Understanding the definition, context and meaning of luxury in the Indian residential real estate sector along with the the investment dynamics of luxury homes.
In Indian real estate, ‘luxury’ is by far the most-abused word by residential project developers. Any project offering basic amenities is classified as ‘luxury’ in marketing materials, advertisements and pitches.
In the first place, luxury living in any context must necessarily involve generous living spaces. Going by that alone, a 1BHK cannot qualify as ‘luxury’ by any stretch of imagination. Secondly, the interpretation of luxury in the Indian context also includes an element of exclusiveness. In other words, the buyer of a luxury apartment – apart from superior amenities and facilities – also expects to live in a project which offers a certain socio-economic standard as a neighbourhood. Therefore, when a project offers one-bedroom apartments, it automatically disqualifies itself from the ‘luxury’ classification.
Buying a luxury apartment for self-use involves the need for multiple checks and validations. When it comes to buying such an apartment for investment, the need for 360-degree due diligence is even higher. After all, the final objective is returns on investment. If one is considering investing in a luxury apartment, one must understand what the hallmarks of genuine luxury in residential real estate are:
This is one of the most crucial parameters. Though central location is certainly an important qualifier for the luxury tag in India, a project that stands at a central city junction beset with traffic congestion does not provide a luxurious experience.
Very few people buy luxury homes and then hide them from the rest of the world. Most owners want others to see and admire their property. Noise and air pollution apart, this purpose is not achieved if the project lies in a chronic traffic gridlock zone. Finally, the owners themselves must have ready access to markets, schools, colleges, hospitals and offices.
The view available to the occupants is also very pertinent. A project may be genuinely luxurious in its internal specifications and amenities. However, if it overlooks a slum or congestion-prone highway, a graveyard or a hospital, both rental and resale potential take a beating.
This is one of the most important parameter to evaluate a project’s true ‘luxury’ value. If the floor-to-ceiling height is less than 12 feet, the luxury feel is severely compromised.
There is no ideal thumb-rule for this parameter – however, it is generally understood that a one-acre project should not house more than 60 families. Anything more means that the project does not qualify as ‘luxury’. This is because the available amenities are shared by too many people, destroying the project’s ambience, exclusiveness, convenience and charm.
Again, there is no specific yardstick by which to measure parking sufficiency. The commonly followed norm is that the number of bedrooms in a project should equal the number of available car parks. A 3-bedroom apartment should therefore have three parking spaces within the project.
The mere provision of branded elevators does not suffice in a luxury project. They must also have service elevators with separate entries, to ensure that domestic help and external suppliers do not populate the elevators and lobby being used by the residents.
Inhabitants of a luxury project do not expect to install ugly security grilles over their doors and windows. They expect to have the assurance that their families and property are safe in all respects. A genuine luxury project has uncompromising human security as well as electronic surveillance and safety measures firmly in place.
It takes more than a mere word like ‘luxury’ to place a project head and shoulders above the rest – and thereby make it a worthwhile investment option.
NOIDA: In a move that will aid buyers in choosing legally sound projects, the Noida, Greater Noida and Yamuna authorities are planning to upload details of all builders constructing housing projects on their official websites. The decision was taken after Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav directed the authorities to ensure protection for buyers and design a route to evade property-related cheatings.
The chairman of Noida, Greater Noida and Yamuna Expressway authorities, Rama Raman, said directions have been issued to start the process to buy server space for the websites to upload property-related details.
Aggrieved buyers have been demanding for a long time that details of all builders’ projects should be made available online. “Checking legality of land and developers projects would be just a click away. We have planned to upload all land ownership and title-related details on our website. Apart from that, lease deed conditions, status of sanctioning building layout plan and other NOCs and notices issued to developers will also be uploaded,” said Rama Raman.
“We have also asked the developers to upload the sanctioned layout plan copy and other approvals on their company websites as well,” Raman added. “We hope to complete the entire process by the year end,” said Manoj Rai, OSD, Noida Authority.
