Developers lowering apartment sizes to meet customers’ budgets

Builders focusing on mid-to-affordable segments to launch new projects



In the wake of slow sales and a liquidity crunch that has left realtors gasping for finance, residential developers in Mumbai are reworking on project plans and reducing property sizes so that they will be more pocket-friendly, according to a top executive.


India’s residential real estate sector took a knock post demonetisation announcement in November 2016, which was then followed by the Goods and Services Tax and the implementation of Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act. A wider slowdown in the economy and a crisis in the non-banking financial services sector, which is a key source of funds for developers, has also impacted the sector.


“The real estate market in Mumbai and overall in India is hit by three major tsunamis. First, it started with demonetisation, then it was RERA and the third is GST. The slowdown in the economy has also hurt a lot; unemployment issues are there and lastly, the NBFC issue. Real estate funding is generally through NBFCs. Unfortunately, because of IL&FS, the liquidity disappeared in the market. That has led to overall liquidity problems in the real estate sector,”  Deepak Goradia, vice-chairman and MD of Dosti Realty told THE WEEK.


According to the latest report by consulting firm JLL, residential sales in India’s top seven cities between January-September 2019 rose 14 per cent year-on-year to 115,073 units, suggesting that the sector is on the road to revival. However, sales are still lower than the 119,672 units sold in the same period prior to demonetisation (January-September 2016). In cities like Mumbai, Delhi and NCR, developers have focused on mid-to-affordable segments to launch new projects.


Goradia says that companies are now focusing more on customer preferences and budgets, rather than what the developers thought was ideal size. “Earlier, we used to design a two-bedroom apartment of around 750-800 square feet carpet area. The prices would go up beyond Rs 1 crore in an area like Thane, plus you add stamp duty, registration etc. So, the ticket size of the flats would go up to Rs 1.4-1.5 crore. Now customers do not mind flats of lesser size as long as these fit their pockets. Same thing is happening across Mumbai. Now, we are designing two-bedroom apartments even in 540 square feet; so it fits the budget of the customer,” he said.


In a city like Mumbai, developers have for long complained the delays in getting various clearances, including those related to environment, defense and civil aviation. Despite this, developers like Dosti are going back to the drawing board, reworking on plans for new projects to make them more budget-friendly for a customer, even if it means that the project launch may get delayed by several months or a year.


“In projects where the work has started, we can’t change the plans. But, where work has not started, we replan it, take all permissions again, reduce the size of apartments, increase the number of apartments, go vertical to consume the floor space index,” said Goradia.


He also said that developers have become selective and are not launching a large project in one go, but focusing on launching a couple of buildings at a time, and only launching newer buildings once bookings are received for 40-50 per cent of the homes launched in the project.


Dosti has completed several projects in and around Mumbai and is also gearing up to launch a new project in Pune. It currently has four ongoing projects and is targeting four to five new launches in the next six to nine months.


The government has recently announced several measures to ease liquidity constraints in the NBFC sector. It also announced various other measures to lift the economy, including a cut in corporate tax. The hope is that these measures will help reduce the stress on sectors like real estate and also drive a growth in demand.




Residents go with the flow, use smart tech to save water

Smart phone-linked sensors, recycling waste water and literally making water from thin air: Apartment buildings are streamlining water conservation using technology.


Water conservation begins at home, in your apartment complex and colonies. You can start with something as simple as installing a low-flow water aerator on taps and showerheads, or recycle waste water to use for gardening, flushing and other quotidian household needs.


As cities continue to urbanise, demand for fresh water is increasing, it’s hard to keep up supply. Civic bodies do not have adequate water infrastructure, climate change has led to erratic weather patterns. Combine that with mismanaged water resources, wasteful water policies and we have a looming water crisis.


Waking up to this situation, many residential colonies and individual homes in India are using technology to save water. They are installing smart water meters to track water usage, installing waste-water treatment plants to recycle water in their societies and are even making drinking water out of thin air.


