and Person of Indian Origin (PIO) looking to sale/purchase property in India

Author: Sachin Gupta | Find me on Twitter

Non Resident Indians (NRIs) and Person of Indian Origin (PIOs) can acquire Immovable Property (either Residential or Commercial) in India by way of purchase, gift, inheritance, or share of joint property received upon partition of family/property, etc. as per the guidelines laid by the Foreign Exchange Management (Acquisition and Transfer of Immovable Property in India) Regulations, 2000.

There is no ceiling on the number of immovable properties acquired or sold in India by NRIs and PIOs. However, NRIs/PIOs belonging to Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, China, Iran, Nepal and Bhutan require a prior approval of the Reserve Bank of India for acquiring Immovable Property in India.

It is mandatory to file a declaration of the acquired property with the Reserve Bank of India within 90 days of acquisition of property, on the prescribed Form - IPI 7.

Below is a detailed list of guidelines that an NRI or PIO must adhere to for selling, purchasing, and financing a property in India:

Have any Questions?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

How does black money hurt the country where it originated and how does it travel to foreign countries?

Author: Sachin Gupta | Find me on Twitter

Black money hurts the country a lot. The tax revenues if reportedly accurately by individuals and businesses would have gone to the country’s exchequer. The government with right intentions could have used these revenues judiciously by building infrastructure (ports, roads, educational, healthcare, communication, power, etc) and that would have resulted in higher GDP growth, more jobs, and poverty reduction. Instead these revenues now lie with individuals & businesses and some of them invest these amounts in domestic assets such as real estate and gold. Why only real estate and gold? Primarily because of the ability of these assets class to absorb cash and this is turn distorts the property and gold market. Housing becomes unaffordable in a country where there is shortage of about 18.78 million houses as per the 2012 estimates. There are various other disadvantages of black money as we have covered in many of our other posts.

However, in this post, we are focusing our energies on black money that travels abroad. This is the worst form of corruption because money which could have been used for nation building is now building other nations. We pondered a lot and thought of ways in which this black money can travel outside. In recent times, stashing of black money in foreign banks (read, tax havens) has been the topic of debate between the political parties, media, and the public at large. There have been theories that Indians are the largest depositors of black money in foreign banks. There have been murmurs that the amount of black money stashed abroad could be as high as India’s GDP, which is close to 1.84 trillion US$.

In a press conference few months back CBI director (central bureau of investigation) put that number to be 500 billion US$, almost 35% of India’s current GDP. By any stretch of imagination, this is huge amount for a country, whose fiscal deficit is at record high level, whose infrastructure needs investment at a scale which has been unprecedented in human history.

There are various discussions, round tables with tax havens countries to bring back the money deposited to India. But so far, only a pittance of the total amount has been declared. It will take time, says government sources.

Now, the whole scene of stashing black money to foreign banks got us thinking…how the hell this black money would travel to those foreign banks? How? And in this article, we encourage readers to answer this very question.

Explored a bit and two possible scenarios came to our mind

Formal Routes:

  1. Wire transfer: Wire transfer or credit transfer is a method of electronic funds transfer from one person or institution (entity) to another. This one looks formal and we are sure it can be traced with proper tools and training.
  2. Buying foreign assets such as real estate, companies, etc: But this is all in white and traceable.
  3. People traveling abroad: People traveling abroad carry the allowable cash with them and deposit it in foreign accounts. But that is going to take years to reach 500 billion US$.

Informal (or should we say black) routes:

  1. Gold Transfer: Gold is bought by these tax evaders in the parent country and then the same is transferred to foreign shores in ships or chartered planes.
  2. Money transfer: Rupee or parent country currency is converted to internationally accepted currency (usually US$) with central bank knowing all the details and then that converted money is flown to foreign shores in chartered planes. Now, this amount in internationally accepted currency is used by the foreign country for their own investment purposes which ultimately lead to growth in those countries at the cost of growth in parent countries where the money actually originated.

In all these informal (black) routes, we fail to understand, why central bank or country’s top political leadership is clueless in tracing the black money? As far as we understand, money just cannot move out of the country without their approval.

Our imagination took us to these ideas…but we are sure, there are talents out there who could help us in deciphering all this. Waiting to hear from all you guys out there about the possible routes of black money traveling to foreign shores.

Have any Questions?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Reasons to buy a home during Christmas and New Year Holidays

When others around the corner are merrymaking and celebrating Christmas and new year holidays, the question of property investment can be an odd thing to consider. But experts reveal that the festive season is indeed the perfect time to purchase property for several good reasons. Christmas and new year comes with mixed options and the property market during this time may take entirely different toll depicting optimistic scenario. In fact there are several advantages of purchasing property during these holidays that are worth considering.