“The region has become a den for land sharks who have been cheating innocent investors. Even though several property frauds have been committed, they have hardly been reported due to laxity by police and authorities,” said a homebuyer.
Developers have welcomed the decision and hope this would be a great step towards ensuring transparency. “This move will instill confidence in the real estate sector. Now buyers will be able to identify genuine developers from fraudulent ones. Apart from that, this decision will increase the faith of investors in the real estate market in this region,” said Vijay Gupta of Orris Infrastructure.
“This move will undoubtedly be a significant tool for all prospective buyers to understand the nature of projects in a better manner. Incomplete information is more harmful than no information. Hence, availability of information on authorities’ website would enable buyers to take a better decision towards their investment,” said Brijesh Bhanote, director (sales & marketing), The 3C Company.
The association of developers, CREDAI, now hopes to get NRIs to invest in the projects. “An investor sitting kilometres away from Noida would be able to check the legality through authentic government websites,” said RK Arora, CMD Supertech and vice-president CREDAI (Western UP).
Developers are going all out to woo customers this Navratra—from free gold coins and costly electronic gadgets to lucrative discounts, they hope to cash in upon the tradition that favours new purchases during this auspicious period.
Builders and developers are announcing a number of attractive schemes for buyers this Navratra; considered to be an auspicious period, the season will see a lot of deals being finalized across the asset classes, including real estate.
The schemes vary, from upfront discount of around Rs 2 to Rs 5 lakh—depending on the price of apartments—to schemes under which around 50% of the cost of an apartment is paid upfront by the buyer and the rest paid at the time of possession.
In yet another scheme, developers bear the entire registration cost of 7% of the total cost at the time of registry. Many developers have announced free gold coins and costly electronic gadgets to buyers who book apartments or houses this festive season.
During the festival season, which starts with Navratra and continues till Diwali, a large number of serious buyers finalize their deals.
Anil Sharma, CMD of Amrapali Group and president of Credai, Delhi NCR, says that during this period genuine buyers come out to buy houses. So, to make the deal lucrative and bring it to a close, developers offer the right kind of choice that meets the requirement of buyers—all at a reasonable price.
Honey Katyal, CEO of Investor Clinic, says that because of the large number of buyers who turn up at this time, developers offer some additional discount to them, without incurring any business losses. This helps both—the buyers and the builders. This season, too, developers are hoping for a spurt in demand and closing of deals, which will have a salutary impact in reviving the sector.
Supertech Ltd has offered a ‘40:60 scheme’ for this Navaratra season. This scheme is for only those projects where possession will be given in six months. As per the scheme, the booking will be done on 40% advance payment and the balance 60% is to be paid six months later, at the time of possession. This will enable a buyer to save around Rs 3.5 lakh on a property of Rs 1 crore.
Ajnara India Ltd and SVP Group are also offering attractive schemes. The companies are offering bookings on payment of 10% of the total cost in their projects; after this, one has to pay 50% of the cost within 30 days of the allotment, while the remaining 40% is to be paid at the time of possession. In these schemes, buyers save handsome amounts, which may be as much as upwards of Rs 10 lakh in some cases.
Developers like Gaursons, Mahagun, and Paramount are offering subvention in the EMI to reduce the burden on buyers. Manoj Gaur, MD of Gaursons Ltd, says: “The real estate sector is likely to revive by the year end. In our country, festivals are directly connected to emotions of the people, and so is our industry. As the Navratra period is upon us, which is considered to be one of the most auspicious periods of the year, people tend to invest in real estate. To enable buyers to fulfil their dream, Gaursons always tries to come up with innovative deals and packages for its customers and investors.”
Antriksh Group is offering special cash discounts of up to Rs 50,000 on its projects like Antriksh Sports City in Sector 150 on Noida-Greater Noida Expressway, and Antriksh Golf Link and Antriksh Valley launched in Sector 1, Greater Noida West (Noida Extension).
