How Blockchain Will Transform the Indian Real Estate Sector

In June 2018, an E. Coli (bacteria, usually harmless) outbreak across the US, from consuming romaine lettuce sourced by Walmart, resulted in the death of 5 people. The Food and Safety Department found out the reason behind the outbreak in 7 days. However, using blockchain technology, Walmart was able to do this research in 2.2 seconds, which substantially reduces the likelihood of infected food reaching the consumer.

Walmart is collaborating with IBM Food Trust Solution to test a blockchain-based food supply management tool that will help Walmart keep track of information of every single leafy green vegetable that it acquires or sells. Thus, the retailing giant can trace the final product back to the specific farm it came from, suppliers it went through, the store it was sold from; ensuring every aspect of the product is traceable.

Blockchain is an incorruptible global ledger system that provides a way to record and transfer data, such that it is transparent, auditable, safe, fast and invulnerable to outages. These qualities enhance its appeal as a technology that can potentially disrupt a lot of industries and change the underlying way they function, transact, store information, deal with data, and transparency among other things.

Besides food supply management, blockchain is being tested and even trialled in industries as diverse as medicine, law, real estate, banking and airports. A recent research by PwC on blockchain revealed that about 84% respondents (600 executives of companies from 15 territories) are actively involved with developing blockchain related solutions, suggesting the popularity of the technology in the industry.

Blockchain in Real Estate

The processes in the real estate sector are archaic, extremely time consuming, paper-based, outdated, and heavily reliant on intermediaries at various stages, all of which makes it highly susceptible to fraudulent activities. Blockchain can potentially change this on a very fundamental level. It will ease the process, thereby, transforming the real estate sector into a more fluid entity. The potential benefits of applications of blockchain in the Indian real estate sector can foster trust-based transactions that are fast, transparent and binding. Here’s a look at different aspects of real estate, that blockchain technology can impact positively.

Blockchain article on HTEstates

Land Title Frauds

The Indian real estate industry faces a real challenge in maintaining, verifying and searching for title deeds. Just a fraction of them are digitally available thus making title ownership susceptible to fraud due to multiple claims of ownership. Blockchain can prevent such cases by digitising land titles. It will enable every property to have a digital address in the blockchain that consists of additional details like occupancy, finance, ownership records, specifications and attributes of the property as well as existing legal disputes, if any. These parameters would be available to everyone and will be correlatable, thereby, reducing the speed of the transaction from days/weeks/months to minutes.

Transfer of Property

Transfer of a property using Blockchain becomes a simple process. The first owner is required to ‘rehash’ (encrypt) the document in the blockchain to prove the transfer of title of the land to the new owner. The transfer process currently takes weeks/months, a lot of paperwork and a considerable processing fee. With blockchain, this interchange will barely take a couple of seconds.

Smart Contracts

Smart Contracts based on blockchain can ease repetitive transactions or contracts like rents, deposits, installments by automating them. Using a feature called ‘multisignature’ in the blockchain, two parties can enter into an automatically binding agreement. The open-source nature of smart contracts ensures that contracts are executed as dictated by the source code. These contracts, therefore, are automatic, transparent and once executed are indisputable, irreversible and unalterable thus ensuring high confidence among users.

Disintermediation

The real estate sector suffers from an over-reliance on various intermediaries like brokers, registration officers, banks, notary, etc as these middlemen hold key information/access that isn’t available to the common man. Blockchain, as a decentralised medium would help bring all this information on to a common platform and enable its distribution, thereby ensuring that the information is transparent and hence, available to everyone minus the various fees that one pays during the process.

Additional Uses of Blockchain in Real Estate

Blockchain can also empower online real estate markets by upgrading their abilities and functionalities. Right now, the portals serve as a means of connecting people to real estate properties by providing information about the property and assisting in site visits. With the advent of blockchain, these real estate markets will be converted to something like a stock market allowing buyers to find sellers and execute real estate transactions on-the-go.

