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While COVID 19 May Have Halted Growth in Real Estate, 2021 Looks Promising for the Sector: States Rakesh Reddy, Director, Aparna Constructions & Estates Pvt Ltd.

2020 witnessed an unexpected turn of events for economies across the globe. The pandemic brought regular life to a standstill interrupting the growth trajectory of many industries. Companies who were offering consumer-centric products or services, operating with a large field force or those that required on-site work, such as the real estate industry, faced maximum pressure. The 60-day lockdown halted businesses, however, the real estate industry managed to get back on track slowly once the lockdown was lifted. The real estate industry is pegged at $ 10 trillion globally. In India the industry is pegged at $ 180 billion and is poised to grow to $ 1 trillion by 2030. The sector contributes to 11% of the GDP and is the second largest employer in the country.  2021 is expected to further improve the momentum and is most likely to be a promising year for the real estate industry.

While the revival at national level stood at 79%, markets like Hyderabad, Chennai and Bangalore witnessed close to 100% revival in consumer demand in just 1-2 months into the unlock. In fact, Hyderabad, a promising real estate hub, witnessed the fastest recovery. The city witnessed a 145% increase in project launches in September as compared to June 2020. The city accounted for over 40% of overall new launches across the major metros. Not only this, even the proportion on unsold inventories has gone down. As per data collected at the end of September 2020, Hyderabad had the lowest level of unsold inventory at 27510 units. Hyderabad recorded a significant increase of 10% in unsold inventory due to high volume of launches during the quarter. However, the city continues to record the lowest unsold inventory across the major cities as of Q3 2020. The unsold inventory in Hyderabad was only 4.6% of the national unsold inventory across eight metros, and the unsold inventory is expected to clear within 18-24 months, indicating a positive year ahead.

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Apart from the improvement in the buying sentiment, the year is also expected to cement the shift in consumer buying behaviour that 2020 had started seeing. Today, home buyers are looking for properties that provide premium value additions like premium amenities, smart technology and social infrastructure. The industry is anticipating this shift to further surge, thereby leading to an increase in demand for premium properties in the coming year.  Further, from an adoption of best practices point of view, technology adoption is another area that will see a huge shift in the real estate sector. Adoption of advanced technologies will continue to be at the forefront of priorities in 2021. More and more developers will invest in automation, artificial intelligence, and big data to improve efficiency and mitigate risk; thereby improving consumer experience.

While consumer exuberance and adoption of best practices can help the sector to recover fast from the short-term slowdown the pandemic had bought about, that solely isn’t enough to aid the long-term growth of the industry. The industry requires a strong impetus from policy makers. Recently the Reserve Bank of India had asked the lenders to link the loan rates with repo rates so that the EMI burden can be further reduced on consumer home loans as well as give consumers more access to capital. It will also reduce the debt repayment burden on developers. The need of the hour will be to ensure that the transmission of these rate cuts is implemented with immediate effect.

Similarly, revisiting the credit structure in 2021 can boost the sector tremendously. Allowing ease of financing is crucial for the revival of the sector. The government should also look at more reforms like FDI relaxations which will allow more investment into the sector. These initiatives will lead to a steady demand generated through urbanisation, rising household incomes and the incentivization of affordable housing.

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The government’s initiative to provide funds for stalled real estate projects is a positive step to revive the market and consolidate the reforms of the previous years. These emergency funds should be implemented at the earliest to relieve the real estate sector, which has been struggling with the completion of projects due to an acute liquidity crunch. This move will not only help developers but also homebuyers who are awaiting completion of their homes.

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The granting of infrastructure status to the entire real estate sector would provide a huge boost. The growth of the real estate sector in India has a multiplier effect on the growth of the entire economy. The real estate sector supports numerous ancillary industries and provides employment to millions, both directly and indirectly. The upcoming budget should reflect the far-reaching magnitude of the real estate sector and grant infrastructure status. This will lead to financing being available to the developer at lower interest rates. In turn, this would make projects more affordable for the home buyer.

Apart from regulatory changes, structured financing impetuses have to be considered in the upcoming budget. The real estate sector requires demand-generating measures that will curtail the slowdown in economic growth. This includes tax relief measures which will increase disposable income for homebuyers, as well as the removal of tax surcharges for purchasing homes. Expanding the availability of income tax deductions for home buyers can incentivise new buyers and widen the market opportunity. In order to provide significant relief to individual taxpayers, the government has proposed a simplified personal income tax regime wherein income tax rates will be significantly reduced for the individual taxpayers who forgo certain deductions and exemptions. This will increase the disposable income for potential homebuyers.

The current taxation structure for the real estate sector could perform better if streamlined across all aspects of the sector in a holistic approach. The government should revisit the GST rates levied on the construction materials especially cement and other raw materials. Rationalizing the GST rates of these commodities will bring down the burden of construction cost and the overall pricing also will be positively impacted.

Overall, these measures will ensure easier financing and surplus funds in the hands of potential homebuyers, which will bolster consumer confidence and increase demand in 2021.

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