Flowing uphill


“There are only two ways to solve the water problem,” says Abilash Haridass, co-founder and chief of growth and strategy, WEGoT Utility Solutions. “Either you increase the supply of water or you decrease the demand.” One way to reduce demand is by using water sensors to keep track of water consumption in each household.


In 2017, Bengaluru’s Pearl Tuscany complex, installed WEGoT’s VenAqua water sensor in its 48 apartments. The Chennai-based startup installed sensors in the water inlet of each apartment, helping homes to manage the entire water intake and use by analysing data to track flow, pressure and quality of water in real-time through an mobile phone application.


“The platform can detect leakages and we can remotely shut taps and valves off from our mobile phones. It also tracks abnormal consumption like drips and fixture efficiency and helps buildings become more water efficient,” says Venkatesan Natesan, secretary of the society. He says that their monthly maintenance bill has been reduced by 70 percent. “In 2018 we paid around Rs 2,000 per month, now we barely pay Rs 800 and save 35 percent of water too.” The meter is given out free of cost and residents pay a monthly subscription fee of Rs. 140 for the service.


Similarly, Bengaluru-based Smarterhomes provides households in the city with meters to monitor water consumption using a remote sensing technology. At Celebrity Signature Apartments, residents have been heavily dependent on water tankers for the last 4-5 years. One major problem was dividing the tanker bill between its 80 regular flats and 11 penthouses in the building, as costs differed with the size of the home and varying number of people in each flat. “We tried multiple ways to implement a fair billing procedure, however, none of that worked,” says Melvin Vincent, president of the resident welfare association. “We then decided to install a smart meter because each resident can be billed as per use.”


The most significant advantage says Vincent is that when people look at their own consumption data, they start taking conscious steps to optimise their consumption. The connected meters send consumption data in real time to the central analytical and billing engine. “The platform is accessible from smart phones, allowing users to view per inlet consumption, historical or average consumption or even make comparisons with their neighbours, which encourages them to reduce waste,” says Vivek Shukla, CEO Smarterhomes.


Uncharted waters


An innovative technology launched by Elbow Engineers Pvt LTD in December 2017, called My70 converts humidity in the air into drinking water.


The device, which measures 3 feet by 1.5 feet, consists of a series of chambers, and runs on patented technology. It sucks the humidity from the atmosphere to create water which is then subject to a four-stage filtration process to produce clean water.


“Our domestic version produces 20 litres per day, which is the same as the bubble top can,” says Kumar Loganathan, CEO of the EWR. “The best advantage is the freedom from dependence on bottled water and other wasteful systems. Since our device requires no pipe connection and has no wastage, it scores over water starved areas that need RO systems,” says Gopikrishna, a resident of Chennai who uses this device in his home. The device is electrically powered and is usually kept running at night when the humidity is high. He says it produces water of a better quality than that supplied through the public systems.


Not going to waste


Mumbai-based startup Indra Water helps residential societies save on their water costs by recycling their wastewater and reusing it for non-potable applications like flushing, gardening, car washing and landscaping.

Indra installed a system at Somaiya Vidyavihar’s Maitreyi Hostel in March 2017. “We are saving around Rs 20,000 monthly on water bills,” says Mr. Gaurang Shetty, chief innovation catalyst at the institute’s Research Innovation Incubation Design Laboratory. “The system uses only electricity for treatment, no chemicals or biological medium is required. The technology is electrocoagulation.”

Since setting up, the hostel has managed recycle 7.5 lakh liters water per month, thereby reducing their demand for fresh water. The system status can be checked through a software dashboard and requires maintenance once every three months. It recycles 25,000 liters of wastewater per day taking up only 25 sq.ft for installation and is currently being upgraded to a higher capacity.


“The demand for water is going to double by 2030, as reported by NITI Ayog,” says Abhijit VVR, co-founder and chief of marketing and sales at the company. “With 54% of India being in water-stressed regions, we need innovative, cost-effective and decentralised water treatment technologies that can help societies and industries in sustainable water management.”



