Thursday, February 05, 2009

Flat buyers exempt from service tax

What happens to people who have already paid service tax ? Will that tax be refunded by the builders to the buyers ? As usual the order is incomplete and ambigous. Kudos to the tax board.
DNAIndia reports.

Mumbai: The Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) has made it clear that flat buyers, developers and builders are not liable to pay service tax.

In a circular (F.No.137/12/2006- CX.4) issued on January 29, the board has said that generally, the initial agreement between the developer (promoter/builder) and the buyer is an "agreement to sell". As per provisions of the Transfer of Property Act, this does not "create any interest in or charge on such property".

It is only after the construction is completed and the agreed sum is paid that a sale deed is executed, transferring the ownership of the property from the builder/developer to the buyer, the board has said.

Any service provided by the developer during the construction of a residential complex -- before the execution of the sale deed -- would be "self-service" and, consequently, not attract service tax, the board has clarified.

If the buyer enters into a contract for construction of a residential complex for personal use with a developer (promoter/builder), who provides design, planning and construction, then such an arrangement would also not invite service tax.

Flat buyers don't need to pay service tax
It is excluded from service tax under the definition of "residential complex", the board has said.

However, in both these situations, if services of a contractor, designer or a similar service provider are taken, then such persons would be liable to pay service tax, the circular says.

The board has clarified that the builder is not a service provider and, hence, not liable to collect service tax. But contractors or designers engaged by the builder should charge service tax from him.

The Authority for Advance Ruling had in the case of Hare Krishna Developers ruled that the builder/developer was liable to pay service tax.

But in the case of Magus Construction Pvt Ltd, the Gauhati high court had ruled that the builder/developer was not liable to service tax.

The two conflicting judgments had created confusion, which the CBEC circular has now put to rest.

U.S. Housing Slump Has ‘Just Begun,’ Says Forecaster Talbott

Feb. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Let’s say you own a $1 million home in Santa Barbara, California.

The house seemed like a steal when you bought it with that adjustable-rate mortgage in 2005. You still love the white beaches and those yachts bobbing up and down in the harbor.

Then you awaken early one morning, troubled that your monthly payments will soon double. You go out to pick up your newspaper and see for-sale signs on five houses on the street. One identical to yours just sold for $500,000.

Are you going to pay the bank $1 million plus interest for your place? John R. Talbott, a former investment banker for Goldman Sachs, poses that hypothetical question in his latest book of financial prophesy, “Contagion.”

His answer: “I don’t think so,” he says. “If I’m right, then this housing decline has only just begun.”

Talbott is an oracle with a track record: His previous books predicted the collapse of both the housing bubble and the tech-stock binge before it. A friend who runs a New York steak house introduces him as Johnny Nostradamus, he says.

What sets him apart from other doomsayers is his relentless emphasis on simple arithmetic. He walks you through the numbers to show how U.S. house prices got so out of kilter with wages, rental prices and replacement values -- the cost of buying a property and building a home. (“Homes in California by 2006 were selling at three to five times what it would cost to build a similar home from scratch,” he writes.)

Five More Years

Talbott’s latest predictions are sobering. The U.S. is only halfway through the total potential decline in housing prices, he says. Home values will continue to deteriorate for four to five years, he forecasts. Adjustable-rate mortgages issued in 2004 and 2005, for example, are only now resetting for the first time, he notes.

Bankers may “try to blame the crisis on poor Americans with bad credit histories, but that is not the real cause of the housing crisis,” he says. “The greatest home-price appreciations and the homes most subject to price readjustment are in America’s wealthiest cities and its glitziest neighborhoods.”

At the end of 2008, a record 19 million U.S. homes stood empty and homeownership sank to an eight-year low as banks seized homes faster than they could sell them, the U.S. Census Bureau said this week. Almost one in six owners with mortgages owed more than their homes were worth, said the same day.

By the time the crash ends, Talbott predicts, homeowners will have lost as much as $10 trillion, with investors and banks worldwide losing almost $2 trillion. And just as the U.S. starts getting over a prolonged recession, the first big wave of baby boomers will retire, depriving the economy of their productivity (and high consumption), he says.

Back to 1997

So how far will the price of your home on the range fall? Citing historical data and trends, Talbott concludes that real prices should return to their average 1997 levels, adjusted for inflation. Why 1997? A 120-year historical graph shows that real home prices in the U.S. stayed relatively flat for 100 years, then began rising in 1981 and surged from 1997 to 2006.