Rakesh Yadav, MD of Antriksh Group, says, “This festive season, we are sharing the happiness with all our potential customers through our attractive cash discounts on all purchases.” Prateek Group is offering free car parking, power backup, and gold coins this festival season.
Griha Pravesh, another builder, is giving gold coins to the people who introduce a customer this season. “As the project has been sold by referral marketing only, to maintain the gentry we are offering the freebie to the introducer whom we think are our real SBU (strategic business unit),” the company said in a statement.
Landcraft Developers is also working out an exciting Navratra offer in which a buyer will take away home appliances worth of Rs 1.5 lakh free for booking one unit in any of their projects.
Amrapali Group is offering an upfront discount in the range of Rs 2-5 lakh to buyers; Anil Sharma, CMD of the group, said that the company is offering electronic gadgets like laptops, LCDs, and ACs with every booking.
Raheja Group has offered a price discount of Rs 500 per sq ft in its luxury residential project Revanta in Sector 78, Gurgaon; the price of the apartments in the project is around Rs 11,500 per sq ft.
“These are smart homes with branded products like Versace elements in flooring, wall design, wall tiles as well as other subtle elements; the sanitary ware is by Viliroy & Boch, as well as Hansgrohe. Concealed ductable air-conditioning and intelligent homes are other features of these homes which are being constructed by Arabtec, the construction company which built the tallest tower in the world, Burj Khalifa, in Dubai. The structural design consultants are Thornton Tomasetti, the consultants for Kingdom Tower, Taipei 101 & Petronas Towers,” a spokesman of the firm said.
Prithvi Raj Kasana, managing director of Morpheus Group, said: “Traditionally, the start of Navratra is considered the most auspicious time of the year and consumers prefer to invest during this festive season. Going with the tradition, the company is aiming at enticing the maximum number of potential buyers by offering RO water systems, geysers, chimney in the kitchen, and LCD televisions in our project, Pratiksha, in Greater Noida West (Noida Extension).”
Pradeep Jain, chairman of Parsvnath Developers, said: “It has been observed that some of the real estate players tend to offer freebies like cars, white goods, foreign trips for those who book during the festive season. However, freebies do not attract customers. We feel that developers should put all the possible strength in the product offered by way of better specifications, amenities, and facilities, etc, as the customers understand that all such freebies are loaded in the price that they are supposed to pay.”
“Serious buyers prefer a price friendly product, at the right location, from reputed developer. Buyers’ preferences are essentially the specifics of location, the number of bedrooms needed, size of apartment desired, and property that fits the budget—any offer of freebies works only if it is in addition to these criteria in the purchase of property. Thus, we do not intend to offer any freebies in any of our project ever,” Jain said.
In a huge relief to property owners, Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority (YEIDA) passed a circular on 24th September allowing for land transfer, which had in 2011 been stopped after an order was passed by the Allahabad high court. In 2009, the Authority had launched a scheme of 21,000 residential plots. However, after the land row the court had imposed a stay.
Yamuna Expressway Authority CEO PC Gupta said that transfer of undisputed land can resume. “This decision has officially been circulated in all departments,” Gupta said. He added that there are 25,000 residential plots and a court stay exists on 12,000. While status quo will exist on the ones mired in legal proceedings, the rest of the plots can be easily transferred.
When asked about the impact of this decision on the realty sector, Credai (west UP) president and Gaursons MD Manoj Gaur said a positive impact will be seen on the real estate sector which is in a slump. “A positive sentiment in the market will be seen if properties can be transferred. Apart from that, the Authority will also be able to generate funds as registration duty which can be used for development purposes,” Gaur said.
Meanwhile, buyers and sellers have begun submitting applications for agreement to lease and transfer land. There are 21,000 plots in Sectors 18 and 20 of Yamuna Expressway which have borne the maximum brunt of the ban on transfers.