Good quality time: -
Christmas and new year holidays are the best time to invest in the property as you have entire week off. With ample time in hand you have complete freedom to explore new opportunities and seek out different potential sites. Contacting to different property sellers, reaching out to different realty agents and maneuvering different property sites all becomes easy. Whereas on the other regular days, you are engrossed with your office work and engaged in meetings right from morning to evening, sparing time for property hunt on the go will be next to impossible.

Auspicious time: -
It’s the festive time and many in the industry plan to invest in new ventures. To meet the festive season demand different renowned developers come up with investment projects in the city and around. Besides, many home owners look forward for property buyers who could take off their properties. All of these ensure numerous investment opportunities for the buyers to choose from.

No rush: -
With majority of the population engrossed in festive feel, enjoying holidays with family and friends, realty market during this time experiences less footfall. This provides even better chances to the buyers to explore different ventures and negotiate well.

Less competition: -
Planning for home purchase in spring and autumn would mean that you have to spend more time in hunting properties. As market stands competitive with demand more than the supply, the developers and property sellers may sell of their properties at high prices in order to make large profits. However during Christmas and New Year holidays, there are usually fewer property investors in the market which offers complete privilege to invest and take up best offers.

Elated Feel: -
With less work and ecstasy laced in the air, people all over the globe are more relaxed and happy. With cheerful heart, one can easily negotiate to make better property deals and is more likely to act smart.
Starting of the New Year and passing of the old is indeed the perfect time to celebrate and build memories in your new house.

Realty brokers: -
In ordinary days when real estate agents have several important chores to manage and different set of clients to handle, there are chances that the percent attention you and your dream project receive are probably less. On the contrary during Christmas time most of the property agents are less involved in their office work. Approaching them now can result in fruitful deal. They might come up with some really spectacular options and quality deals you might have never thought off.

But before you actually rely on them for property deal make sure you draw complete background details of the brokers. If possible get in touch with registered real estate agents. They are experienced players and serve the clients with authentic results and quality products, taking all the needs and requirements of the customers in to consideration. Also contact them to know whether they work on holidays or not.

This is a guest post by Subhadra Bhadauria who is a zealous writer for leading real estate portals.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

It’s all about perception…isn’t it? And how is real estate sector in India perceived? Can the perception be changed? Let’s make it a New Year resolution :)

Author: Sachin Gupta | Find me on Twitter

Good bye 2013 and welcome 2014, Happy New Year to each and everyone out there. Last year was tough for realty sector in India with GDP slowing down, high inflation and interest rates, and lack of demand from end-users. Will 2014 be different? Yes, it can be. However, the perception towards real estate sector needs to change and all the participants have to do their tiny bit in bringing out the positive image for the sector.

Current perception towards real estate sector in India:
Well, what is perception? It’s nothing but how people from outside view the sector. And how do they view it? Just talk to any common man and one would get the answer. The sector is perceived to be entrenched in corruption, black money, political maneuvering, builder – politicians nexus, etc. If one were to draw a sketch of the real estate sector on people’s perception, this is how it will appear:

The perception is that builders, politicians, and bureaucrats are working for each other when it comes to realty sector. This nexus is so strong that, policies are made, tweaked to favor the rich and powerful builders. Look at what happened at Campa Cola compound in Mumbai. The project was approved in 1980s by the BMC. Builder not only constructed the towers as per the approved plan but also illegally constructed some additional floors. Now, who would believe that these illegal floors were constructed without the knowledge of BMC or some local politicians? And now citizens are facing the heat. Doesn’t the picture above clearly highlight the situation in Campa Cola Compound of Mumbai?

Let’s examine the role of each stakeholder in the real estate sector closely:

  • Town planning department or the authorized government agencies:

The department is armed with civil services officials with foresight to develop the city and plan for increased urbanization. New areas are demarcated for future residential, industrial, and recreational growth within the city. The process of demarcating land, allocation it to developers, tax collection, etc. is perceived to be inefficient and corrupt. We as citizens have no idea on what basis or methodology these areas are demarcated. Real estate project approval process is so cumbersome and opaque that there is no way out but to bribe the officials to obtain project approvals on time. And therefore, what we get is increased cost of property and unorganized real estate development.

Our team members have been visiting the new upcoming areas in Delhi NCR region. Real estate development in these areas has been taking place for almost 8-9 years and all we found is ghost cities. The infrastructure including electricity, water, sewage, roads, waste management is nowhere to be seen and yet we find plethora of high-rise development of brick and mortar. Some of these developments are self-sustainable. One can imagine the cost of living in these self-sustainable townships. More importantly, what will happen to unauthorized slums in the region? How those living in slums will be rehabilitated? Or will urban class who has tasted global standards live in conjunction with slum dwellers? There seems to be no answer.

