India's realty industry sees homecoming of non-residents

Inquiries have started pouring in since May, propped by an improving economy, political stability and a bullish stock market and it won't be long before the interests turn into actual mortgages, the experts added.

"Things seem to be improving for the Indian realty sector, especially high-end housing projects, not just in metros and its suburbs but also Tier-II cities," said Samarjit Singh, managing director of property brokerage firm Agni Group.

"We have seen a lot of activity in the past one month, especially from the non-resident Indians. Queries have increased by almost three-four times. Even actual bookings have almost doubled," Singh told IANS.

Brokerages like Agni also feel that the market will further improve in the next two-three months and that discounts being handed to prospective home-buyers and the price correction have worked in the realty industry's favour.

"High-end projects were the worst hit by the slowdown. That's the reason this segment saw the steepest correction - even to the tune of 50 percent," said Anuj Puri, country head of global realty consultant Jones Lang LaSalle Meghraj.

"Political stability and improving economy have also reinstated the faith of the non-resident investor. Those on the wait and watch mode are now coming back with queries," Puri added.

Realty major Unitech claims to have sold some two million square feet of luxury space since April and others like Parsvnath, Omaxe and Rahejas maintain they are also getting good responses for their premium projects.

"Price rationalization has helped," said Pradeep Jain, chairman of Parsvnath.
The Maharashtra Chamber of Housing Industry, which had organised a housing fair in Dubai recently, said the response was good from Indian expatriates there and had figures to prove its point.

"As many as 106 flats worth Rs.653.3 million ($13 million) were booked during the exposition," said the chamber's chief executive officer Zubin Mehta, adding 86 flats worth Rs.801.8 million ($16 million) were in the pipeline.

Yet the prospective investors are also cautious and selective.

"I do feel the rates have rationalized to a great degree, more so for the high-end projects. It's a good time to invest but I'll be choosy. I'm doing a lot of research work before taking a call," said Raajit Arora, a Britain-based non-resident.

"I'll go for developers whose balance sheets are strong. I'll also only look for completed projects or those on the verge of completion. I've obviously learnt from mistakes my friends and relatives, and even I, have made," Arora told IANS here.

He does not want a repeat of what he still endures: A flat he bought for Rs.10 million ($200,000) at Gurgaon, a software hub on the outskirts of the national capital, is now selling 30 percent cheaper for Rs.7 million.

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