Real estate sector doing well in affordable segment, says Deepak Parekh

The HDFC chairman says the perception that the entire sector is witnessing a slump is wrong


Making a strong case for supporting developers to help them come out of crisis, eminent banker Deepak Parekh said the government incentives have helped the affordable housing sector gain traction but home buyers now clearly want “right developers, right price, right size and right financier”.


Parekh, chairman of housing finance major HDFC Ltd, also said the government’s proposed Rs 20,000 crore fund will help the realty sector in a big way to get their pending projects completed and his company is very keen to contribute to this fund.


Asked whether he would also like to join the board to help manage this fund as a reputed industry voice, Parekh, however, said it was too early to comment on that. “This fund, in which the government will put in Rs 10,000 crore and a similar amount will come in from public and private sector institutions, is a path-breaking move. The government is doing its best in supporting this industry and we have to get over the past sins of buying land at high prices and building luxury apartments. There is a limit how many luxurious apartments can be sold,” Parekh told PTI in an interview.


He also said the perception about the entire sector witnessing a slump was wrong as phenomenal sales were happening in the affordable and mid-market segment.

He said HDFC Capital Affordable Housing Real Estate Funds’ (H-Care) USD 1.1 billion fund has seen strong traction for every project where it has invested across regions, including in Delhi-NCR, Pune and Mumbai, and most of the projects were sold within days.


The fund is managed by HDFC Capital Advisors Ltd, which is headed by Vipul Roongta and is a 100 per cent subsidiary of HDFC Ltd.


Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) has invested 82 per cent, 9 per cent is by NIIF and 9 per cent by HDFC in this fund.


He said the magic wand behind success of these projects is that all these developers are reputed ones and the pricing and unit size was spot on.


“Where the demand transformation has happened, is that the customer profile has moved towards end users, because there is no appreciation and the rental yields on housing have come down,” Parekh said.


“Fiscal incentives have come for affordable housing, which are very beneficial. We feel more projects should be launched in this segment because the demand is insatiable.


“What is key in real estate which not many people have followed is, you have to have the right developer, which is people with good reputation and people who have delivered in the past.


“Then you need to have right sized units and right price,” he said.


Parekh said all eight or nine projects launched by H-Care have done well and there are more in the pipeline, all of them by reputed developers.


“This month itself, we launched a project by Signature Global in Gurgaon on September 13. We launched 680 units and within a week 30 per cent were sold. Price was Rs 4,000 per square feet and the starting price of the unit was Rs 20 lakh. That is where the market is. There is no point in building expensive units,” he said.


Even in Mumbai, developers need to make smaller units and they will sell, Parekh added.


Roongta said the lower margins in affordable housing are compensated by tax incentives and higher volumes.


He said most state governments are offering land at good locations and reasonable prices for affordable housing and projects linked to the Prime Minister’s Housing Scheme.


“Ten years back, affordable housing was far away from cities, but now it is at decent suburb locations and even within cities. A combination of fiscal incentives and effective implementation of policies at state government level is making a big change,” he said.


“We are seeing people ready to buy right projects, in low to mid-income segments,” he said.


Parekh said, “Some people are crying there is no demand, but we are seeing there is demand.”


He also said the government fund will help good developers finish their pending projects, which are non-NPA and non-NCLT.


Lakhs of homebuyers are yet to get delivery of their units as hundreds of projects across the country are delayed due to liquidity crunch and demand slowdown. In many cases, the projects have been declared NPAs or are under insolvency proceedings.


Parekh said, “There are also many developers who might be about to default and so they can get the help here.”


“The difficulty if the NPA projects are included would be that in many cases of NPAs, the developers are not straight forward and how can a government-sponsored fund can finance those projects.


“There are some fraudulent or crooked ones and how do you distinguish between good and bad ones?


“But what I want to stress is that India needs developers to make housing, malls, offices and all, who you have to support them and hold their hands,” he said.


“With RERA etc, now there is some kind of rethinking, after what we saw over-exuberance in the past of buying land at whatever price… people bought land at exorbitant prices in the past.


“There are some developers who are genuine and who might have been under stress due to lack of sales, or they bought too much land in one go and are now getting hurt.


