In coming years, India and China are expected to outperform the global markets with a growth rate in the range of 7-10%. This will benefit all sectors, particularly the real estate, which is closely linked to high growth in the economy.
A decline in property prices, falling interest rates and stability in the job market has helped the sector gain momentum once again. As developers realized that affordability was the key to lure buyers, they experienced with ‘no frills’ smaller apartment sizes. Projects that were launched in this segment received a good response, which indicated that homebuyers were waiting for a good opportunity to make an entry.
It is not only the listed players but also the unlisted players that have realized that affordable housing is the way to grow. Listed players who have committed huge investments towards low-cost housing projects are Unitech, Puravankara, DLF and Omaxe. Amongst the unlisted ones, Tata Housing is championing the cause of housing of the lower middle class. Following closely are Raheja of Delhi; Mumbai-based Matheran Realty, Lodha Group and others.
Global property consultancy firm Knight Frank has estimated that affordable housing requirement would be in excess of 2 million units across key cities in India and 80% of demand is expected to originate from the Rs 3-5 lakh income group. It is seen that real estate, sector is realigning its focus towards affordable housing and is estimated to reach a whopping market size of over Rs 3 lakh crore by 2011. With the sixth pay commission being implemented, those government employees who could not participate in the earlier real estate cycle will now be participants in the market. This, along with private sector employees who had postponed purchasing homes due to uncertainty in the market, would also be scouting for good bargains.
The combined effect of increasing sales and restructuring a major portion of debt has improve the liquidity position of most of the developers. An equally important timing of the upturn in the equity market opened another option of fund raising for these cash-starved companies. Realty stocks had corrected 80-90% over January ’08 – March ’09, but rebound back significantly. A number of builders including the likes of Unitech, Indiabulls Real Estate, HDIL., Orbit, DLF and Puravankara took advantage of this and either announced or raised foreign money in the past two-there months. This funding has come at the right time as it boosts the retail investors’ confidence in the sector.
As more funds become available, developers will divert all focus towards completing under construction projects. This, coupled with stable commodity prices, will help in faster execution of projects, leading to releasing of piled up inventory and rolling of the cash flow cycle. If the builders continue with a low price regime, then there is tremendous housing demand to be met. However if developers become too optimistic, as is visible, and start increasing prices, it could turn out to be a big blow to the industry, which is still recovering from its recent fall.
Despite the fact that stocks are still 20-30% off their highs, factors like strong balance sheet position, increased liquidity infusion, a stable government, and an improved employment scenario, suggest that there is a fair chance that going a head, the sectors fundamentals may improve. Though it might be premature to speculate a swift recovery at this point, there are convincing signs that show the sector is moving towards a revival.