Bring down Property Prices, says Governor Rajan

Bring down property prices, says Governor Rajan

He is perhaps the only governor of the Reserve Bank of India with the looks of a rock-star. Flamboyant and fearless, he is today known amongst school kids as well, given the way he makes his presence felt. The IIT-IIM alumnus, Raghuram Rajan, who had the audience eating from his hands, with his dosanomics that gave a new spin to economics has something to say about realty prices.
In the last 18-months the RBI has lowered interest rates by 150 basis points and it today sits at 6.5 percent. This drop is to encourage consumers to purchase homes and revive the falling real estate sector.
Earlier, Rajan had asked realty developers to bring down prices instead of piling up inventory. With property prices soaring up, the demand is trailing supply. People will get to invest if prices stabilise.
On their part real estate developers have asked for reducing the interest rate on home loans to encourage real estate business grow to which the governor responded saying he does not want to inflate the property prices by a cut in the interest rate of home loans. In vintage Rajan-style, he crunched the discussion with numbers. As of June 2015, home loans disposed of grew by 15.6 percent to Rs.6, 53,400 crores as against the previous year when it by 17.1 percent to Rs 5,65,000 crores. In contrast, the overall lending by banks grew by 12.8 percent in June 2014 and 7.3 percent in June 2015. His argument: the overall credit growth crashed with a brisk increase in home loans.
He further added that home loans given amount to 12.7 percent and 12.2 percent of the total loans in 2014 and 2013 respectively. The increase in home loans has not lead to a decrease in the stock of unsold homes. This shows that the growth in property prices plays the dominant role in unsold home stock.
Rajan sternly believes the central bank can identify a bubble while his US counterpart Alan Greenspan held bubbles are perceptible only after the fact. Rajan says the surging property prices are a bubble, and it needs to fall for the people to buy homes.
Knight Frank India, a real estate consultancy firm, argue that developers cannot drop down prices since the input costs, including the cost of land, have gone up significantly.

Recently Rajan again appealed to real estate developers to adjust property prices. He stressed there should be more transparency on land acquisition, construction, and sales, adding the building of houses and roads is a sign of growth for a developing economy like India.
Rajan cautioned that while there is a difference in how market and developer view the prices, it the situation continues, the real estate sector will be in a holy mess, as buyers will stay away, and sellers will pile stocks. Hence, the best solution will be to reduce the home prices for the market to function. QED.