The transparency and speed of action offered by blockchain technology will open avenues for crowd ownership or fractional ownership in real estate. These investments can be used for rental purposes, as collaterals in loans, or for personal benefit as outlined by the terms of the agreement. Further, this will also open doors for foreign investment in Indian real estate, thereby, improving the quality of living and commercial spaces.

Conclusion

Industries are resistant to change, especially when the change is transformational in nature. Blockchain as a technology is in a very nascent stage. It will take a while for the Indian real estate sector to adopt and build on the technology. That combined with forward-thinking from realty firms in convincing consumers to embrace the technology, and the government’s efforts in designing and implementing policies will decide the future of the technology. The trichotomy of RERA, demonetisation and GST has brought transparency into the system and has built the perfect environment for such transformational changes to take place. It is now up to the stakeholders to step up.

(Previously published in March 16 2018 edition of HT Estates)

Somerset House – Luxurious Abodes Overlooking A National Park

Artistic Impression of Purva Somerset House
Artistic Impression of Purva Somerset House
Artistic Impression of Purva Somerset House

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Guindy in Chennai is one of India’s finest places to live in. Take a Google Earth tour and you’ll know. There are a number of iconic places located in this suburb. The Raj Bhavan or the Governer’s residence is located in the heart of the city. It opens up to the pristine Guindy National Park. The National Park is India’s 9th smallest park. It is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna such as blackbucks, spotted deers, jackals, tortoises, 130 species of birds and a lot more. Right adjacent to it is the massive Madras Race Club. That’s the natural side of Guindy. Purvankara Somerset House is located adjacent to the Race Club and overlooks the National Park. The other side of Guindy is an important junction where the Metropolitan’s most important roads meet. Hardly will you find a suburb that has such a perfect blend of nature and urbanisation. Somerset House is a premium gated community offering 3 & 4 BHK apartments. It is spread across an area of 1.92 acres and houses 181 units across 4 towers. The project offers a wide range of luxury as well as necessary amenities to cater to a household’s needs. The project’s RERA registration number is TN/29/Building/013/2019.

A Unique Location

Location Map of Purva Somerset House
Location Map of Purva Somerset House

Puravankara Somerset House is located on Five Furlong Road in Guindy. It is one of Chennai’s prime neighbourhoods. The Kathipara junction (2 km) in Guindy is a central meeting point of a number of roads such as Anna Salai, Mount-Poonamallee Road, Inner Ring Road, 100 ft Road/Jawaharlal Nehru Road and GST Road. The junction serves as an entry point to the city from the suburbs. The prominent areas of Saidapet, Kotturpuram, Adyar, Velachery, Adambakkam and St. Thomas Mount neighbour Guindy.

The Rajiv Gandhi Salai (5 km), formerly known as OMR Road is one of Chennai’s major roads and connects Chennai to rest of Tamil Nadu and Mahabalipuram. OMR Road is also a major IT growth corridor in the city as a number of IT Parks are located along its stretch such as TIDEL & Ramanujan Tech Park (6.7 km), Olympia Tech Park (2.8 km), DLF IT SEZ (6.2 km), ASV Suntech Park (10 km), Bahwan Cybertek IT Park (8 km), Shapoorji Pallonji Infocity, Ascendas Tech Park (6.2 km).

Guindy is also located in close proximity to the city centres, the Chennai International Airport (8.1 km) and Chennai City Railway Station (15.6 km) providing residents of Somerset House ease of travel. The Guindy Railway Station (900m) is a part of the Chennai Suburban Railway Station and can be accessed to travel to all the major centres of the city. The Guindy Metro Station (2.9 km) is located on the Blue Line or Line 1 of the Chennai Metro. The 32.1 km line stretches from the Chennai International Airport to Washermanpet and has 17 stations which will be extended up to Wimco Nagar in the near future.

Best of Social Infrastructure

Artistic Impression of View of the Sunset from Purva Somerset House
Artistic Impression of View of the Sunset from Purva Somerset House

Guindy’s popularity coincided with the set-up of the Thiru Vi Ka Industrial Estate (4.1 km) which is a centre for small scale industries involved in the manufacturing sector. It slowly led to the set up of a number of IT/ITes and numerous office hubs and other forms of social infrastructure.

