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Published on: July 13, 2020, 8 a.m.
Wooing home buyers
  • Home has become central to people’s lives

By Sajal Bose. Deputy Editor, Business India

The Covid pandemic and lockdown have had a huge impact on industry. The real estate segment has borne a substantial brunt of this. The lockdown forced people to stay at home. That has also thrown up the undeniable urge to own one’s own home for the purpose of security in an era of stunted mobility and a lifestyle centred around one’s home.

Since the ‘unlocking’, CREDAI Bengal, the advocacy group for real estate in West Bengal, has been witnessing, after a period of three months, a gradual sales recovery in the residential segment. Even though this recovery has yet to reach pre-Covid levels, it is an encouraging indication of the market stabilising, and the urge to buy has slowly revived. Taking a cue from the market scenario, CREDAI has launched an awareness campaign to encourage potential buyers.

CREDAI Bengal president Nandu Belani says: “We have seen the inquiries and buying has recovered to 65-70 per cent of pre-Covid levels after the lockdown restriction were eased. It should increase further as stability sets in.” With this thought in mind, CREDAI’s three-month-long digital campaign titled ‘EtaiBestTime (This is the best time to buy) attempts to woo property buyers.

The campaign is to show real estate as a lucrative and secured investment option for the public at large. It has also unveiled a mascot called ‘GK-da’ – the flag bearer of the message.

The new chatbot on its portal will disseminate important information 24x7 regarding the sector and real estate projects. A comprehensive booklet is also being released for buyers during this period.

The developers’ body has assured all potential investors that the real estate market in West Bengal is among the most reasonably priced in the country and its stable character makes it a safe bet for buyers. “The wisest decision would be to utilise this time to buy a home,” says Belani.

According to CREDAI Bengal, some suitable factors have contributed to the present time being ripe for investing in real estate. The interest on home loans being at an all-time low, prices have remained flat since demonetisation, PMAY being extended till March 2021, and the ensuing tax benefits, etc, warranted that the industry flag its positives in the mind of investors. Besides, the transparency of the Housing Industry Regulatory Authority (WBHIRA) regarding delivery has lifted the confidence of customers.

Golden period There has been a drastic fall in new project launches in the post-Covid scenario. Developers are selling at a loss or with practically no margins for most projects. “Since the developers work with very low margins in Bengal, they are focused on completing their existing projects and liquidating their investment. So, it is a golden period for buyers,” says Sushil Mohta, president CREDAI West Bengal and chairman of the Merlin Group.

The fact that there were only 17 new projects launched during the period April to June 2020 against 46 new projects during the corresponding period in 2019 bears testimony to this trend. Mohta also added that large parts of the inventory of ongoing projects will be sold out in a few months and that will lead to a price increase. New projects will come to the market only once prices increase, leaving some margins in the hands of developers. Usually Bengal adds about 15,000 units annually.

Harshavardhan Neotia, advisory committee member, CREDAI Bengal and chairman of Ambuja Neotia says: “Whilst we do acknowledge a certain reluctance in general for spending owing to the pandemic situation, it is also true that the home has become central to people’s lives, in spite of reduced incomes and the one asset that has become the cynosure of the investment portfolio is a home.”

The idea that work from home and online education and the possibility of this being the new normal for a long time to come has gained currency and hence having a space of one’s own has become paramount. “Our campaign EtaiBestTime will reinforce the fact that aspirations around owning one’s own house are firmly entrenched in the discretionary basket of the consumer,” adds Neotia.

The Bengal real estate market is less volatile than those in the rest of the country as it is driven by end users and not investors.

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