Time to focus on Rental Housing

Harvard researchers predict that over the next ten years, India can become the world’s fastest growing economy. The real estate sector, the highest job-creating sector after agriculture, has a significant role to play. The government can chip in with the role of an enabler.
Alas, it hasn’t worked that way.
Poorly formulated housing policies can trigger an economic and financial crisis. So, what we need are good policies to support growth in long-term living standards and strengthen macroeconomic stability. Here are a few things the government can do.
The government should intervene in housing markets to ensure equitable access to housing. These interventions could include fiscal measures such as taxes and subsidies, the direct provision of social housing, and various regulations influencing the quantity, quality, and price of houses.
These policies will impact the overall economic performance and living standards, in that they can influence how households use their savings as well as residential and labour mobility which is crucial for reallocating workers to new jobs and geographical areas.
Remember, adequately supervised financial and mortgage market development, combined with policies that enhance housing-supply flexibility, are key for macroeconomic stability.
In a country like India where there is continuous growing population, there is tremendous pressure on the housing markets. The rental property market is the only available option for most people who migrate into a city either for employment or for nurturing their careers.
There is always a demand for rental housing regardless of how the home sales market is performing. This is because rental housing has a positive impact on the development of a city.
Focus on infrastructure and land acquisition
Infrastructure in many Indian cities is inadequate to meet the growing needs of its population. Many people do not move into houses they bought because of lack of amenities like shopping markets, good roads, hospitals, etc. in that area. If there is greater investment in infrastructure in areas that need such facilities, it will lead to opening up of more of the urban landscape for development. This will make housing less expensive, and more people will be able to live away from their employment centres.
But, constraints in the Land Acquisition Act has made things difficult. Thereby real estate development has become expensive. Developers getting entangled in legal battles over land is par for the course. Historically, the world over, when construction becomes expensive, people begin to live in informal settlements aka slums. Data show that nearly 17 percent of India’s population live in slums.
When the title to property is not clear, you don’t have an incentive to invest in improving the housing standards. It also freezes valuable urban land. If the government can legalise these settlements, the informal economy could be brought under the ambit of formal law. This will lead to redevelopment of many households. Here affordable housing could act as a preventive for such unorganized growth.
Innovations in mortgage markets should be coupled with appropriate regulatory oversight and prudent banking regulations. This would increase access to credit and lower the cost of housing finance.
Eleven percent of the entire housing stock is in the rental market. Since 1961, the fraction of the houses in the rental market had declined by over 70 percent in cities like Mumbai. The reason was that rent controls were not eased while allowing for the development of buildings by raising the floor space index (FSI). As most households with low-income levels cannot afford to buy houses, the function of the rental housing market is of great importance. FSI is an important factor in the housing market. Restrictions in this regard prevent redevelopment of old buildings.
Another interesting fact is that rental properties come with variation in budget sizes. The higher one’s budget was, there was scope to get a better place regarding location or size, accompanied with amenities. These ranged from single family homes to high-end multi-bedroom apartments. Rental housing catered to a whole spectrum of income groups.
Developing cities see migration from the hinterlands. We must develop the suburbs and surrounding spaces to meet this demand. This ensures that the wheels of the economy are sufficiently oiled and pulled by the cogwheels called rental housing. Otherwise, we would be staring at a major man-made crisis.

Credibility Cycling

Let’s understand the science behind the cycling first, to
1. Two wheels
2. One frame
3. Connectivity and
4. A cyclist –the driver who rides it .
The modern bicycle, complete with a steel frame, a chain drive, steel wheels, spokes, and pneumatic tires. We’ve described a bicycle as a “machine” and, in scientific terms, that’s exactly what it is: a device that can magnify force (making it easier to go uphill) or speed.


The frame
The frame doesn’t simply support you: its triangular shape (often two triangles joined together to make a diamond) is carefully designed to distribute your weight. Although the saddle is positioned much nearer to the back wheel, you lean forward to hold the handlebars. The angled bars in the frame are designed to share your weight more or less evenly between the front and back wheels. If you think about it, that’s really important. If all your weight acted over the back wheel, and you tried to pedal uphill, you’d tip backwards; similarly, if there were too much weight on the front wheel, you’d go head over heels every time you went downhill!
Frames aren’t designed to be 100 percent rigid: that would make for a much less comfortable ride. Virtually all bike frames flex and bend a little so they absorb some of the shocks of riding, though other factors (like the saddle and tires) have much more effect on ride comfort.
The wheels
The wheel is the most crucial element of the bicycle: it allows the rider to roll over the ground with great speed and efficiency.Dragging a load using a wheeled cart is far easier than dragging it on the ground—for two reasons:
Wheels reduce friction. Instead of simply sliding over the ground, the wheels dig in and rotate, turning around sturdy rods called axles.
Wheels provide leverage in other words, they are examples of force multipliers or simple machines.
The energy
It takes less energy to bicycle one mile than it takes to walk a mile. In fact, a bicycle can be up to 5 times more efficient than walking. If we compare the amount of calories burned in bicycling to the number of calories an automobile burns, the difference is astounding. One hundred calories can power a cyclist for three miles, but it would only power a car 280 feet (85 meters)!