This may be the right time for NRIs who wish to buy property in India but there are reasons which are holding them back. Developers across India acknowledge that the number of enquiries from NRIs have certainly increased in the wake of appreciation in US Dollar’s exchange rate against Rupee, but they are not necessarily translating into transactions.
Arjun Agarwal, director and chief executive officer of Bangalore-based real estate developer Bharatiya Urban, states different reasons for this. “Some are expecting more depreciation in the Rupee’s value, some want the dust to settle and some find prices unrealistic,” says Aggarwal.
Yashwant Dalal, president of the Estate Agents Association of India, at the other end, says, “For NRIs, who wish to book profits and liquidate their assets for some reasons, depreciation in Rupee’s value is not good news.”
“The actual returns squeeze when the gains in Rupee are converted into US Dollar,” he explains, adding, “In this scenario, an NRI buyer has no option but to re-invest in India and this may not always be the preference.”
Dalal, who is based out of Mumbai, also feels that property prices in Mumbai had reached the peak years ago, and now many parts of Navi Mumbai are also experiencing artificial hike. “Property prices at places such as Wadala and Sewri are touching the levels of Dadar,” Dalal adds.
AP Mull, president, Consulting Engineers Association of India, is also of the opinion that high property prices in Mumbai are keeping NRI buyers away from the market. As per industry reports, levels of property prices in Mumbai float at par with New York, London and Tokyo. However, the presence and quality of infrastructure in the city is far from the global standards.
Naming a real estate project is an integral ingredient of a marketing strategy. After completing the layout, one thing that keeps tickling the developers’ mind is naming the project. In order to lure buyers, it is very important to break out the real estate naming rut and come up with exclusive names. And by any means this is not a simple task.
As Sushant Muttreja, MD of Cosmic Group explains, “Naming a project is an exhaustive process. First step is to understand the project as the name should justify the kind of project we are building. Hence it requires a lot of understanding and comprehensive research. Second parameter is that the name should be easy to speak and remember. Third, it should be innovative and different from everyone.”
“Based on these parameters, a primary research is conducted where the whole team comes up with multiple options and the best one is chosen,” Muttreja adds.
Overall the process needs a comprehensive look on the location of the project, features and the segment of the population that the project is catering to.
A few examples of how developers decided the names of their projects will help us delve further into understanding the naming procedure-
Manoj Gaur, MD of Gaursons says, “Naming of a project is a tricky process, which depends on several factors such as location and audience. But to carve out a niche for one’s project, there has to be something extraordinary. Since, Hindi is our mother tongue; we give importance to vernacular names. One of our best selling projects was ‘Saundaryam’. We feel somewhere it touches the chord with the Indian buyers.”
Talking of their way of nomenclature, Dhiraj Jain, Director of Mahagun Group says, “The name of a project should ideally reflect the character of the project and relate to its target audience seamlessly. With the consideration of the above, Mahagun also prefer names that begin with the alphabet ‘M’.”
M Arun Kumar, MD of Casa Grande is of the opinion that the project name should entirely be decided on the basis of the concept. The essence is that there has to be a synergy between the project and the concept.
From being an affordable housing destination, Noida – Greater Noida is slowly transforming into a hub of luxury and high-end projects. Many developers have recently launched residential projects in this segment. Unnati Fortune World that caters to the demand of an integrated community that includes Corporate IT Park, 5-star hotel & club, manmade-lake, playing area, residential units, entertainment zone and commercial places, is one of the developers who have launched maximum projects in the high-end segment. Anil Mithas, CMD, Unnati Fortune shares insights on the demand in the luxury segment of Noida and how it is transforming into a luxury destination. Excerpts from his interview with Neha Nagpal of MagicBricks.com Bureau:
Affordable housing is the need of the hour, but you have maximum launches in the luxury segment? What is the reason behind it?
