A rebound in India’s residential property market will be influenced by the intensity, spread and duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Government stimulus measures and monetary policy adjustments by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will further mitigate the adverse effects of the pandemic and help steady consumer confidence in the residential property market, according to the ‘India Residential Market Update Q1-2020’ released today by JLL, India’s largest real estate consultancy firm today.
The homebuyer community deferred their purchase decisions due to the evolving COVID- 19 outbreak, which led to sales declining by nearly 30% in Q1 2020 on a y-o-y basis. “The impact of the ongoing pandemic on business activities became more prominent since the beginning of March 2020 in the country” adds the report.
However, even though new project launches came to a standstill in March, Q1 2020 witnessed a rise of 3% in new launches as compared to the same period last year. Q1 2020 recorded new launches of 40,574 units compared to Q1 2019.
The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to weaken GDP growth, which is expected to fall below 5% in FY 19-20 and potentially reach 2008-09 levels in FY 20-21. However, the residential real estate market appears to be at an advantageous position today as compared to the Global Financial Crisis, led by a series of structural reforms by the government in the past five-to-six years,” said Ramesh Nair, CEO & Country Head, JLL. “When the COVID-19 scenario stabilises, factors such as better-priced deals, the enhanced financial health of banks and greater demand from end-users will aid in improving buyer sentiment. Sales are expected to regain some traction towards the end of 2020 supported by the festive season during that period,” he added.
Owing to the economic slowdown as a result of the current situation, consumer confidence has also taken a hit, which is having a direct implication on the home buying decision process.
Lower mortgage rates, combined with other measures taken by the government to improve sentiment, is expected to arrest this declining trend. These factors will further aid in the recovery of the residential market in India.
Developers have locked-in capital of INR 370,000 crore
The first quarter of 2020 witnessed an increase in unsold inventory as launches outpaced sales by a significant margin. Unsold inventory increased from 442,228 units in Q4 2019 to 455,351 units in Q1 2020. Moreover, Mumbai surpassed Delhi NCR to become the market with the maximum quantum as well as the value of unsold inventory.
Across the top seven cities, developers are sitting on an unsold inventory worth INR 370,000 crore at the end of March 2020.
An assessment of years to sell (YTS) reveals that the expected time to liquidate this stock has increased marginally from 3.2 years in the last quarter of 2019 to 3.3 years in Q1 2020. With anticipated slower sales in the coming quarters, the time to sell is likely to increase.
“Thus, the duration to monetise the existing inventory of around 455,000 units is expected to extend. Resultantly, developers will have to sit on this unsold inventory worth INR 370, 000 crore for a relatively longer duration. Having said this, the RBI’s intervention to provide a 3-month moratorium on all term loans by financial institutions will alleviate short-term liquidity concerns and help developers survive in these uncertain times,” the report notes.
New launches continued, developers focus on mid and affordable segments
The current quarter saw a modest increase of 3% in new launches of residential units on a y-o-y basis. The healthy streak in launches at the beginning of the quarter was dampened by the growing concerns of the impact of COVID 19 on the real estate business starting in early March. The market gradually slowed down at the beginning of March before it came to a standstill, on account of the nationwide lockdown.
Mumbai and Bengaluru continued to dominate new launches and formed nearly 60% of the overall launches during the quarter. The overall increase in new launches was driven by smaller markets like Pune, Kolkata and Chennai. While new launches in Mumbai witnessed a substantial decline of 18%, as compared to the same period last year, it remained largely unchanged in Bengaluru (an increase of 3%) and Delhi NCR (decrease of 3%), according to the report.
“New launches witnessed a modest 3% increase in Q1 2020 y-o-y, even though businesses hit a grinding halt in March 2020. Homebuyers deferred their purchase decisions in light of the current situation, resulting in an almost 30% y-o-y dip in sales during the first quarter of 2020. With the anticipated slowdown in economic activity, the real estate sector, which contributes 8% to the Gross Domestic Product of the nation, is poised for some immediate challenges,” said Samantak Das, Executive Director and Head of Research, REIS, JLL.
The situation is likely to aggravate the liquidity challenges faced by developers and restrict new launches for some time even after normal business conditions are restored. In the subsequent quarters, developers are expected to focus on completion of under-construction projects and clearing their unsold inventory. Moreover, consolidation in the residential market, with an increasing number of joint developments, will continue to be a major trend with the size of pie belonging to reputed developers increasing consistently. Development focus on mid and affordable segments continued in Q1 2020, as developers continued to capitalise on the demand and supply-side incentives of the government, to cater to the unmet demand in the lower and mid-income groups and target first-time homebuyers. A closer analysis of launches during the first quarter of 2020 shows a sizeable proportion of 62% in the affordable and mid-priced segments.
Looking back to look ahead
In the first half of the month, walk-ins reduced by 50% and buying discussions at advanced stages were being deferred. At present, with a nationwide lockdown imposed, launches and sales have come to a standstill. The economy is facing a slowdown and the uncertainty regarding the future is increasing. In such a scenario, it is difficult to provide a detailed, quantitative assessment of the COVID-19 impact on the future of the residential real estate market. However, a look back at some past unprecedented disruptions to the economy could provide an indication of the expected outcomes.
The Global Financial Crisis and the announcement of demonetization were a drag on the Indian economy. While the GDP growth toppled from 7.7% in FY 2007-08 to 3.1% in FY 2008-09, it has been on a declining trend since the demonetization move in 2016-17. These events impaired economic growth and had far-reaching effects across key industries including real estate.
The COVID-19 pandemic will have a similar impact on GDP growth, which is expected to fall below 5% in FY 19-20 and could even reach 2008-09 levels in FY 20-21. However, following a series of structural reforms by the government, the residential real estate market appears to be at an advantageous position today as compared to the 2007-08 Global Financial Crisis.
Unlike in the past, the government has also been prompt in announcing various stimulus packages. The RBI has also played a vital role by slashing repo rate by 75 bps, bringing down the current rate to 4.4% in addition to other measures to infuse liquidity.