At the start of 2017, the Indian real estate sector was grappling with the after effects of demonetisation which came out of the blue towards the end of 2016. However, 2017 brought even more change in the form of the roll out of Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 (RERA) and implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST). 2017 will be considered as a watershed year in Indian real estate; a year in which the boys of real estate development were separated from the men, and consolidation took place. It will remain the year in which the Indian homebuyer was given his/her due and place in what was seen as a ruthless sector.
While the majority of the notable real estate trends of 2017 were marked by regulation, some were infrastructural. The metros (both tier-1 and tier -2 cities) have seen the implementation of massive infrastructure projects, which will raise the standard of living in these metros, and as a result draw more people and developers to fulfil this demand. Affordable Housing and PMAY has also given broad hope not just to homebuyers in the lower middle class and low income category but also to developers who have been looking to make inroads into this sub-sector but have lacked the right incentives.
2018 is now underway, and as far as real estate is concerned will be dictated by the upheavals and trends of 2017. Let’s review the year gone by and what it holds for 2018.
Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 (RERA)
It was a long awaited regulation and was expected to be homebuyer-friendly. RERA has introduced many much-anticipated checks and balances to even out the playing field in real estate. Developers have been given space and incentives to adhere to their deadlines and steadily clean up a ‘dirty’ sector. They can now focus on completing under-construction projects and maintain transparency about allocation and usage of funds. Homebuyers on the other hand will have recourse to justice should developers continue to flout the rules.
RERA officials have led the way by ensuring timely approvals and granting registration numbers to projects. Maharashtra has been the standout state in this regard and has set an example for a RERA-fied real estate sector. Most of the other states are struggling to get their act together, however, some like Karnataka and Delhi have finally started issuing RERA approvals. As other state authorities take their cues from these frontrunners, homebuyers can expect timely project deliveries and developers can hope for better housing sector performance in 2018. On the flip side we can also expect to see many more litigations related to RERA in 2018 and for sure these verdicts will bring further clarity in the rules, as pertaining to various states.
Goods and Services Tax (GST)
GST was another long awaited regulation. Meant to replace a bunch of other taxes and streamline the rates on many goods and services across industries, GST shook up the economy. Since its implementation, various iterations were made to different rates. In the real estate sector, under-construction properties are being levied a GST rate of 12% while residential rentals are exempt from GST. Thus, GST brought confusion about application and led to increased prices and delayed possession. This proved to be counterproductive given the opposite effect of RERA. However, some developers took advantage of the situation to push sales of ready-to-move inventory by advertising the attractiveness of such properties sans GST. Moreover, developers are yet to benefit from accruals of input tax credit which can they can in turn, pass on to homebuyers. As this and further iterations happen to various rates in 2018, developers hope the GST rate comes down to stoke homebuyers’ interest in new construction purchase.
A Cleaner Sector?
Experts as well as critics are unanimous about the winds of change sweeping through the sector. The hope and expectation is that the changes are positive, enabling transparency about capital acquisition and allocation, faster approvals to developers, fewer construction delays and quicker possession for homebuyers. This in turn provides opportunities to developers – big and small – to adopt transparent practices and shed the notorious tag that has dogged the sector for decades. One can say with certainty that trust from customers is something the real estate sector has lacked. This is a big factor in any transaction. With these new regulations, as the grey areas start to fade away, there is hope that developers can begin to earn the trust of homebuyers.
Affordable Housing & PMAY
The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana was hailed as an enabler and a welcome government housing scheme. Under this scheme the government rolled out plans in rural as well as urban areas to enable more families to access affordable housing. Projects under this scheme picked up steam in 2017 and in the quarter ended September 2017, home sales increased 5% year on year in the top 8 property markets of the country powered by a 24% surge in affordable housing sales. Significant uptick of 11% was seen in the affordable segment with prices less than Rs 25 lakh. This is attributable to the fact that developers are realising the benefit of increasing supply in a category where demand is driven by financial and fiscal benefits under the ‘PMAY Housing for All’ subsidy scheme.
2018 will see further growth in this particular housing market as the government has approved construction of 112,083 more affordable homes under PMAY with an investment of Rs 8,105 crore. This means the total homes sanctioned under PMAY(Urban) has now gone up to 3,052,828. All of this is good news for developers looking to make a mark in this sector as well as for first home buyers looking for quality and affordable homes.
Across the major cities, huge investments were made in upgrading existing infrastructure as well as installing new ones. This includes expansion of metro projects in Delhi, Bengaluru and Mumbai while Hyderabad will see the launch of metro transport. Additional lines connecting distant suburbs will enhance connectivity and improve travel times and provide better commuter experiences. Simultaneously big ticket projects like the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), Dwarka Expressway (now provided National highway status), India’s first Bullet Train from Mumbai to Ahmedabad, and the new airports in Navi Mumbai and Jewar are aimed at boosting trade, infrastructure and standard of living across the country. Work on most of these will continue in 2018 and some like the Dwarka Expressway will be completed.
Overall, 2017 can be considered a busy year. It brought upheavals and yet signalled major changes and overhauls in the way the industry was operating. There can be opportunities in change and it is up to the major real estate companies to lead the way even as smaller companies are seen to be adapting quickly and eating into market share. For homebuyers this is a wait and watch period to observe how these changes unravel and what benefits it brings. They also need to focus more on doing their own due diligence and research, before making a decision. Public RERA portals provide access to information like never before thus enabling informed decisions. 2018 is definitely a year to watch out for in Indian real estate.