Somerset House is located in a high-growth corridor, therefore the area is blessed with world-class social infrastructure. A number of esteemed educational institutions such as the prestigious IIT Madras (4 km) and many others such as American International School (4.8 km), Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (9.5 km), Meenakshi College Of Engineering (8 km), Annai Veilankanni’s Educational and Cultural Society (5.1 km), Saint Britto’s College (1.9 km), Remo International College of Aviation (2.9 km), WLCI College (2.2 km), Sanskriti Global Preschool Velachery (1.1 km) are located in close proximity.

Apollo Speciality Hospital (6 km) which is one of India’s premier hospitals is located a small ride away and so are Fortis Hospital (7 km) and Cancer Institute (7.7 km). Phoenix Market City Mall, one of the city’s most prominent malls, is located just 2 km away from the project.

Puravankara Somerset House – Project Overview

Homes at Purva Somerset Powered By Home Automation
Homes at Purva Somerset Powered By Home Automation

Somerset House is spread across an area of 1.92 acres. It offers 181 3&4 BHK units across 4 towers. Each tower consists of 12 floors. The project offers a lot of open spaces.

Apartment Type Apartment Size (sq. ft.) Price Onwards (Rs)
3 BHK 1890 – 1965 2.60 crore
4 BHK 2475 3.10 crore

Amenities

Artistic Impression of Swimming Pool at Purva Somerset House
Artistic Impression of Swimming Pool at Purva Somerset House

Homes in the project have been described by the developers as ‘intelligent homes’. These homes are supported by voice and app-enabled home automation systems. These automation systems let its residents reap the benefits of having access to an Intelligent main door, Intelligent lighting, Intelligent cooling, Intelligent entertainment, Intelligent Biometric Security, Intelligent Motion Sensors, 24×7 remote connectivity from anywhere in the world, a virtual home tutor for your children, and multi-mode control among other features.

Other amenities in the project include a multipurpose room, a swimming pool, a state-of-the-art gymnasium, billiard/snooker table and many other sporting facilities. Lastly, Somerset House consists of a number of sustainable amenities such as rainwater harvesting pits, sewage plants, oxygen clubhouse to top it off.

In Conclusion

Artistic Impression of Multipurpose Room at Purva Somerset House
Artistic Impression of Multipurpose Room at Purva Somerset House

Purvankara Somerset House offers a healthy balance of greenery and urban development in a prime Chennai location. Guindy over the last couple of years has transitioned from being an industrial hub to a coveted residential hub. Some of the most iconic locations in the city of Chennai are located a small distance from the project. Somerset House also offers a 270-degree view of greenery aided by the Guindy National Park. It also offers seamless connectivity via the metro, suburban railway and important roads, all of which are located at a very short distance from Somerset House.

Lastly, real estate in Guindy and its neighbouring areas has skyrocketed in the last 5 years and are estimated to be on an exponential growth curve until 2030 making it a project that has the potential of substantial capital appreciation. All of the above factors added together makes Guindy not only Chennai’s but one of the country’s best localities to live in.

Gurugram’s Real Estate Recovery in 2018

Defining the skyline of NCR- Gurgaon

Gurugram was largely responsible for the NCR real estate market making a steady recovery during 2018. The city witnessed large scale developments in the last couple of years – from public infrastructure and housing projects to commercial and retail developments. Infrastructure developments such as the Dwarka Expressway, Southern Peripheral Road, and Rapid Metro which connects areas in Gurugram such as Cyber City and Golf Course Road to Delhi and NH8, are driving Gurugram’s real estate market.

Gurugram has the third-highest per capita income in India. It is this financial muscle that realty developers are looking to capitalise on, and top developers in Gurugram have been fairly successful in doing so, especially after the implementation of the RERA Act and GST. With improved accountability and transparency, more people are returning to invest in this market.

The Haryana Affordable Housing Scheme or HUDA scheme rolled out by the Haryana government in 2013, has augmented the availability of affordable housing projects in Gurugram and other cities in Haryana. It was envisaged as a sincere attempt to provide affordable homes within the limits of the main city, and the implementation of the scheme has been fairly successful. Below we look at these and other factors that shaped Gurugram’s real estate market in 2018.