A comparison of the energy cost of various forms of transportation shows that the bicycle is most energy-efficient.
It’s a machine, a system , a process in the sense that it converts energy from one form (whatever you had to eat) into another (the kinetic energy your body and bicycle have as they speed along).
Now you’ve probably heard of a law of physics called the conservation of energy, which says that you can’t create energy out of thin air or make it vanish without trace: all you can do is convert it from one from to another. So where does the energy you use in cycling actually go? It scientific terms, we say it goes into “doing work”.
The coolest thing about a bicycle is that it lets you get where you are going a lot faster and using a lot less energy than if you were walking or running.
“Penny-farthing” Victorian bicycle Vs Bicycle
You have probably seen a picture of the funny-looking “penny-farthing” or “high-wheeler” bicycles — the ones with a huge front wheel and a tiny rear wheel. You might even have seen someone riding one in a parade or in a movie. These bicycles became popular starting in 1870, but by the turn of the century were replaced by the “safety bicycle.” A bicycle from 1900 or 1910 looks almost exactly like any bicycle you see today. Today’s bicycles have two wheels of the same reasonable size, a pair of pedals in the middle of the bike and then a chain that connects the pedals to the rear wheel.
In a penny-farthing bicycle, the pedals and the front wheel are directly connected just like they are on a kid’s tricycle. That means that when you turn the pedals one time, the wheel goes around one time. That’s an inexpensive way to build a bicycle, but it has a problem. Think about a kid’s tricycle. The front wheel might be 16 inches (40 cm) in diameter, or 16 * 3.14 = 50 inches (127 cm) in circumference. That means that each time a kid on a tricycle pedals through one revolution of the front wheel, the tricycle moves forward 50 inches (127 cm). Let’s say that the kid is turning the front wheel at 60 rpm, or one revolution per second. That means that the tricycle is moving forward 50 inches per second. That is only 2.8 miles per hour (4.5 kph). If the kid pedals twice as fast, at 120 rpm, the trike is moving at just over 5 miles per hour (9 kph), and the kid looks like his legs are about to spin off because 120 rpm is a lot of pedaling!


Our objective is to help the developer community to create a bicycle approach in related to the credibility and make sure that they move faster with the energy. Most of the time currently the developers end up in creating the penny farthing approach.
Every real estate developer has to achieve two wheels first,
1. Developer credibility
2. Project brand identity

In the current scenario the developers also create these wheels but what they do is the penny farthing approach on this. They create their brand identity bigger than the project brand visibility and some time the project credibility is bigger than their own organisation and brand credibility. The difference in the wheel sizes even the energy is applied will not deliver the result as required and the developer have to keep on pedalling consistently with more efforts like riding the penny farthing.
As in the case of penny farthing the developer keep pedalling the front wheel which is the project brand identity than their credibility , that means every time they put efforts only then they see the result where their credibility of the brand never gives them any result its only the project brand identity which is giving them result. This is working on the pull mechanism. This not only becomes more costly affair but also the most time consuming affair.
We understand that only changing the sizes of wheels will not solve this there is a need to change the framework, the approach towards the cycling from the front wheel to real wheel cycling, instead of the pull to push mechanism, need to build in gears to make it safer faster and also more energy efficient.

To achieve the credibility cycling there are some of the attributes which are very crucial than the equal size wheels,
1. Balanced framework
2. Right connectivity
3. Energetic driving force

Our objectivity is to get the maximum output reach with minimum efforts and also to optimise the credibility of the developer established than just creating more visibility of brand for the development project and also to build credibility out of the brand equity that have been created out for the project through a balanced framework like that of a cycle to achieve the maximum output based on the aerodynamics , the scientific approach , here we are taking marketing science approach based on the consumer behaviour .

It’s not necessary that every time the brand identity is needed for the project under development, the credibility established by the developer on the brand can play an important role by the right connectivity, through various approaches of building trust and transparency with the potential new customer. In most of the scenarios reference of existing happy customers, visibility of the satisfied communities that have been created, identity of the landmarks built become the right connecting chord to strike relationship with a potential customer without even the brand identity of the new development. It’s the push of the real wheel, well established credibility making the new project identity actually like the case of bicycle.

One of the beautiful aspects of the cycling is on the momentum of ride it doubles not only the rider’s energy it helps to reach the destination faster and also it delivers double the result for the energy applied by the way of aerodynamics involved . this applies in the credibility cycling, when the established credibility of the developer is far more greater and keeps on accumulating on every project that is delivered, every brand identity of the project is established it multiplies with multiplier effect and delivers better results to the developer brand as well the project in the form of pricing premium, product demand and post buying satisfaction.