To our question of who will live in those new buildings? Many builders, brokers, and investors would respond by saying that there is such a dearth of housing in the country that customers would lap up whatever is offered to them.

  • Real estate developers:

With the planning and foresight of government officials, builders would enter the fray and acquire land for residential, industrial, or recreational purposes. There is strong perception that if builders are loaded with sufficient funds, there is no way in this world that they can be stopped from developing those ghost towns. Market research, planning, and concrete data are all fancy words for builders with deep pockets. To say that there is an utmost disrespect for planning & research would again be an understatement. Promoted as world-class real estate, there is perception that quality of construction is compromised in most of the final product delivered to the customer. The builder's focus on maximizing the profit often results in squeezing of the room-sizes and cut down on the open areas.

The question to be asked is how it is sustainable for builders to develop these ghost towns. Well, when party is on, the credit is available on cheap rates and there is always this heavy component of black money entering into real estate sector. However, when credit availability becomes tight and there is supervision on black money component, things start to change. This is what seems to be happening today and there seems to be no respite for builders from huge debt levels, customers’ lack of interest, and high rate of credit availability.

Will the bubble burst? Well, as long as entering of black money into the sector is not prohibited or controlled, this can continue although at slower pace than what we witnessed during 2003-2007.

  • Media:

No one can deny the positive role of media in today’s times. However, there are occasions when media is perceived to be doing the services for politicians – builder’s nexus. As soon as the builders announce their 'world-class' projects with fancy western names, the media related to real estate development will go gung-ho about new development in the city and how it will shape the future of the city. Glorifying articles with questionable data related to infrastructure development will be published which forces customers/investors in believing about the merits of investing in these new ghost towns. Articles about roads, connectivity, metro projects, and industrial development will be published on a daily basis to lure people to invest in these new cities where no one lives for years before people actually start to move in. That movement of people however can take upward of 10 years is another matter. Maybe that’s the foresight of government officials or builders who don’t mind delaying the project since everything is in their favor and customers are at their mercy.

Case in point is the Noida extension fiasco in 2011-12, and promotion of upcoming airport on Yamuna expressway which was eventually canceled, etc.

  • Investors:

Investors with unreported cash or income are the first ones to invest in these ghost towns. Where else can they park this hard earned money of theirs but for the real estate sector? What happens is the money which should have gone to the government in form of taxes would now sit in these ghost towns. The government with right intentions could have developed the necessary infrastructure with tax revenues which could have led to an organized economic growth in the region. But those are fairy tale stories and happen only in utopian societies.

  • End users:

End users with modest income who have been sitting on the fence for all those years finally give in. They start buying for homes from investors in secondary market involving white and black transaction. Why white and black transaction? Well, to save on ridiculously high stamp duty and registration charges. And they just hope that situations like Campa Cola do not happen to them.

So, this is all about the existing perception. Can the perception be changed?

Yes, after all, we are all part of one common society and there is contribution from each one of us.

What can the Town Planning department or government agencies do to change the current perception?

  1. There is already an effort being made by the government in bringing the real estate regulatory act. Although a small step, but this is a welcome step.
  2. Land allocation process should be made transparent by auction mechanism or whatever the best possible alternative is.
  3. Upcoming infrastructure in the city should be presented in the public domain credibly so that everyone has the information about the city development and therefore can participate in the process of real estate investment. The idea is to curb insider information practices wherein some investors connected to the policy makers make windfall profits and rest languish.
  4. Project approval processes should be streamlined and made transparent. There is a wider belief among experts that by doing so, real estate costs can come down by whopping 20%.
  5. Construction laws should be looked and analyzed on regular basis to improve the city development and curb illegal construction practices.

What can builders to change the current perception?

  • Sell projects only when all the approvals have been obtained
  • Clear distinction between carpet area and saleable area
  • Clear deadline for project completion
  • Third party supervision of construction quality

What can media do to change the current perception?

  • Continue to report facts accurately about city development and upcoming infrastructure.
  • Highlight the wrong practices by any of the participants in realty sector.

What can end-users do to change the current perception?

  • Be an extrovert buyer. Ask questions before buying in a particular project
  • Make payments in cheque and pay the taxes accurately.
  • Thorough due-diligence
  • Coming together with other buyers and forming a group

There is no denying that perception reflects reality. Even a single step of correction can go a long way in changing the reality of realty sector and change the current perception.


Have any Questions?