Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bangalore: Builders Gasp while Buyers Wait with Bated Breath

Bangalore: Builders Gasp while Buyers Wait with Bated Breath
Sharath S. Srivatsa / The Hindu

* Discounts and freebies fail to work for the real estate sector which finds itself grounded by the economic downturn
* Developers are removing extra amenities to bring down the project cost
* Cancellation of bookings has gone up drastically in the recent months

BANGALORE, Dec 17: The real estate sector in Bangalore, affected by the recession, is in a dreadful situation.

A sector that was riding high on the economic boom till recently finds itself grounded by the economic slump.

This has left a large number of developers in the lurch even as customers wait with bated breath for the completion of projects.

The sudden downturn in the last three months has not only forced developers to postpone the launch of new projects, but also delay those under construction. The gap between demand and supply has widened as sales have come down in the last six months, and especially so from September.

“Let alone new launches, it will take a long time for the developers to clear the glut in the market. It will take a minimum of one year for the industry to overcome the slowdown even after measures have been initiated by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Union Government,” an industry insider said.

Removing extras

In an effort to attract buyers, the developers are re-positioning the price by removing extra amenities to bring down the project cost. Though developers are offering discounts up to 10 per cent on the projects, some big companies, burdened with huge overheads, are struggling to bring down the rate.

A few developers are also offering plots along with a housing unit, an unusual move in an industry that has become price-sensitive.

Though figures on the number of unsold flats are hard to come by as no surveys have been taken up by the industry, sources estimate they run in tens of thousands. When the IT sector was bullish, the north-east, east and south-east parts of the city witnessed large-scale development — residential, office and retail — especially in K.R. Puram, Marathahalli and Sarjapur, as well as Bannerghatta Road, Kanakapura Road, J.P. Nagar and Jayanagar.

While the tightening money flow has hit the industry badly, analysts say the downward trend started with the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) increasing the risk weightage for the real estate sector a few months ago.

“The high risk weightage to real estate sector essentially meant cut-down on lending to the sector — both to developers and buyers, by the lending agencies,” said T. Venkatesh Babu, Senior Manager-Market Research at Nitesh Estates.

“Funds to the sector are choked as both developer and buyer found it difficult to secure loans. Several families have also postponed purchases due to the uncertain future. This has contributed to reduced sales, affecting project funding.”

Private lenders

With an estimated Rs. 2,000 crore locked up in the Bangalore market, many developers are scrambling to service their debts even as lending institutions have started recovering the loans. “Already some developers have defaulted on their loans; many have borrowed from private money lenders at exorbitant rates ranging between 24 and 36 per cent as they were unable to get institutional loan,” said M. Ramesh, Secretary of Builders’ Association of India –Karnataka.

He said that the plight of developers is so bad many of them have not only pledged their projects but also their residences to ensure completion of projects.

“An industry that believes time as the essence of any contract, schedules are not being adhered to even by big players,” Mr. Ramesh added.

Buyers too

While the builders found it extremely difficult to secure funding for their projects, many prospective buyers have failed to secure funding from the financial institutions and banks. “Cancellation of bookings has gone up drastically in the recent months.

These are mainly due to the fact that the buyer, who had already booked the flat by paying 10 per cent advance, does not get the desired funding from the banks,” confirmed a marketing executive of another leading real estate company.

In many cases, the executive said, the delay in completion of projects has caused anxiety among the customers.

“This is the case, especially among those who have bought flats from small builders, and are not sure when the project would be completed.”

According to secretary of Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India (CREDAI) - Karnataka S. Suresh Hari, “Genuine buyers have been affected by lack of availability of loans. The high taxation rate in Karnataka — close to 34 per cent — has also become a deterrent.”

The industry is hoping that the measures implemented by the RBI and Union Government will improve their fortunes by March.

If the sector does not begin to look up by then, the consequences may be disastrous.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Top city builders meet to discuss slashing prices

This meeting by the builders smacks of an oligopoly where these moneybags decide to raise or drop rates by consensus. The SEBI and other organizations should look into this meeting for price fixing and prosecute the ceo's of these companies. Imagine a meeting between Airtel , Vodafone and Reliance to decide on per minute rates. This is a cartel and should be accountable for monoplistic practices. The biggest irony of this article is the shedding of crocodile tears for the poor laborer who has seen his daily wages drop to 50rs from 150 rs. If these builders who prices apts for 50,000 per sq/ft , they can sure pay a half decent wage to someone who toils in the heat and sun, while these neo-rich bozos sip drinks in the comfort of a 5 star hotel

The 2nd bigger irony is blowing the trumpet of the Times of India, that they were the first to report on the price drops. While they reported price drops, they also reported why prices are going to go up and how 40,000 per sq/ft is real steal for a crappy apt in Bandra. Such irresponsible journalism has made the times of India, the toilet paper of India.