To make every development successfully, Most of the time the challenge is achievement both simultaneously and carrying forward towards the next development as well as the growth. But at the same time it’s very crucial and necessary for the every developer to achieve this, consistent balanced pedalling with the right connectivity for achievement the momentum on every project that is launched and every geography entered. We help the developer to build this, achieve this through a systematic approach of applied science with facts and figures.

Why rental income is a Myth ?

Buying a second home is a common investment choice not just in India but also globally. The rationale for investing in a home that also gives rents is simple to see. The investor gets the benefits of price appreciation as well as steady cash flow. In many countries where the interest rates are low and rents are high, it is possible to fund the second home purchase from the potential rent and repay it from that.

Rents also go up with inflation and hence act as a hedge against it. When investing in a locality that is just coming up, as infrastructure develops, rent also increases, providing rich price appreciation and rental income growth.

That said, there may be some cons to the idea of buying a property with rent as the motivator. One, renters seek a minimal social infrastructure. If the house is in a remote location, finding a renter may not be easy. So the house may remain vacant until facilities such as schools, shopping and hospitals come up.

Two, the rents you may earn may not be high. Rental yield – the ratio of annual rental income to the investment amount – tends to be under 3 per cent in many areas in India. So a house bought for Rs 40 lakh may give you a rental income of Rs 10,000 per month on average after accounting for expenses. Many other investment options will offer better returns than this. For instance, investing the amount in fixed deposits may get you similar returns for less risk and hassles. The main gain tends to be in price appreciation and rents are seen as a bonus.

Three, the house requires ongoing maintenance to retain value and also the tenant. This may range from painting, handling plumbing and other issues that come up from time to time. Depending on the age of the house, these may reduce your returns further. Also, if you don’t live nearby, handling these issues – finding reliable help to do it in a timely way – may be complicated.

Four, there may also be tenant related problems. For instance, rent may not be paid, upkeep may be poor, they may not abide by society rules or have disputes with neighbours; they may refuse to vacate the house when you ask them to leaving you in a difficult situation. While there are agreements between landlords and tenants, the legal system is not easy to navigate and home owners may face a lot of hassles in getting a tenant vacated.

Five, when a tenant vacates, the house has to be repainted and made ready for occupation. You may also have to pay a broker or an intermediary some fee for finding a new tenant. Delays in getting a new tenant would mean loss of rent and overall lower return.

Six, one can consider earning higher returns by renting the property to offices or for short stays. There may be restrictions from the housing society against such choices. Also, short term rentals require a lot of time investment to be profitable. So it may not be a choice for many who may be busy and want to consider passive investments.

Data from CBRE shows that around 1.2 crore completed houses are lying vacant across urban India. The unattractive rental yield coupled with low landlord protection in the legal system makes owners decide to lock the house rather than rent their home. It is indeed ironic, given that urban housing shortage is 1.88 crore units currently. Similar to developed countries, over the years as regulations change, rental home investments will likely be lucrative; but currently residential investments in India with an eye on rents are not a very attractive choice to consider.

The many perils in Land Investment

Land as an investment option is quite popular. One reason is that it can fit a wide range of budgets. A small plot in tier 2/3 cities or in the suburbs can be suitable for someone with a small budget of under Rs 20 lakhs. Large tract of land or plots in prime locations can be bought for budgets of Rs 1 crore or more.

Another reason is the appreciation potential. Buildings lose value over time as it tends to depreciates. But land retains value and price appreciates as it is a limited resource. Anecdotal evidence shows that land prices have appreciated at double digit rates annually in the last three decades or so.

But while the high returns and investment size may be attractive, land investments come with many risks. One, a good deal of legal due diligence has to be conducted on land. There may be issues in ownership, access and approvals. So the investor has to tread with caution to avoid the various legal traps.

