Monday, May 19, 2008

India's Exploding Real Estate Market: Shades of the Florida Condo Bubble

By Anshu Sharma

I just returned after spending a few weeks in New Delhi. The incredible pace of growth in India inspired me to see if I can participate in the growth by investing. India does not allow direct investment in equity markets for non-resident Indian citizens (and definitely not foreigners). I do invest in US-listed ADR like Infosys and exchange traded funds or closed-end funds like the India Fund. But I wanted to invest directly. One option available is real-estate.

The numbers when it comes to real-estate just don't add up though. Real-estate in India is incredibly expensive and not just by Indian standards (with per capita GDP of US$ 700 per annum). Here are some numbers:

  • Condos in New Delhi, India: 2-bedroom, 1000 sq ft apartment for $200,000 [$200 per sq ft] (Source:
  • Condos in Chicago, USA: 2-bedroom, 1000 sq ft apartment for $400,000 [$400 per sq ft] (Source: Google Housing)

Now, remember that the median income in Chicago is 50 times more than that of New Delhi. Why Chicago? Because New Delhi can grow in all 4 directions much like Vegas can (and ChicagoManhattan and San Francisco that are geographically restricted. can in 2 directions) as compared to

Next, look at agricultural land prices.

  • Agricultural land in Faridabad, Haryana (adjacent to New Delhi much like New Jersey is to New York): $250,000 per acre (source:
  • Agricultural land in New Jersey: $12,000 per acre (source: USDA, and for comparison its $6,000 per acre in California and $8,000 per acre in Florida)

One may argue that Haryana is too close to Delhi. Land in Dehradun is available at only $100,000 per acre while its much cheaper at only $20,000 per acre in villages in Himachal Pradesh. All at prices way higher than Florida or California. Commercial land is even more expensive.

The issue of population density pops up every time I discuss this. Let me be clear, the population density of India is much higher than USA. But, when you compare New Jersey and India - New Jersey is actually slightly more densely populated. And New Jersey is much more densely populated than Haryana, India.

The next issue that comes up is one of regulation and availability. Yes, real-estate is regulated in India with laws that prevent easy buying and selling and land records that are poorly maintained. This simply means that the prices can be artificially inflated in the near term (that could last several years) but in the long-term must return to rational values.

Will someone please explain this to me? How can farmers that make less than $1000 per annum continue to own land that is valued (notionally) at several $100K? Are the low rental yields (2-5%) indicative of the bubble?

" people told us house prices never go down on a national level, and that there had never been a default of an investment-grade-rated mortgage bond," Mr. Paulson says.

"Mortgage experts were too caught up" in the housing boom.

In several interviews, Paulson made his first comments on how he made his historic coup. Merely holding a different opinion from the blundering herd wasn't enough to produce huge profits. He also had to think up a technical way to bet against the housing and mortgage markets, given that, as he notes, "you can't short houses."

I heard the same arguments repeatedly in India - house prices never go down etc. We shall see!

Anshu Sharma lives and works in the Silicon Valley. His current focus is on Software as a Service and the emerging SaaS Ecosystem.

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1 Comment:

Ivan said...

Your statement 'India does not allow direct investment in equity markets for non-resident Indian citizens' is not true. NRIs can invest in equity markets, debt markets as well as real estate just like resident Indians without any exception. This is even true for PIOs.




Consider how the crisis has unfolded over the past eighteen months. The proximate cause is to be found in the housing bubble or more exactly in the excesses of the subprime mortgage market. The longer a double-digit rise in house prices lasted, the more lax the lending practices became. In the end, people could borrow 100 percent of inflated house prices with no money down. Insiders referred to subprime loans as ninja loans—no income, no job, no questions asked. - George Soros in latest book

everything’s going up, there’s a feelgood factor and people tell each other how much their houses are going up at dinner parties,” says Professor Mark Stephens of York University’s Centre for Housing Policy. “Then the music stops, as it always does.”

year, Japan was a more attractive market to put money in. If you look at the US, we can now get an internal rate of return of 25% there, so why would anyone want to come to India?” - a senior executive at an international financial services group, who did not wish to be named.

people told us house prices never go down on a national level, and that there had never been a default of an investment-grade-rated mortgage bond, "Mortgage experts were too caught up." - John Paulson, trader, who bet against subprime market and made $15 billion.

most puzzling are the real-estate projects of Parsvnath. Just have a look at the Pride Asia project near Chandigarh. They are asking almost US $300K-$350 K dollars for 2 bed room apartments. They have Villas in this project that costs more than US $1.5 million dollars. It is true that some people in India have that kind of money in India. However most of their wealth is black money and that can not be used to buy these properties. Obviously, these projects have been launched keeping NRIs in mind. - Sanjeev, comment from another site

Desai, aka Bani, the star of Balalji Telefilms's soap, Kasam Se, has been house hunting for over a year. She had almost closed a 2-BHK deal last year for Rs 1.5 crore in a Oberoi Constructions' building located at Andheri, Mumbai, but when she went back to confirm it, she was asked to cough up Rs 2.61 crore. Since then, she is still house hunting. - Mumbai Mirror


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