A return to 1997 prices “would get us out of the heady, crazy days from 1997 to 2006 in which banks were lending large amounts of money under poor supervision and aggressive terms.”

How did we get into this mess? Talbott blames everyone from average Americans who caught “the greed bug” to hedge funds and credit-default swaps. The single biggest error, he says, was for U.S. citizens to allow their national politicians to take large campaign contributions from big business and Wall Street -- a theme Kevin Phillips developed in “Bad Money.”

‘No Accident’

“This crisis was no accident,” he says. It began, in Talbot’s view, because the U.S. government was “co-opted” into deregulating the financial industry. Politicians were “paid to deregulate industry,” taking billions of dollars each year in campaign contributions.

His investment advice for this prolonged recession: Hang on to cash and invest in gold or Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities, or TIPS. If he had to invest in stocks, he would put his money in China.

Living in smaller houses with their savings gutted, U.S. baby boomers will face yet another big challenge, Talbott says:

“The toughest job to get in the future will be the elderly person greeting you as you enter the local Wal-Mart.”

“Contagion: The Financial Epidemic That Is Sweeping the Global Economy . . . and How to Protect Yourself From It” is from Wiley (256 pages, $24.95, 15.99 pounds, 19.20 euros).

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

EMI Quiz

I was running some numbers thru an EMI calculator and was surprised at some of the results, so I thought why not play a little game with the bloggers and have some fun.

Assuming a principal of 10L, interest rate of 12% and repayment of 20 years, how much of the EMI payment would go towards interest at the end of 5 years ?

Interest paid
A) 2.52 L
B) 3.85 L
C) 5.78 L
D) EMI = equal interest and principal payments so does not matter.

Now if a US homeowner borrowed the same at 6% what would be the result

A) 1.20 L
B) 2.78 L
C) 3.21 L
D) Half of the answer of Q-1

The answer as some people have pointed out is C for Q1 and B for Q2. The black magic of the EMI is responsible for a payment of more then 500% of the EMI towards interest as opposed to principal. After 5 years the borrower wouldve paid 80k as principal and 5.8L as interest. At the end of 10 years the principal payment is 2.3L as opposed to the interest of 10.8 L. After 15 years, you have finally paid of 1/2 the principal and 15L as interest. At 20 years you have paid off the 10L principal and 16.4L as interest.

Now for an average apt of 1crore in Mumbai with 10% down lets do the numbers for 90L loan. Here I wouldve paid an interest of 1.4 crores for a 90L loan and god forbid if I couldn't make the EMI after 5 years and had to sell the apt I wouldve paid 52L as interest with 7L as principal and the house would have to be worth atleast 1.4 crores to break even.

The EMI method of loan repayment is one of the worst methods of calculation and benefits the banks the most, leaving the borrower shackled in loans forever. As finance professionals will tell you, there are many ways of calculating interest where interest and principal are paid off in equal chunks per payment. Here the interest payment is drastically reduced due to the reducing principal. Unfortunately the bank has no interest (pun not intended) in principal payments and all they care about is the interest.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Realtor debt to be twice revenues

From the article below it looks like the financiers who have loaned money to the builders against pledged shares have been subprimed due to the rapid fall in real estate stock valuations. This is looks like a case of mini Fannie and Freedie who were forced into nationalization since the valiue of the their underlying assets were indeterminate. The ponzi scheme of builder bidding against each other using loaned money has collapsed under its own weight.
As a reminder in this article we are not taking about the availablity of land, the demand/supply situation, the GDP growth of 8% or the exploding population in cities.
Everything which can go wrong in financing has gone wrong with the construction industy and the relentless greed to acquire land has landed these folks into the a death spiral. DNAIndia has this report
Realtor debt to be twice revenues:-
Pooja Sarkar
Tuesday, February 3, 2009 2:48 IST

Mumbai: Ah ! well a-day ! what evil looks Had I from old and young ! Instead of the cross, the Albatross About my neck was hung.
-- Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Hung it is, around the neck of realtors. For their debt repayments are likely to be twice their revenues over the next 12 months, analysts assess.

That's the new concern for realty players after their worst quarterly results. All major players except Anant Raj Industries and Indiabulls Real Estate -- including DLF, Unitech, Puravankara and Sobha -- are in the line of fire.