There is demand in the market for luxury products. We are trying to meet this demand by creating affordable luxury. Considering the land cost, which is now demanding premium pricing, the projects are catering to the niche luxury segment. At the same time, we also have projects like Aranya Homes in Greater Noida West, which is an affordable housing project to meet the requirements of customers looking to buy/invest in the affordable housing segment.
What do you mean by affordable luxury?
We are offering a lot of amenities including gym, pool, power back-up, parking as part and parcel of the package at very affordable rates. A lot of builders offer these separately as luxury. Hence, we believe in the concept of amenities becoming basic necessities.
What is the demand and supply of luxury projects in Noida?
The demographics of the current society suggests a generation which wants to move away from the traditional concepts in housing. This in turn has created demand and is pushing the residential segment towards the premium and luxury segment. There is also an increase in double income families wherein, people are looking at investing in the luxury segment. Also, a lot of our clientele is looking to upgrading from 2 to 3/4BHK to augment their lifestyles.
What is the profile of the buyers?
Demand for luxury housing is mainly from high net worth individuals (HNIs), who aspire to reside in spaces which are in sync with their aspirational lifestyle with traction more towards end users.
There is a huge supply in Noida and Greater Noida and the occupancy rate is low. What makes you launch maximum of your projects in these areas?
Noida–Greater Noida is slated to be the destination next in Delhi–NCR. Basis our understanding of the various market forces we believe in creating solutions for the demand which would create an environment to support the potential growth in this region.
This festival season, as always, the real estate market is likely to see more offers from lenders and industry with rates holding steady.
People are slowly returning to the real estate market as an investment avenue. It began with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) initiating some gradual steps to infuse more liquidity into the banking system to promote lending and growth. The industry has been demanding a softer monetary policy for some time now and these steps led to more interest in property on the back of expectations of easier loan terms.
This festival season, as always, is likely to witness more offers both from lenders and industry with rates holding steady.
Another development that is pointing to more investor interest in the real estate sector is the steady depreciation in the value of the rupee. With the dollar bringing in over Rs 60 now, NRIs earning in dollars are looking at investing in property here given the increasing capital values and rentals. The dollar gaining value translates to lower property prices for investors from abroad, making property an even more attractive option given the market conditions here.
Also, the rapid urbanization leading more people to relocate to cities in search of better opportunities is leading to a growing demand for property.
Given these market conditions, it makes sense for investors, especially high net worth investors, to evaluate their portfolio again. Property has a strong case to be a part of an investment portfolio. A portion of equity and equity-based products that are taking a beating at the bourses can be liquidated to raise the margin money. The tax benefits on a home loan to acquire a second property bring down the effective interest cost of the funds, and make the investment even more efficient.
A large number of investors entering the property market will mean a spike in the price graph. In this context, a project makes a good buy at the pre-launch offer stage, given the fact that it will command higher prices even as the construction progresses. Add to this the benefit of festival season offers from lenders, and investors have an attractive option that promises to beat the inflation effect over a period of time.
A key aspect of leveraging property to draw more from your investment portfolio is in efficient management of margin money and home loan finance.
A key aspect of leveraging property to draw more from your investment portfolio is in efficient management of margin money and home loan finance.
Short-term real estate investors, a source of quick funds for housing projects, are increasingly defaulting on payment to developers, as economic slowdown and rising cost of living keeps regular home-buyers on the fringes, narrowing exit routes for speculators.
A large number of such investors— who generally buy multiple properties and sell them in six to eight months for quick gains—are approaching developers for refunds, and in some cases even taking them to court, according to some real estate consultants.
“The number of defaults by short term investors has gone up in recent months,” said Navin Raheja, president of National Real Estate Developers’ Council.
India’s property market has slowed over the last few quarters. The slump is more pronounced in its housing segment, where developers are offering discounts to push sales. In the resale market, home-buyers are ready to wait it out. This has not just raised inventory and pinned down prices, but also shrunk the pool of buyers that short term investors target.
