BANGALORE|MUMBAI|NEW DELHI: Not all asset classes have been on a bull run in anticipation of the election result on May 16, when votes will be counted. Stocks may have been surging over the past few months but the secondary residential market has been going the other way, according to anecdotal evidence and the data that's available.
Prices of tens of thousands of homes built by local builders and investors in the metros have crashed by as much as 20-30 per cent in the past one year, with their owners desperate to exit a market in which buyers seem to have completely disappeared.
Brokers are left with a lot of free time. Inside his tinted-glass offices in south Delhi's Safdarjung Enclave, realtor Sunil Kapur holds up a list of 50 houses in the area that are for sale.
Since there are no buyers, he's been whiling away the time by surfing the Net or watching Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi on TV during the month-long election campaign. "There is no point... there are no buyers. Those who come by are also not interested to buy at these prices," he said, as he winds up for lunch followed by an afternoon siesta, hoping that the situation will change dramatically after the election result is out.
Deepak Parekh, chairman of India's largest mortgage lender HDFC, agreed: "The market is certainly soft today. Secondary sales have slowed down and prices in that segment have come down."
The number of unsold homes is rising, said Anshuman Magazine, managing director of property consultant CBRE South Asia. "The situation in the residential market is getting worse and piling inventory is mounting extra pressure on the investors' holding capacity. This seems to be a good time to buy, but few buyers are convinced," he said.
Stocks have been rising on the expectation that the Narendra Modiled BJP will be well-placed to form a stable government, but that assurance doesn't seem to have enthused people to buy homes.
To be sure, economic confidence is yet to be restored with growth still down in the dumps and the possibility of a weak monsoon adding to the uncertainty amid the likelihood of inflation accelerating again, which could in turn mean rising interest rates as the central bank tries to clamp down on prices, putting pressure on mortgage rates.
"Income levels of people have not risen unlike an exceptional rise in property prices due to slowdown in the economy. Home buyers want to see a stable government and policy enacted to make informed decisions," said Alexander Moore, chief executive officer at property brokerage firm LJ Hooker India.
Analysts also pointed to the overall negative sentiment because of uncertainty hanging over some real estate projects and deals that have got tangled up in court cases or are being cited in corruption allegations.
Most of the data for this report has been obtained from property consultants, who collate and share market data with the industry, and banks that usually compile information about new homes in micro-markets being constructed by organised builders.
"Prices had gone up too high to unrealistic levels in many markets. Now sellers are coming to more practical levels," said RV Verma, chairman of the National Housing Bank. "Also, many people are under pressure to service their debts which is pushing them to sell their properties at a discount... Demand too has dropped, which is compounding the problem."
In Mumbai's Malad and Goregaon suburbs, where thousands of middle-class families stay, two-bedroom apartments that used to sell for Rs 1.5-1.7 crore six months ago are now available for Rs 1.2-1.3 crore. In Kandivali, Borivali, Malad, Bhandup, Mulund, Vikhroli, Thane and the Kharghar-Panvel belt prices have dropped over 20 per cent, local brokers said.
The situation is similar in the Capital. In south Delhi alone, more than 5,000 builder floors, bungalows and empty plots have remained unsold for the past several months.
In Safdarjung Enclave, plots selling at Rs 8 lakh a square yard a year ago are now available at Rs 5 lakh a sq yard. In tony Vasant Vihar, prices are down from Rs 10 lakh a sq yard to Rs 6 lakh per sq yard from a year ago.
In Kalkaji, an apartment built on a 200 sq yard plot is selling for Rs 2.75 crore, down from Rs 3.15 crore about eight months ago. These houses were built or rebuilt on 100-400 square yard plots, with investors either going solo or tying up with owners in a joint venture development. Had this money been invested in the stock market in October, the value would have gone up nearly 25 per cent by now.
The slowing economy, growing inflation, political uncertainty, a weak jobs scenario across sectors and the high cost of home loans kept most potential buyers away in 2013 and the first quarter of this year. This group is now expecting a further drop in prices, especially with the leading political parties promising to makes homes affordable. But this puts investors, who buy homes to flip them at higher prices, in a bind.
Unable to exit, their money is stuck. "The market is so squeezed for cash that sellers are desperate to find a way out. Their holding power is decreasing. On the other side, buyers are holding on to their cash. They want to see which way the election swings. If an unstable government comes, prices could go down further," said a property consultant, who didn't want to be named.
Property listings website MagicBricks added that sale listings have shrunk in the micro-markets of Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon, Bangalore and Mumbai in the past year by 35-65 per cent, indicating negative sentiment among sellers.
Kapur recalled a recent deal that he brokered in Gurgaon's DLF Phase-II area. The seller dropped the price by 32 per cent as he needed the money in a week.
"His bank was sitting on his head. He was behind on a business loan repayment. He had to sell," said Kapur. Mumbai property dealers are also feeling the pinch. "The market has dried up," said Arun Lillaney of Raah Estate &Property Consultants, which operates in Mumbai's western suburbs. "Everybody is expecting more correction and I hope it happens soon; at least deals will get going," he said.
In Bangalore's Richmond Town and Lavelle Road areas, secondary home prices are down 20-30 per cent. A 4,000 sq ft bungalow on Lavelle Road, which cost about Rs 14 crore a year ago is now available for Rs 9 crore.
A colonial bungalow in Richmond Town on a 2,400 sq ft plot is selling for Rs 3.6 crore, down from Rs 6 crore a year ago. Data for new homes and those on resale in market such as south Delhi or Richmond Town are almost impossible to get as they are mostly catered to by small brokers. The association of realtors too does not keep tabs on these markets.
Yashwant Dalal, president of the however, said sellers in these markets had toned down expectations given the price correction in new launches and under-construction projects around them. The primary market isn't doing too well either.
According to data from property research firm Liases Foras, unsold inventory levels — new apartments built by organised developers — have risen to 7 lakh apartments in the March quarter from 6.5 lakh in the preceding three-month period.
"An oversupply situation in the primary market also impacts prices in the secondary segment," said NHB's Verma. Noida-based real estate agent Yogesh Juyal said buyers are not getting into market because they are hoping prices will fall further.
"They are waiting to see if this is the bottom or if it will slide further," he said. A 350 sq metre plot in Noida's Sector 51, which was originally quoted at Rs 5.25 crore, was recently sold for Rs 4.3 crore.