Two, land may be taken over by the government for infrastructure projects. Land investments may be in less developed areas and road projects or industrial areas may come up in these locations. The new land acquisition Bill requires paying two-four times the circle rate for the land taken up, but it is often the case that the land owner has paid over the prevailing rates and may not enjoy price gains. Not just that, the payment process may face inordinate delays due to issues raised by other land owners.

Related to this is the issue of land encroachments. As land tends to be in undeveloped areas, it must be well secured with a fence and visited upon often to avoid someone claiming ownership. The owner has to go through long legal process and suffer stress when their land is encroached upon.

Three, there are also price appreciation risks. For example, while the land may have been bought on hopes of certain infrastructure coming up, it may not happen, as government development plans may change; this can dampen returns. Also, when development talks happen there tends to be rampant speculation, which boosts land prices in the short term. When things return to normal, there may be price corrections if there is over supply. We see this when talks of the new capital city’s location was in the process of being finalised in Telengana. Prices shot up and then crash landed.

So it is important to understand the many risks in land as an asset class. The high returns come with unique risks depending on the location and the investor must be knowledgeable to evaluate them. While the success stories of land price doubling may be tempting, it is best not be carried away; it is best to only enter an investment after knowing the flip side and the probability of negative developments.

Else, you can consider other alternatives. Property backed financial instruments may be one option to provide liquidity and reduce risks. Returns can also be enhanced as experts are involved in managing the operations. Investments can be in small or large sizes, providing some of the benefits of investment such as land while also lowering risks.

What the rich think about Property Investments ?

It helps to ask a physically fit person on their secrets for staying in shape. Likewise we can look to the rich on how they invest and their views on various asset classes. And it turns out that the wealthy of the world love to invest in property.

Data from real estate research and advisory firm Knight Frank shows that High Networth Individuals (HNIs) globally have a fourth of their wealth invested in their primary residence and secondary homes. They have an additional 10 per cent of their wealth in real estate investments. The investments in real estate sector are overall higher than their investments in equities and bonds.

Private investments in commercial investments are also on an uptrend in the last five years. The amount of investments increased from $54 billion in 2009 to $178 billion in 2015, showing growing interest of HNIs in commercial properties such as office and retail space.

The trend of higher allocation to real estate by HNIs is not new. Over the last decade, 54 per cent of wealth managers said that their clients had increased their allocation to residential property. Nor is this upbeat trend for real estate likely to change anytime soon. About 47 per cent of the respondents said they will increase their allocation to real estate investments in the next ten years. Contrast this with the falling popularity of other ‘real’ assets that have low correlation with the stock market – precious metals. Over 40 per cent of HNIs are likely to decrease their investments in precious metals and only 14 per cent are likely to increase it.

So clearly among non financial assets, property is winning out. But what is the attraction of real estate? About 55 per cent of the ultra rich buy residential property as an investment, something they will sell in the future. It is also seen by half of the rich as a way to diversify investments and also as a safe haven for funds. As part of diversification, there is also an interest in making investments outside their country. The amount of investments into India for instance increased 420 per cent between 2005 and 2014 to $270 billion. In the same period, investments by Indians outside the country increased 738 per cent to $132 billion. Likewise investments out of China increased from a mere $64 billion in 2005 to $1,013 billion in 2015.

What may be some takeaways for property investors? One, property investments – be it in homes or through financial instruments – play an important role in one’s portfolio. And with global opportunities available now, it helps to expand beyond one’s local neighbourhood for value creation, risk reduction and income generation. For example, Vancouver, Canada witnessed 24 per cent increase in property prices in 2015, while Dubai witnessed a 5.5 per cent dip. Diversifying across geographies helps reduce risk and invest in markets where there is value creation.

Two, diversification is important as there are no permanent winners in property markets and preferences switch from time to time. Developed economies were preferred for a period and it moved to emerging economies and now with growth back in the US, the interest is shifting back. Among cities we find there are periods of price appreciation in one market versus other and it helps to either engage with an expert to take the right bet or to spread the investment.

Pick the right vehicle to reach your goal

Pick the right vehicle to reach your goal

Our financial goals can be thought of as destinations we want to reach. And various financial investment choices in different asset classes can be thought of as vehicles to get us there.

