Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Denial of Reality - Arvind Singhal

There is no sign of let-up in the economic turbulence all around us. While there is, finally, some realization within the prime minister's office and the key economic ministries that India is not insulated from the global economy and that serious measures have to be undertaken to prevent the Indian economy from melting down too, it is surprising to observe the response of corporate India to this situation.

As if on cue from the USA, where there is an increasing clamour for more government bailouts, many in the Indian private sector have started to make similar noises. Of all those who have been the most vocal in seeking government support, subsidy and protectionism, the case being put up by the realty sector is the most disturbing. When the recent economic boom started in 2003, land prices in posh Delhi localities ranged from Rs 40,000 to Rs 60,000 per square yard. Builders’ flats in Gurgaon for middle-income customers were being offered for booking at Rs 2,200-2,500 per square foot, while premium residential developments in South Mumbai came to market at Rs 4,000 per square foot. Office rentals in Gurgaon were at Rs 30-35 per square foot per month while in Mumbai, they hovered around Rs 100 or so. In April 2008, the same prices respectively had shot up to Rs 400,000 per square yard, Rs 6,000 and Rs 28,000 per square foot, and Rs 120 and Rs 400 per square foot per month.

While this increase, ranging from 300 per cent to 1,000 per cent, put many Indian developers on the Forbes list of billionaires, it also resulted in the destruction of the primary demand for residential and commercial property from actual users since it became unaffordable and nonviable, and brought only speculators to the market. In this situation, the noise from the real estate sector exhorting the government to facilitate reduction in the home loan rates is nothing but a denial of the reality that unless the property prices are scaled back to 2003 (or even 2005) levels — making them affordable/commercially viable for actual users once again — the realty sector will not see a boom again irrespective of the lending rates.

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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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