Monday, January 14, 2019

What could be the causes of Realty Project delays? And what can real estate developers do to correct this issue?

Author: Sachin Gupta | Find me on Twitter

Take any newspaper, or online forum, or discussions among stakeholders within the property circle, one would notice that project delays have become the endless talking point with no solution to it. There seems to be no dawn for this darkness which has engulfed the entire real estate spectrum. Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Bangalore, Kochi, Hyderabad, Gurgaon, Noida, Greater Noida, Kolkata, Chandigarh, and other parts of the country continuously witness rising cases of project delays by real estate developers. A middle class home buyer suffers the double whammy of paying the rent as well as EMI (Equated Monthly Installment). On top of that, a home buyer whose energies should have gone towards his/her career progress or personal fulfillments is now consumed by this endless struggle to get the dream home. What a pity? People are nation’s best asset and when those assets are put to use in unproductive ways, then it certainly hampers growth and creativity.

Recently, buyers of ‘Unitech The Residences Project in Gurgaon’ were at the project site to protest against the delay.

“We are exploring the option of moving the High Court and approaching the CCI, apart from writing letters to the Prime Minister, the promoters of Unitech and agencies such as SEBI for intervention and investigation in the matter,” Vikram Bishnoi, President of the Unitech Residences Apartment Buyers’ Association, told BusinessLine.

Similarly, buyers of ‘Emaar MGF’s Palm Drive project in Gurgaon’ were seen demonstrating against the project delay. This project was launched in end of 2007 and delivery was supposed to be made in December 2010. However, the project has not been delivered yet. Builder says they will start delivering the project this year.

Similar cases have been witnessed across the country and as per the CCI (Competition Commission of India) records, biased builder-buyer agreement topped the list of complaints to CCI followed by complaints for project delays.

So, what could be the reasons for realty project delays? Let’s look at from the builder’s point of view as well:

  • Multiple approvals
First thing first, real estate development is a detailed and long process. A builder has to seek various permissions and approvals from the relevant authorities to launch, develop, and complete the project.

To name a few, a real estate developer has to seek approvals/permissions from National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), fire department, pollution department, ministry of environment, electricity department, Airports Authority of India, Ministry of Labor, Ministry of Mines, Central Ground Water Board, Directorate General Civil Aviation among many other sub-departments. It is widely believed that all in all, a builder has to seek a minimum of 40 to 60 approvals depending on the state he/she is operating in.

And it takes time to seek these many approvals, sometimes 2-3 years. Is it an ideal scenario? No, certainly not, and that is why builders are demanding for a single window clearance system. With single window clearance system, costs of projects can be brought down by whopping 20%.

  • Manpower shortages
Real estate is a capital and labor intensive business. Labor shortage is one major issue which impacts the timely delivery of a housing project. In recent times, labor wages have gone up and despite that there is paucity of skilled labor in the market. To counter this, many builders have incorporated pre-fabricated construction technologies. However, this has been restricted to large developers with access to funds and resources to set up such facilities.

  • Lack of funds
Lack of funds is also a major issue in timely completion of a project. With tight monetary policy, cost of funds go up and therefore, a builder explores various options to raise funds by way of underwriting, loans, customer payments, Private Equity money, etc.

  • Lack of demand for the project
Sometimes, demand for the project is rather lackluster. Last 2 years have witnessed low demand for housing and therefore a builder who launched the project 2 years ago is stuck in no man’s land because on one hand monetary policy is tight and on another hand home sales have dropped. This has dried up the funds for the development of the project.

  • Funds diversion to other projects or land deals
Not all of these projects are delayed because of external factors. Many a times, builders divert customer payments to acquire new land parcels for future expansion. To overcome this, Government of India has come up with Real Estate Regulatory Bill which will ensure that 70% of funds received from customers will go in the development of the project.

What can builders do to correct this issue?

Even though, home buyers are the one who suffer the most in cases of project delays, there is very little that they can do apart from protests and litigations. Read more about what can home buyers do if a realty project has been delayed.

The problem has to be fixed by builders themselves.

  1. Builders and their associations can indulge in talks/consultations with government officials to make way for single window clearance system.
  2. After the Budget 2014, real estate sector can breathe a sigh of relief. FDI norms have been relaxed and a builder can take benefits of that.
  3. Budget 2014 also provides incentives for Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT). And builders can now float a REIT to generate funds for their commercial projects, which will ease out the liquidity crunch.
  4. Even though, Government of India has brought in Real Estate Regulatory Act, the Builder bodies should also come up with a model ‘builder buyer agreement’ which will protect consumer interests.
  5. Implement fair marketing practices. There is no point in making a commitment that project will be delivered in 36 months from the date of purchase when it is fairly evident that project development will take about 5 years. Builders Bodies should also make sure that communication between a builder and the customer is fair and transparent.

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