"In most cases, we expect debt repayments to be more than twice revenues over the next 12 months," said Bhaskar Chakraborty and Param Desai of institutional brokerage IIFL.

DLF, India's largest realty player according to market capitalisation, reported a 62% drop in its revenues in the December quarter to Rs 1,367 crore as against last year's Rs 3,598 crore. DLF has to repay Rs 4,300 crore of debt in the next six months.

Rajiv Singh, vice-chairman of the company, said funds to the tune of around Rs 3,000 crore have already been tied up for this.

At an analyst call on Monday, Singh said receivables from DLF Assets Ltd (DAL) are approximately Rs 5,000 crore with no money during this financial year.

"Receivables as at end of current fiscal are likely to outstriprevenues if DAL is unable to raise funds in the current fourth quarter. We feel this could be one of the reasons why sales to DAL have been stopped," Chakraborty and Desai said in a note on Monday.
Ergo, DLF has had to fund the receivables via incremental borrowings.

Singh said the company's target of developing 50 million square feet this year is in doldrums.

"God knows when it can be completed," Singh said. Chakraborty and Desai expect Unitech, India's No.2 realtor, to have revenues of Rs 1,200 crore and debt repayments of more than Rs 3,000 crore next fiscal.

To top it, the company has to repay Rs 2,500 crore by the end of this financial year.
Similarly Bangalore-based Puravankara Projects had raised debt worth Rs 830 crore of which loans maturing within next twelve months is Rs 427 crore. It's revenues in the December quarter was nearly halved to Rs 80 crore.

Ditto another Bangalore builder Sobha Developers. Its revenues also nearly halved to Rs 180 crore in the December quarter. The company has Rs 1,090 crore of debt to repay.

Another analyst with a European brokerage, who did not wish to be named, said even though developers' debt is more than revenues, banks and financial institutions can do nothing more than extend the loan period or rollover short-term loans into long-term loans.

However, another analyst from a domestic brokerage, who, too, did not want to be named, said lenders may rather prefer to unload shares held as collateral.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Builders and their inflation predictions

It comes as no surprise to me that the members of the real estate community including investors are disappointed at the contents and comments on this blog. Lets put things in perspective and maybe they can understand a bit more about investing and economic boom and bust cycles. When the biggest builder DLF makes a comment on national TV that real estate prices will to return to inflation adjusted prices of 1998, that is a pretty strong statement.
Lets examine the official inflation numbers from 1998 as reported by Reserve Bank of India publication. I'm no economist but cursory look at the inflation numbers shows an average WPI inflation of 5.1% over 1995-2004. If we go with another average for the subsequent period of 7% for the period 2004-2008, we have a combined average of (5.1 + 7)/2 = 6.05% inflation adjusted numbers for a 10 year period 1998-2008. To keep up with the compounded inflation of 6.05% annual inflation 100 rupees in 1998 should be worth Rs 187.71 in 2008, a total return of 87.71%%. If DLF is correct prices have to be roughly 1.87 times 1998 prices. A 3 bed room apt worth 20L in 1998 should be worth 37L in 2008, however we have seen that this apt is now worth 80L, a 400% return over a 10 year period instead of an 87% percent return. This apt has to drop 50% from the 2008 level to revert to the inflation adjusted number of approx 40L.
Even we we assume the alternative inflation number of 8.1% listed in the document for 1995-2004 and assuming an 10% inflation number for 2004-2008. We still have an inflation number of 9% compounded leading to a return of 137% over a 10 year period, still far cry from the 400% number we have seen in real estate pricing.
Either prices have to fall 50% to return to mean, or DLF is making statements they don't believe in.
Real estate using leverage is a great investment when money supply is infinite and loans are granted without scrutiny. Under any other situation, the game is going to end only one way, with a big thud. If this was not the case, we wouldn't see block buster ipo's of 2007 now trading at 5% of their peak value in a period of 15 months. For all the perma-bulls like Dilip who are still hanging by the thread of godly deliverance and hope, I have a bridge to sell.
I just started reading this article on economic theory and I hope Dilip reads it. He is probably surfing at 28.8k bits right now so expecting him to read and understand it is akin to asking a caveman the boiling point of water. Many people didn't buy over-priced real estate and missed the big boom. However they ended up leaving the apartments mentally bankrupt folks who are now keeping awake all night worrying about EMI's, while they the smart ones are sleeping soundly in their rental bliss.