The Revival of the Gurugram Real Estate Market

Gurugram’s recovery from the jolts of demonetisation, GST and the RERA Act has been a positive one. Market analysis shows that the sector is slowly adjusting to policy changes and recovery can be observed on both the supply and the demand side. According to a report by property consultants Knight Frank, Gurugram witnessed a 35% increase in launches in 2018, and 8% increase in sales from last year. There was also a 15% reduction in unsold inventory indicating that sales and buyer confidence has picked up in the market.

Improved Infrastructure

Improved public infrastructure generally contributes to an improved real estate market. The completion of the Dwarka Expressway has had quite a direct impact on realty prices and general buyer sentiments. Further improvements and enhancements on DEW will boost Gurugram’s realty growth. Upcoming developments such as the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), and proposed Jewar Airport are also pushing growth in this region. These developments have ensured seamless connectivity from far-lying suburbs to the office and commercial hubs. Consequently, a number of affordable housing projects are coming up in peripheral suburbs where land rates are relatively low.

New Launches by Established Realty Developers

The region of NCR witnessed a 35% increase in the number of units launched, out of which 52% of the units were in Gurugram. Projects that are near-completion or ready-to-move-in apartments are garnering more inquiries from buyers. Established players such as Godrej, Shapoorji Pallonji, Hero, Sobha, etc. have announced a number of launches in 2018 in Gurugram, indicating the rising stocks of its realty market. Additionally, the commercial market in the NCR region has witnessed a 14% growth in leasing and a whopping 86% growth in new launches. Gurugram was also the leader in the absorption of office spaces, accounting for 66% of the absorption in the NCR region.

Push for Affordable Housing Projects

Residential inventory in Gurugram is priced relatively higher than other regions NCR. However, its relatively better infrastructure makes it an attractive market for aspirant homebuyers. To cater to this demand, HUDA launched a number of affordable housing projects in the last 2 years. Under its scheme flats are priced between 15-25 lakhs, with exemption of maintenance charges for up to 5 years and possession promised within 4 years. The flats were allotted through a supervised lottery. This scheme, as documented, has benefited thousands of families and brought the dream of ‘affordable housing for all’ closer to reality in Gurugram.

It is a model, based on a solid foundation that has found success in Gurugram and offers a template for policymakers elsewhere to follow and replicate. Also, trends such as smaller apartment sizes, integrated townships, ready-to-move-in homes are contributing to the sale of affordable housing projects in the city.

Gurugram’s real estate future’s looking brighter in 2019. A number of projects are nearing completion and attracting interest from buyers. As observed, although the first half of 2018 witnessed a rise in affordable housing projects in the Gurugram market, the second half has seen notable developers launching projects above the 75 lakh price band indicating demand for such developments. The improved infrastructure developments have further attenuated Gurugram’s desirability factor.

Bangalore Realty Market Is Self-Correcting To Meet Homebuyer’s Demand

Bangalore has emerged as the most preferred real-estate markets in India, over the last 10 years. There are numerous reasons for this, such as the booming IT industry and growing infrastructure. However, the most crucial aspect of homebuying is cost, and buying a home in Bangalore is relatively economical when one compares it to the exorbitant realty markets of Mumbai and Delhi-NCR where one has to break the bank in order to pay mind-boggling sums of money – at least 1 crore or more – to buy a decent sized home in these cities.

Having said that, Bangalore’s housing market, like all other urban markets, faces similar socio-economic challenges including income disparity. Hence, a better understanding of the segmentation of the market with respect to the budget will enable builders and investors to be able to tap into this housing market.

We quizzed random prospective home-buyers in Bangalore to understand how much their budget for an apartment and their preferred location. In the process, we recorded over 6000 responses. Our findings are documented in the following graphs and they tell an interesting story which goes much deeper than what initially meets the eye.

