Friday, May 18, 2007

Builders to take a hit as realty prices fall

Hindustan Times and Mint/Wall Street Journal both have articles on the slowdown in Indian housing.

Hindustan Times

India’s once-buoyant real-estate market has gone into a deep freeze with more than a 50 per cent drop in actual transactions over the last two months, developers and real-estate analysts have said.

For the first time in three years some developers have dropped rates to bolster demand. A nation-wide survey reports a drop of between 5 to 10 per cent in rates across edge suburbs like Kharghar, in Navi Mumbai, Greater Noida in the National Capital Region and Bangalore’s Hosur Road.

Developers on the fringes of the big cities have found it hard to hold the price line. Cheaper land also allows them greater freedom in fixing profit margins. However, within the metropolitan cities, developers have withstood the plunge in sales and held their price lines. In prime locations and exclusive buildings, the price spiral is intact.

“Small developers who cannot hold out anymore have cut their rates by 8 to 10 per cent so that they get buyers,” said Vijay Wadhwa, chief promoter of the Mumbai-based Rs 2,000-crore Wadhwa Group.

He explained how Kharghar on Navi Mumbai’s edges is reporting a price decline up to 20 per cent, but there have been no price cuts on prime land, like the eight-lane coastal promenade of Palm Beach Road or land leading to the proposed new international airport.

In Delhi, Stanchart’s Regional Manager-Home Assist and Home Loans, Vikram Dhamija, said there had been a 50 per cent fall in transactions since mid-February.

“Potential buyers have backed off because of confusion over zoning norms and FAR (the floor area ratio or FSI) in Delhi’s Master Plan and higher interest rates for home loans,” Dhamija said.

“Developers like Parsvnath and MGF have cut rates by 15-20 percent in Greater Noida. On Hosur Road (in Bangalore), average rates are down from Rs 2,700 a sq ft to Rs 2,300 a sq ft,” said Shashi Kumar, CFO of the realty fund IndiaReits.

But don’t expect a drop in prices of high-end properties in mid-town locations. That’s because there aren’t enough upscale properties both in commercial and residential segments to fuel continuing demand.

“South Mumbai’s Cuffe Parade residential properties are not coming down from the Rs 25,000-30,000 per sq ft range. The asking rate for the new, swanky 32-story DSK Durgamata Towers is around Rs 35,000 a sq ft,” said south Mumbai broker Prakash Kanuga. “However, there are hardly any transactions at these levels.”

The slowdown is beginning to hit loan disbursals of banks and home-finance companies.

ICICI Bank’s growth in home-loan disbursals has fallen from 32 per cent to around 20 per cent, while the State Bank of India said it would not be able to sustain its current growth rate of 25-27 per cent and expects it to settle around 20 per cent. In the upscale property market of south Mumbai, the freeze in sales has ironically given the leasing market a push.

Mint/Wall Street Journal reports

Real-estate developers could see their operating margins, fattened by a two-year housing boom, shrivel this year by half as property prices soften and consumers postpone buying decisions, according to a new report by multinational broking firm First Global.
The report said it expects housing prices to fall by about 15%, which is in line with what some other analysts say they’re expecting. First Global said developer margins, which jumped from about 13% two years ago to about 40%, could drop to about 22% this year largely because fewer people can afford homes. Salaries have not kept up with real-estate prices and interest rate hikes, said Hitesh Kuvelkar, associate director (research) for First Global. And investors are pulling out of the market, further reducing the pool of buyers and adding to the number of sellers, he added.

Residential units account for about 75% of the real-estate market and have a strong impact on developers’ profitability. First Global said developers’ expansion plans could result in an oversupply of houses in some markets. Some 10 large Indian builders expect to construct about nine times as much as they built in the past by 2011, according to a First Global analysis.
“If buyers for real estate are not there, then things become tough because there is no liquid market for properties,” Kuvelkar said. “If one buyer doe-sn’t come, you have to wait a long time for another to come. It brings pressure to prices.”

Malvika Chandra, head of research (western India), Knight Frank India, said residential prices since December have fallen by about 5-8% in major cities. Prices had been increasing by about 30% a year. She said prices this year could drop by another 5%.

“Locations where there is too much supply, where there are too many projects planned, you will see a correction,” Chandra said referring to areas such as Delhi’s Gurgaon suburb, Navi Mumbai and Mumbai’s central suburbs, and the Outer Ring Road in Bangalore.

First Global, which surveyed property dealers, said real-estate prices have dropped by 10-15% in some pockets of Ghaziabad, Noida, Gurgaon and Bangalore.
Anshuman Magazine, managing director of CB Richard Ellis South Asia, said the prices are softening in the suburbs where a large supply of homes is coming up. He said small developers have already been hurt by the slowdown because they were expecting to finance projects by pre-selling houses. Larger developers have staying power and can more easily secure financing and stagger projects so they all don’t reach the market at once, he added.
“It will impact everybody, but it should not be a major problem,” Magazine said.
Arvind Parakh, CEO of Omaxe Ltd, which is planning an initial public offering, said he expects a 15-20% drop in prices, but doesn’t see a rapid reduction in developers’ margins. It will likely be a few quarters before the slowing market is reflected in developers’ financial results. Sales revenues includes money that was collected from buyers long before the market showed signs of weakening.
Omaxe also plans to offer incentives, such as kitchen and floor upgrades and extended pay schedules, to keep buyers interested in slow markets, Parakh said. It is keeping prices stable for now.
“Marketing skills now come into play,” he added.

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