Monday, May 09, 2011

No demand for houses, but prices hit an all-time high

There cannot be a more telling article on the housing bubble in Mumbai then this one. The question is not whether houses have rises 4 times in 6 years. the isue is whether there are any buyers at current prices. There is absolute no traction in the market at current levels in Mumbai. In other cities, apart from Delhi, one can easily get an 2/3bed apartment for 50-70L. In the island city one cannot get a 1 bed in the suburbs for this price. The builders are just living in fantasyland.

The laws of demand and supply do not apply to your city's real estate scenario. With 93,000 under-construction and readyfor-possession homes still unsold, the 'weighted average' cost of a flat is at its peak, according to a finding put out by property research firm Liases Foras.

On an average, the cost of a flat in Greater Mumbai (area under BMC limits) is pegged at Rs 2.18 crore. That's a 436 per cent rise compared to 2005 prices. Since then, the graph has steadily moved northward but for a brief dip during the economic meltdown in 2008 (see info graphic).

Common man's woe

And this upward swing in cost has pushed the middle class to the fringes. A basic principle of lending institutions says that the cost of your house cannot exceed five times your annual salary. In 2005, to buy a home, your annual income should have been Rs 8 lakh. At today's prices, your annual income has to be Rs 43 lakh.

"Five years back, Rs 8 lakh per annum had a higher purchasing power than today. And it was not too difficult for one's family income to be in the range of Rs 5-10 lakh," said a market observer. "Today, even if individual incomes fall in that range, very few family incomes are in the Rs 40-lakh range," he said.

Managing Director of Liases Foras, Pankaj Kapoor, points out at a pricesale pattern, not particularly to Greater Mumbai but in the entire Mumbai Metropolitan Region that includes Greater Mumbai, Thane city and Navi Mumbai.
"When prices fell, sales picked up. Like, when the per-sq-foot weighted average price in the metro region fell from Rs 8,100 in 2008 to Rs 5,300 in 2009, sales improved from 9 million sq feet to 20 million sq feet," said Kapoor.

"The rate today is Rs 9,235 per sq ft. Even if you factor in inflationary costs, prices will have to be in the range of Rs 6,000 per sq ft to increase market efficiency."

Prices likely to drop?

With home sales already low, and if the current pace of sales continues, it will take 35 months for the current stock of unsold homes to find buyers, feel realty experts. And, they opine that this situation will only bring down the market further.

"While an overall correction of 35 per cent is required to improve sales, South and Central Mumbai will need a correction to the tune of 40 per cent," said Kapoor.

Though not all realty experts may agree on that, the general sense is that prices will correct by at least 15 per cent in the next six months.