PUDUCHERRY: It's an inevitable domino effect. The local government's civic apathy is robbing Puducherry of its real estate sheen. According to sources, the attraction of the city's famed White Town or French quarter - whose limited residential properties have always attracted both well-heeled locals and expats - is wearing off thanks to mounting garbage, litter-lined streets and hand-cart hawkers.
Property prices in the French quarter rule at between 12,000 and 17,000 per sqft. In other words, a 1,400 sqft two-bedroom apartment costs between 1.7 crore and 2.4 crore, depending on the amenities (car park, power back-up) on offer.
Those prices compare well with properties in Gurgaon, Bangalore or Chennai. "French quarter real estate has always been pricey because demand exceeds supply," said a city realtor handling projects in the heritage white town. A real estate developer, who did not want to be named, said there are far fewer buyers now. Given the civic situation, people were just not willing to pay that kind of money anymore, he said.
Many potential investors in high-end property start out as visitors or high-end tourists and later settle here. That list includes expats as well as Indians from other parts of the country. And it is this population that is beginning to turn away from Puducherry, disgusted by its civic apathy.
About half a dozen properties are under development in the white town area, including the ashram quarter and the French quarter. Puducherry's high-end properties have always attracted a 50:50 mix of local and outside investors, including people from Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai. Many of these apartments are second homes for the owners who spend winter months here. There are only a handful of apartment blocks in the French quarter and secondary sales of apartments are few and far between. This supply crunch has resulted in the high property prices, say sources.
According to a city hotelier, a group of tourists were recently in the city on a recce mission for a high-profile wedding. "But they left after two days because of the dirt and stink. They will probably zero in on some other location," he said.
This is the same for people, who were earlier living in Puducherry as a lifestyle choice, charmed by its combination of heritage and spirituality. "Many long-time residents have gone back to France, some after spending more than three decades here," said the hotelier. "A lot of Puducherry hotel properties are on the block as the owners want to relocate to cleaner tourist options in Thailand," he said.