Nauzer Bharucha | TIMES NEWS NETWORK

Mumbai: At least half a dozen of the city’s top builders met at a prominent five star hotel in central Mumbai on Friday night to brainstorm about the one thing that has been worrying them for the past several months—how to kickstart the virtually stagnant apartment sales following the downturn in the real estate market.
Among the several issues discussed was the possibility of reducing prices of flats if it helps sales to pick up. According to industry sources, the Maharashtra Chamber of Housing Industry (MCHI), which has leading developers as its members, is expected to explore this possibility at its meeting on Tuesday, although the matter is not on its agenda. Already, some builders have informally reduced their prices between 12% to 20% in their projects in the suburbs.
However, Mohan Deshmukh, one of the developers present at the dinner meet, denied that builders can ever take an unanimous decision to cut prices. “Every developer has his own priorities and it is up to him to decide on a price cut. The MCHI cannot take a decision on their behalf,’’ he said.
Although the property market began to flatten out about 18 months ago, Mumbai’s builders, by and large, have managed to hold on to their prices. Between 2004-2007, home rates shot up between 100% to 300% on an average, going up to 500% in certain high-end projects. Builders may move Centre to plead their case
Mumbai: Top city builders, who were peeling the pinch after global meltdown, participated in the brainstorming session to decide price cut on Saturday. The meeting commenced at 7.30 pm and wound up only at around 11 pm, sources said.
It is learnt that among some of the leading builders who were present at the meeting included Rajni Ajmera of Ajmera Builders, Dharmesh Jain of Nirmal Lifestyle, MCHI chairman Pravin Doshi (Acme Group) and Deshmukh, who is CEO of Deshmukh Builders and past chairman of MCHI.
There was complete unanimity among the participants that the industry is passing through an “unprecendented’’ crisis. This has affected not only the developers, but a host of ancillary industries, including a large army of unskilled labourers working at the project sites.
“A labourer who used to earn Rs 150 a day is today struggling to barely eke out Rs 50 a day because many projects have come to a standstill,’’ a leading developer told TOI recently. Virtually every Mumbai-based developer is on a cost-cutting drive including retrenching employees across departments.
The Mumbai developers are also thinking of representing their case to the Centre to increase the priority sector lending to home buyers from Rs 20 lakh to Rs 40 lakh. Early this month, the RBI had allowed banks to classify housing loans up to Rs 20 lakh as priority sector advance. The interest rate on such home loans is 1.5% lower than the normal rate of interest.
The downward trend in the property market began in January 2007 when banks began hiking their interest rates, and since then, bookings have continued to drop with every rate hike announced. The crisis worsened after the global economic meltdown affected the Indian market since the past few months.

Property consultants said even existing loan account holders are finding it tough to hang on as EMIs threaten to upset their monthly budgets. Last year, TOI was the first to report that several builders, dealing on a one-to-one basis with home buyers, had begun offering freebies like not charging for parking slots, not charging a premium for a floor rise and, in some cases, even offering to pay the stamp duty.


DNAIndia reports from Bangalore.

As techies default on EMIs, banks are reclaiming their homes

N Raghuraman. Bangalore
If you are a code jock or call centre employee, watch out. Your dream home is about to become a nightmare. Worried about your ability to repay, banks are in overdrive to repossess your property if you have not been paying your equated monthly instalments (EMIs) for more than three months.

Over the last few days, nationalised and private sector banks have issued a rash of repossession notices in newspapers to recover properties from borrowers who have been defaulting on EMIs. Industry insiders say that one out of every 10 homes bought with loans is in default in Bangalore city, most of it from the technology and BPO sectors. The houses being reposssessed are spread out across the city, from HAL Stage III to Kumara Swamy Layout and from Vignana Nagar to RT Nagar.

"The IT sector is one of the main contributing factors for the repossession drive that banks are undertaking in Bangalore. Several IT companies have laid off employees and the bonuses of several others have been cut, which has resulted in defaults in home loans," admits BR Bhat, general manager, Corporation Bank. The bank has a Rs 1,000 crore home loan portfolio in the city and the share of IT staffers is nearly half of that.
According to banking industry insiders, almost all banks in the city have registered a 20% increase in loan defaults, and thousands of properties are being recovered under a stringent law called Sarfaesi – or the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest (Sarfaesi) Act, 2002.

The Act empowers banks and housing finance companies to recover their dues in case of defaults within a specified timeframe. Earlier, banks had to file civil suits against defaulters, which could take more than 20 years to settle cases.

In the first half of this month alone, the recovery process has been initiated on various flats and independent houses worth Rs 80.23 crore. The number will surely bloat as this is only the tip of the iceberg, and banks are worried about the impact of these defaults on their bottomlines.
"It would be foolish to live in denial that there will be no impact of the (global) slowdown on our books. This will be reflected in our books in the coming quarters. In Bangalore, there might be more home loan defaults under the current circumstances. But things are not out of control," says Syndicate Bank chairman and MD George Joseph.

At least 15 nationalised and old private sector banks have initiated recovery proceedings and they are in various stages of execution. The list includes Vijaya Bank, Andhra Bank, Syndicate Bank, SBI, State Bank of Mysore, the Bangalore City Cooperative Bank, Corporation Bank, Canara Bank, Federal Bank, Bank of India, Karnataka Bank, Karnataka State Financial Corporation, Citibank and Indian Bank.

If one goes by the printed notices, Canara Bank, Vijaya Bank and State Bank of Mysore seem to be worst affected with their non-performing assets (or bad loans) contributing 80% of the dues which are under process.