Dim Diwali for realty: Soaring inflation, high inventories and high interest rates
Moneylife Digital Team 21 October 2011

The National Housing Bank has instructed Housing Finance Corporations to charge the same rate on loans for both old and new customers, a blow for the customer and the industry. Debt-plagued builders, inflation and high interest rates are also not helping the sector

The realtors really need a bright Diwali this time, but it looks like things are not going to be so easy. It is a difficult time, with soaring inflation, uncertain markets and high interest rates—with talks of another rate hike starting to circulate.

No wonder, the outlook is not that optimistic. Unlike other years, this Diwali is seeing hardly any new offers. A Thane-based broker told Moneylife, “We are not offering much discounts; and a lot of the stock is left over. We are not expecting sales like we saw earlier.”

On top of that, the National Housing Bank has instructed Housing Finance Corporations to charge the same rate on loans for both old and new customers. The blow has been softened by a waiver of prepayment charges, but experts believe that sales will be impacted negatively. An IDFC Securities report says, “With the price of a new home loan going up, the growth in new home sales and mortgage portfolios would be impacted negatively in the current high interest rate scenario.”

Buyers too, seem to be unsure about their purchases, because they are hoping for price cuts instead of other offers. Builders, however, are in no mood to slash prices, citing several reasons. “Most builders have run up huge debts, and so are holding back in the hope of realising their investments and recovering high construction costs,” said an analyst preferring anonymity.

Mr Anuj Puri, chairman and country head of Jones Lang LaSalle India told Moneylife, “The festive season looks a bit subdued for property buyers this year. The price corrections that were anticipated in the primary cities have not materialised, at least not in the hoped-for magnitude.”

Delayed approvals, too, seem to have added to the woes. Mumbai’s civic body BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) seems to have held back a lot of approvals, as the restructuring of floor space index (FSI) norms is yet to be finalised. As a result, there have been very few launches this season; as was seen in the MCHI exhibition. In fact, some developers say that prices may go up after Diwali, and in the exhibition, some builders had raised the price up to 15%, while offering discounts on spot payments.

The real-estate sector is yet to pick up pace after the disastrous ‘Shraadh’ season—an inauspicious time. According to a Prabhudas Lilladher report, sales registrations for the month of September are down 10% month-on-month and 22% year-on-year, to 4,137—which is a 29-month low. The report adds, “The response to the festive season would only be visible in the December 2011 registration numbers as registrations happen with a two-month lag.”

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