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Affluent Indians over-invest in property

Add comment   |   May 27, 2014    07:31pm   |Contributed by Indian Realty News

Desi billionaires hold 44 per cent of their wealth in property, while the global average is 24 per cent.

From Africa to America, the rich world-over have their wealth where their heart is — in their homes. Nearly a third of the wealth held by the super-rich (those with over $30 million of assets) in Europe is locked in real estate assets worth $2,391 billion, according to data from Savills, a global property consultant.

The Asians are second, with $1,800 billion, or nearly 27 per cent of their wealth, in property.

Over-investment

The super-rich in India, as expected, beat the global averages by a big margin. Nearly 44 per cent of wealth of the super-rich Indians is invested in property, according to data from Knight Frank. Of this, nearly half is invested in residential property and 30 per cent in commercial property.

Worse, the ‘average’ for rich Indians includes cases where real estate forms nearly 80-90 per cent of the wealth.

“Many wealthy Indians hold a large proportion of their wealth in real estate as there is a belief that the price will never go down,” says Balamurugan, Co-Founder and Director of Metis Family Office Services. He also says that in the past, it was not easy getting a bank loan for business and property was often used as collateral for the loan.

The allocation also tends to be higher in the South when compared with the Eastern and Western regions. For instance, while 80 per cent of the wealth in property is not uncommon in the southern states, the average is closer to 60 per cent in the eastern region and only 40 per cent in the western zone. “There is a more conservative mindset among the older generation and the level of comfort in the capital markets is also lower,” says Rajesh Saluja, MD and CEO of ASK Wealth Advisors.

That said, there may be no ‘ideal’ investment levels. The proportion of property that is preferred depends on a number of factors, including the wealth level, the time period one plans to hold the property and return expectations, says Bikram Sen, CEO of ArthVeda Fund Management.

Upbeat Asian Market

The Asian bias towards property may be understandable, given that property prices in regions such as Hong Kong, China and Singapore were on a tear and government intervention was needed to rein in the property gallop.

According to the Wealth Report’s Prime International Residential Index, property prices in Jakarta and Bali in Indonesia surged over 37 per cent and 22 per cent, respectively, in 2013. But things were sombre on the Indian front.

While the price growth in the Asia-Pacific region was an impressive 13.5 per cent in 2013, Bangalore, the top performing city in India, witnessed a mere 5.6 per cent appreciation.

The slow pace of growth in the property market in India, however, did not dissuade buyers. This bias toward residential property seems to be universal. World over, the super-rich hold multiple second homes and have the bulk of their funds invested directly in property rather than in indirect investment avenues such as funds.

The tepid market notwithstanding, nearly two-thirds of the rich Indians wanted to increase their property investments in 2014. “The high historical returns enjoyed by the asset class and ownership motivation are aiding buyer interest,” says Samanthak Das, Chief Economist, Knight Frank.

Sombre outlook

Still, many factors point to a likely drop in allocations to real estate in the coming years.

Take the case of buying and holding land. There is already a shift away from investing in land, says Balamurugan. This is in spite of the fact that demand for land is robust.

Land price increase has been seen not just in cities such as Mumbai, where land is scarce, but also in cities such as Bangalore. During December 2011 to 2013, the Prime Residential Development Land Index for Bangalore witnessed an appreciation of 26 per cent, according to data from Knight Frank, slightly lower than 35 per cent for Mumbai.

Notable land deals include the purchase of a 0.37-acre plot on Vittal Mallya Road by Sobha Developers, at over ₹22,000 per sq.ft.
Indirect deals

Those who hold land are not keen on direct sale. Instead, they are opting to develop the land by partnering with a builder, to get higher returns. The option of lending money to builders rather than buying property directly is also gaining traction.

“Compared to direct holding, there is better returns and higher degree of transparency in indirect options such as structured deals with builders,” says Kiran Kumar Kavikondala, Director and CEO of WealthRay Securities.

In the last one-two years, there has been an increase in deals with developers who are unable to source funds and are willing to offer attractive interest rates and additional sops.

Branded homes

Sales in the luxury home market have not been robust either. In regions such as Mumbai, Pune and NCR, the concept of ‘branded luxury homes’, wherein developers tie-up with international luxury hospitality or lifestyle brands to create differentiated offering, was launched a few years ago. This segment is growing at a modest 5-6 per cent rate, says Anuj Puri, Chairman & Country Head, Jones Lang LaSalle, an international real estate consultancy.

These homes boast of professionally designed interiors and exteriors, centralised management of facilities and various additional features such as concierge services, high-grade electronic surveillance and security and valet parking. “These factors have high appeal value, especially to buyers who have seen such homes abroad and aspire to live at such levels,” he says.

But he cautions that this segment has challenges, including getting the right brands to come on board, as the international designer labels expect the proposed project to live up to their very high brand standards.

Demand in the housing segment is likely to remain tepid in cities such as Mumbai, Chennai and NCR. A notable exception is Bangalore, where the premium market is ‘expected to remain active’, according to a report by Colliers International, a real estate services company.

Source: Mira Siva for The Hindu Business Line

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