“The trust factor is so low among potential homebuyers today. But if a Tata, Mahindra, Godrej or a Shapoorji or a DLF etc comes with a project, they do sell. Even our projects are getting sold because they are with reputed developers. They are also telling the prospective buyers that HDFC has given funding and taken the equity,” he said.



Why Chennai’s real estate market remains stable amid national slump

Chennai logged a 25 per cent increase in housing sales in the first half of 2019



Even as the slump in India’s real estate sector continues, despite the package by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for the sector over the weekend, the silver lining in the clouds has been the resilience in the property markets of the metro cities of South India. Chennai in particular has bucked the trend robustly. A new study released on Monday afternoon says Chennai actually logged a 25 per cent increase in housing sales in the first half of this year.


The southern metropolis also has the least-delayed housing stock among the top cities in the country, says the study by leading property consultants ANAROCK titled Chennai: Driven by Diversified Economic Base. Chennai has just around 8,650 units that have been delayed, and the study notes that none of these projects, worth more than Rs 5,000 crore, are completely stalled or cancelled.


The study also explains how realty majors in Chennai managed to achieve this: By limiting new launches, focusing on completing delayed projects and aiming for apartment projects that are more affordable to the city’s consumers. This approach has been in direct contrast to markets like Delhi NCR, which are in the doldrums due to heavy betting on too many ‘luxury’ projects. Some reports indicate that as many as 1.18 lakh housing units are lying incomplete in the national capital region alone.


Chennai’s housing sales increase is better than those of its fellow southern metropolises Bengaluru and Hyderabad. While the IT capital’s realty sales grew by nine per cent, sales in Hyderabad went up by 12 per cent this year.


“(Chennai’s) developers have remained focused on restricting (launch of) new housing (projects) and deployed resources to complete ongoing projects,” points out Anuj Puri, chairman of ANAROCK Property Consultants. “This has had remarkable results,” emphasized Puri.


The ANAROCK report also examines the reasons why Chennai managed to not just survive, but thrive, during this period of downturn. One factor, of course, has been that it does not depend solely on the auto and auto ancillary businesses, which are in deep decline mode. Chennai also has an evolving services sector, especially IT and ITeS, as well as electronic hardware.


Propertism: NRI Property Management Services in India, Chennai




Tamil Nadu: ECs to have landowners’ photos, copy of deed

In the last financial year, 25,73,478 documents were registered in 575 sub-registrar offices across the state, generating a revenue of Rs 11,000 crore.



CHENNAI: As part of its effort to cut down fraud in property transactions, the state government has decided to include photographs of landowners and a copy of the registered sale deeds along with copies of encumbrance certificates ( ECs ) that can be downloaded online from anywhere in the world.


The process, which will be part of the upgraded version of STAR 3.0 (Simplified and Transparent Administration of Registration) project to be introduced in a year, is aimed at eliminating ambiguity in property ownership.

In the last financial year, 25,73,478 documents were registered in 575 sub-registrar offices across the state, generating a revenue of Rs 11,000 crore.

Currently, ECs have details about the category of the sale deed, owners’ names, location, survey number and dimension of the property.


After the introduction of STAR 2.0, the practice of collecting pictures of transacting parties and pasting them on property documents has been done away with, and images are now captured by the registrar office computers and scanned automatically.

While all property transactions, including sale and mortgages, after 2009 were brought under the new protocol, the registration department is currently digitising all documents transacted in the last more than 100 years.


So far, about 35% of work pertaining to scanning of 50 crore pages recorded between 1865 and 2008 has been completed.

The STAR 3.0 protocol would be built on blockchain technology to store and transmit data in the form of blocks using high secured cryptographic principle.

Unlike the traditional computing systems that rely on centralised servers, a blockchain is a digital ledger that records transactions across many computers so that any involved record cannot be altered retroactively without altering all the subsequent blocks. This will make copying, hacking and tampering of data almost impossible.

“Tenders for STAR 3.0 will be floated soon,” a senior registration department official told TOI.