In these unprecedented times of the pandemic, going digital has become indispensable for most industries, including Indian real estate. In line with this, the recent announcement by the Maharashtra government that it will finally implement a full e-registration facility for new properties at developer offices is highly timely.
To hopefully be rolled out from October this year, e-registration of all first sale MahaRERA-registered properties will not only boost overall transparency. It is a major step towards future-proofing the housing industry in times of current and future uncertainty, and it will help developers become even more customer-centred.
E-registration will ultimately benefit all real estate stakeholders – developers, consumers and also the government.
- Developers will see renewed sales momentum, even when registration offices are shut or visiting crowded government offices is unsafe.
- Buyers will enjoy a vastly improved level of ease and convenience by being able to secure their dream homes faster at a time when homeownership sentiment has hit its highest peak in decades.
- For the government, seamless continuity of the property registration process will help maintain state revenue collections.
In April 2020 – when the first lockdown more or less crippled the sector – there were just 796 property registrations in Maharashtra. According to the Department of Registration and Stamps, Maharashtra, the total revenue collection was just Rs. 3 crores. This dire state of affairs becomes more apparent if we consider that in April of 2019, there were nearly 1.05 lakh properties registered with total revenue collections of over Rs. 1,563 crores.
While this 99% drop in the number of registrations and 100% fall in revenues was a huge setback for the government coffers. The decision to roll out property e-registration is not merely a convenience extended to developers and their customers, but an insurance policy that the state government is taking out to prevent any such revenue shortfalls in the future – even during such pandemics.
High Time for Change
The property registration process in all states has always been very cumbersome and time-consuming. Over the last few years, on average, more than one lakh property documents are registered in Maharashtra every month. The massive crowding at sub-registrar offices leads to long queues that strain everyone’s nerves and patience – and already over-stressed government office infrastructure.
Ultimately, the traditional way of registering property sales deeds is a huge inconvenience, with people sometimes waiting an entire day to get their property documents registered. Also, middlemen charge exorbitant fees to ‘grease the wheels’.
But despite all these drawbacks, the old system continued until the Covid-19 pandemic proved to be the catalyst for change. Crowded government offices are not compatible with full or partial lockdowns and social distancing rules.
In 2019, the Maharashtra government first introduced the online registration of property documents to reduce paperwork, save time, and improve transparency. Homebuyers could upload their property documents on the Public Data Entry (PDE) section of the designated website in advance. Then they choose a day and time to visit the registration office.
This step aimed to be a time-saver for buyers and officials as buyers only had to come to the registration office for fingerprints and signatures. However, there were technical glitches galore – and it still required at least one visit to the sub-registrar office.
Gearing Up for the Future
After Covid-19 bared its teeth and became the most powerful call for technology adoption yet, the government has finally decided to meet this challenge head-on. After all, a commitment towards ease of doing business must also percolate down to the masses. The stated intention is to make e-registration of sales of new homes by developers of MahaRERA-approved projects not only possible but mandatory from October 2021.
The process has already been field-tested in the offices of select leading developers; online registrations were done from their offices in coordination with the property registration department. This critical Digitech intervention will be a gamechanger. Whether it will plug all the previous leakages and systemic flaws remains to be seen, but all journeys towards progress start with the critical first step.