For example, say you are in Mumbai and want to go to Pune. Taking a taxi, a Volvo or a non a/c bus, train and driving down are some options available. What you pick as your travel choose depends on your budget, how fast you want to get there, your limitations such as motion sickness and preferences on departure time.

Now imagine your destination is Delhi. Driving may not be a viable choice in this case but flying is an additional option to consider. But if you have fear of flying, you have to pick among other available options, even if airline tickets are on sale.

If your neighbour or friend hops onto a taxi, as he wants to go to Pune or tells you how great his cab ride was, you would not take a taxi if you want to go to Delhi. That is because you know that what works for a short distance travel is not applicable for a long distance destination. Likewise, you will consider the season – too hot, rainy, etc – to weigh whether what worked for someone else will be suitable for you.

Unfortunately though, we don’t exercise such judgement when it comes to investments. For instance, we fail to understand our risk tolerance for a given return expectation. Is the small-cap stock investment really for us given it can lose over half its value when market turns?

We also don’t look at asset classes such as equity, bond and real estate as vehicles to reach a goal in a certain time period. We need to understand the expenses (risks) and benefits (returns) and also take into account our preferences (risk tolerance, knowledge) of various investment choices before signing up. This will help reduce the chance of landing at an unexpected destination or having a bumpy ride.

When we start to do that, we realize that each asset class has certain positives and drawbacks. We also understand that we have certain inherent preferences and limitations and we cannot blindly take someone else’s advise fully, no matter how well intentioned it is. We can discern the differences between short-term and long-term investment vehicles and how to compare and evaluate them.

For instance, short term investments must be liquid as you want to cash out quickly. The same need not be the case for long term investments where waiting for some time may not be an issue. Short term investments must be quick to evaluate whereas spending some time analyzing an investment where you will remain invested for many years may not be seen as a drawback. Likewise, the risks in short term investments differ from what you face in long term as just the passage of time would change the dynamics of the investment.

With these insights, you can evaluate the role of real estate in your portfolio and how it can help you reach your desired destination. Should you invest in land or buy and flip a flat? Should you buy, hold and earn rental returns on a second home? Or should you consider home asset backed financial investment options? The nature of each of these investments including the general risks, specific risks, potential sources of gains is reasonably well understood.

But the onus is still on you to board the right vehicle, know the route to some extent and be prepared to change track with the help of experts when unexpected events happen.

Risk Return

The simple truth in investment is that there is no such thing as a low-risk high-return opportunity. It is a myth and we must be careful when someone comes up with a scheme which offers high returns with no risk. The golden rule is that returns in general are proportional to risk, if the market is efficient. If you invest in a risk-free instrument, such as Government bonds, your return will be around the rate of inflation. The return you get is really just the time value of money.

By opting for high quality AAA rated corporate bond, your returns are higher; but you are taking on the additional risk, albeit minimal, of default by the issuer. And if you choose lower rating bonds such as AA or A rated ones, the returns tend to increase, along with the risks. The key really is to understand the risks, know what is suitable for you as an investor and find the investment that gives the best return for your specific risk appetite.

In the case of equity investments, investors demand higher return than what they expect from debt instruments, as the risks are perceived to be higher. For instance, the price of a stock may be volatile due to local political factors, market fluctuations, global perturbations as well as sector and company specific issues. A successful investor weighs the risks and chooses to enter into a trade only if the estimated returns are acceptable.

This is not to say that the market is very rational at all times. Mis-pricing happens all the time as investors become risk averse – they demand high returns even for a small risk. As a return prices are beaten down. Anyone who picks up the bargain when the mood is negative can earn good returns when the mood turns optimistic. Equity analysts and experts who can identify which risks are real and priced in, which are not real but priced in, can help identify such opportunities.

The same logic applies to investments in real assets such as property. When you buy a completed home, there may be limited risks, as property prices do not tend to fall substantially in the Indian markets. One can earn a rental yield of 2-3 per cent annually. Add capital gains of 4-5 per cent every year, the investor can hope to earn returns inline with inflation.