Budget of a Homebuyer in Bangalore

63% of the respondents were looking for apartments in the 50 lakh to 1 crore range. About 23% have a budget that is less than 50 lakh. Altogether, a staggering 86 out of 100 respondents have a budget of less than 1 crore. This is in sharp contrast with what the market offers as projects built by reputed builders are priced at 70 lakh or above.

Budget of homebuyers in Bangalore
Budget of homebuyers in Bangalore

This has contributed to a disparity between demand and supply. Perhaps, this explains why most housing markets in India have a large share of unsold inventories piling up every year. A recent survey conducted in (H2) 2017 by real estate consultants JLL paints a similar picture, “as many as 70,000 residential units remain unsold across Bangalore in 2017.”

Budget Range of Bangaloreans – 2 & 3 BHKs

In terms of a budget for 2 BHK & 3 BHK apartments, our research revealed that 73 out of 100 buyers are looking to invest 55 lakh or lesser in order to buy a 2 BHK apartment. Whereas, in order to acquire a 3 BHK flat, 76 out of 100 buyers are looking to invest a maximum of 80 lakh. In fact, the apartments developed by big builders are priced at least 35%-50% more than the expected price of homebuyers. This disparity is a strong indicator of the largely ignored socio-economic reality of the people living in metropolises in India.

It should be noted that a larger quantum of residential housing demand is in the lower ticket range (55 lakh or lesser – 2 BHK) & (80 lakh or lesser – 3 BHK). Developers would profit by catering to this huge market by optimally designing their development strategies.

Locational Preference of Homebuyers in Bangalore

 

Preferred location of homebuyers in Bangalore
Preferred location of homebuyers in Bangalore

 

With respect to location, trends of previous years continue to remain the same in 2018. South Bangalore, home to the IT sector, accounts for almost half the share (46.6%) of preferences for localities in Bangalore. Meanwhile, North and East Bangalore appear to be the next preferred destinations at 21.7% and 21.5% respectively. West Bangalore with suburbs like Rajajinagar, Vijaynagar accounted for the last significant part of the pie at 10%. Central Bangalore is a commercial hub and home to some of the most posh and expensive residential areas like MG Road, Lavelle Road, Vittal Mallya Road and Richmond Road. Being the most developed zone in Bangalore, residential projects in these localities are scarce and even those are pricey, and hence accounted for a meagre 0.3% of sales.

Ray of Hope for the Real Estate Market

The trichotomy of demonetisation, RERA Act & GST has transformed the real-estate market. The positive effects of these government initiatives took some time to reflect on the market, as buyers played the waiting game in 2017.

2018 has been the year of consolidation, as builders have increasingly started recognizing the needs of the market by launching affordable homes (upto 40 lakhs) and mid-range segments (less than 80 lakh) to meet various demands. The Knight Frank report on housing trends in 2018 (H1) notes this trend, “60% of new launches in Bangalore in H1 2018 were in the 25-50 lakh bracket.”

Developers are now competing aggressively to highlight RERA compliance, availability of occupational certificate (OC), PMAY eligibility and ready-to-move-in projects in the 40-75 lakh segment, thus highlighting the effects of RERA & PMAY CLSS initiatives on the developers and the real-estate market.

What Lies Ahead for the Real Estate Market in Bangalore?

Bangalore, with a current population of 12.5 million, is booming. It is home to a large number of working class people, and is the 5th largest contributor to India’s GDP. Government initiatives such as RERA Act, and PMAY-CLSS with a vision of ensuring ‘Housing for All’ by 2022, are facilitating the entry of first time homebuyers to the market. There is a significant section of the population that’s looking for budget and affordable homes in the city. Developers should look to tap into this section while paying close attention to homebuyers’ limited budgets and designing projects under PMAY-CLSS schemes which have a wider appeal.

To conclude, what was once an unorganized market marred by uncertainty, inconsistency and lack of transparency is now more regulated, transparent, responsive and consumer-oriented. However, the transformation of the sector can only be complete once the builders and investors understand the requirement of the customers (in terms of size and pricing of homes) and accordingly match supply to the demand. This in turn would reduce the number of unsold inventories, thus aiding developers, and self-correct an erroneous market. The signs of change are undeniable.