“A developer’s cash flow goes for a toss when investors don’t pay up,” said Samarjit Singh, managing director of India Homes, a property broking firm. “Cancelling a booking is the worst option for a developer.”
According to property consultants, short-term investors have cornered 50%-60% of newly built homes on the Dwarka-Manesar Expressway in Gurgaon and about a third of homes coming up in Noida-Greater Noida Expressway. The equation would be similar for the different suburbs of Mumbai, they said.
While some speculators managed to exit these properties before the slowdown set in, a large number of them are still stuck for want of buyers. Many over-leveraged investors who had picked up properties in the last one year are now willing to offload apartments at handsome discounts, sometimes even going up to 30%.
While the discounts are a big attraction, the sentiment in the property market because of the higher inflation, jobs cuts, increasing interest rates and an environment of massive uncertainty all around is pushing end-users to stay away from the real estate market.
Real estate speculators generally pay 20%-30% of an apartment’s value over about six months. When the housing project developer increases prices, these short-term investors sell their apartments to either other investors or end-users at a profit.
“These were the investors who would bring in the much needed liquidity for the developer at the beginning of a project,” said Santhosh Kumar, chief executive officer, operations, at Jones Lang LaSalle India.
According to a Noida-based broker who did not wish to be named, developers generally use such investors to increase prices. “Many developers would offer special rates to them for coming in early, sometimes even before all approvals for a project are in place. The investor was happy because he entered the project at a much lower price than a regular buyer and exited with a good profit,” the broker said.
In view of the situation, some property developers are keeping short-term investors out of their newly launched projects. “They are weeding out such investors by running personal wealth checks on potential investor and asking them for their bank statements before selling homes,” said Abhay Khemka of Khemka Investments and Properties in Gurgaon. “They are also asking brokers to do tougher due diligence before bringing in investors.”
Gone are the days when Noida was considered an affordable housing destination. Much like the steps taken by the Gurgaon real estate market, Noida too saw a number of luxury launches recently. Prominent developers who launched such projects are Jaypee Greens, Supertech Group, Amrapali Group, Ajnara Group, Dasnach Designarch, Mahagun India, Sikka Group, SPR Buildtech and Antriksh Group. These developers have launched luxury projects in different pockets of Noida such as Sectors 74, 75, 79, 94, 98, 119 and 150.
“As per the current scenario, Noida is no more known as an affordable destination. Due to its connectivity and proximity to Delhi, the area has seen about 30 per cent increase in values in the last one year. Apart from this, Noida offers all kinds of facilities as compared to other areas of the NCR,” says Dhiraj Jain, director, Mahagun Group. The group has recently launched Mirabella – the luxury project in Sector 79 at Rs 71 lakh to Rs 1.41 crore. The project consists of 2-4 BHKs with sizes varying from 1400-2500 sq ft.
“Today the buyer is upgrading his lifestyle and Noida has always been an end-user market. To stay, people look for all kind of facilities. Moreover, with the IT establishments and MNCs setting up base in Noida, the demand for high-end apartments or apartments which are priced higher than a mid–range have increased”.
Adding to Jain’s opinion, Rakesh Yadav, the managing director of Antriksh Group, says, “In the last few days there has been a 35 per cent rise in enquiries for luxury homes. NRIs majorly contribute to this demand today due to the dollar rates going up in comparison to the Rupee. To be in line with the NRI taste, developers are opting to launch luxury apartments.” “Out of the total demand, 10-12 per cent is for luxury housing in Noida,” he adds. Antriksh Group has recently launched Golf City in Sector 150 on the Noida Expressway. The project offers 3-5 BHK units ranging between Rs 1.5 -2.5 crore and villas between Rs 8-15 crore.
Developers also say that, in the last three years, no builder has concentrated on the luxury segment in Noida. Thus, it is high time that Noida picks up as a luxury real estate market.