By investing in an under-construction home, you take on additional risk – of delays, quality and other changes that may happen during the duration of the project. Hence you would expect higher returns. The risks in the investment can be assessed and mitigated by evaluating developers on various parameters such as delivery and quality track record.

Likewise, investing in the pre-launch stage and exiting when the developer launches the project to the wider market can deliver higher returns. The risks may also be high – plan approvals may not be received and the market may not perceive the project as interesting. These risks are in addition to location specific supply-demand dynamic changes, but all of these can be evaluated and priced. In fact, many high net-worth investors (HNIs) evaluate the developer and the project and profit from taking calculated bets.

So, investors have to assess each investment choice with the yard stick of risk and return. You must build your overall investment portfolio with debt, equity and alternate investments, to maximise risk-adjusted returns for a given level of risk. The asset allocation must be adjusted periodically as the market shifts. This is the best way to build long-term wealth.

New age of Property Investments in India

New age of property investments in India

Real estate as an investment option is falling out of favour. While a few factors such as the black money bill may be cited as a reason for the cyclical downturn, fundamentally property as an asset class is maturing in the country. From being a opaque system with many inefficiencies, the industry has been changing in the last decade as institutional capital is bringing more professionalism and transparency.

In the past, homes were built for consumption only and not as an investment. Homes were also self-constructed and there were no large scale projects. With real estate industry picking up, there was a need for capital. Property developers looked to investors to raise money, as traditional funding sources such as banks and NBFCs were not always willing to lend to, especially during the early stages of a project.

As an alternative to money lenders, larger developers went with real estate private equity funds. They were all the rage in the mid 2000s and many foreign and local funds were launched. They offered funding in two models – equity and debt. Equity oriented funds provide money in the early stage and when the property is sold, get their returns by way of price appreciation. Debt oriented funds offer loans in any stage to be repaid with interest (ranging from 18 to 25 per cent annually) after a certain period. There are also hybrid funds where the developer pays an assured minimum return plus a share of the price appreciation.

While it was a good deal for developers, many foreign funds and those that invested in commercial property such as office buildings, malls and retail space were stuck as they could not sell their stake. There was a shake up and many funds shut shop – the number of funds is now down to about 10, from 50 in the go-go days of 2007.

Among those left standing are local funds with a focus on residential real estate. Their strengths include offering thorough diligence on the builder and the project. They also monitor progress, put in systems to ensure quality and on-time delivery – all to ensure they can earn their return. Home buyers and developers also benefit in this bargain.

These methods have worked and the funds have been able to earn healthy returns even when the market was beaten down. The case in point is ASK Investment, a real estate private equity fund. They had at least four exits from the residential segment investments at multiples of 2.25 to 2.5 times in about four years. These work out to annual returns of 20 to 25 per cent – not a bad deal for any investment.

So while investors who bought physical property were stuck with low returns and inability to exit, wealthy investors who took the financial ownership route through real estate PE funds were laughing on their way to the bank. Real estate PE funds also offer diversification benefits as they invest in different geographies. Based on the risks assessed for the project and developer, the returns are set and systems are put in place to reduce issues.

The main disadvantage of the PE funds however is that they need a large corpus – the minimum investment is Rs 1 crore, as per SEBI regulations. Money flow to these funds increased over 20 per cent in 2015, after doubling in 2014.

In many developed countries, there are more avenues available for smaller investors to also benefit from economic ownership of property, rather than physical ownership. These include real estate investment trusts (REITs) which are entities that can invest in under-construction and completed properties – both commercial and residential.
REITs in India are however limited to income generating commercial properties. And worse, there has not been a single REIT announced, nearly 18 months* after the rules were clarified for launch.

Financial instruments backed by physical assets such as property offer retail investors a way to invest in property while eliminating the hassles with physical ownership. The cost of capital for developers is also reduced thanks to the additional funding source; this in turn could make homes more affordable for the end user. Making the residential property market more institutionalised – with more economic ownership choices for investors big and small – will only help the system further.