Mumbai, Mar 23 (PTI) Even as the Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant national lockdown have dented homebuyer and developer sentiment, the industry believes residential sales will pick up once the pandemic is nailed and businesses and consumers get back on their feet. In the meantime, various industry bodies like Credai and Naredco are seeking government intervention and special packages to deal with the crisis arising from the pandemic. Industry experts, however, believe the sector has already seen the worst and sales can only go up from here once the situation normalises. ''We have already seen the worst times as we have survived the demonetisation, GST and Rera shocks. People were deferring their home buying decisions since then. But sales will pick up from now on. Traditionally, March and April are busy season but not this time.
''Sales are down now because of the pandemic driven restrictions and not anything else. But once the situation normalises, sales will resume,'' India Ratings director for corporate ratings Ashoo Mishra told PTI.
Echoing the views, JLL's Ritesh Mehta also said currently everyone's priority is to remain healthy and not hunt for a house and therefore the sales are impacting.
''Gudi Padwa, Akshay Tritiya and Dussehra have all been the most auspicious days to purchase real estate. But not this time as people are forced to remain indoors due to the pandemic and the resultant uncertainties. But despite this, the buyer sentiment is positive now if requests/responses are anything to go by. We are observing buyer interest for new launches and genuine enquiries are still taking place. But we will need to closely monitor the market,'' Mehta says.
According to another expert, due to various RBI measures to increase liquidity by allowing banks to lend against their cash reserve ratios, liquidity has come back to the system and people are making hard negotiations with developers to get their dream home at the best price.
He further says even if construction activity has come down in key locations like Delhi-NCR and Mumbai, those cities where the impact of the pandemic is not severe, work is still going on.
According to a recent report by property consultant Knight Frank, the number of launches across the top eight metros in 2019 had increased 23 per cent to over 2.23 lakh units, while sales grew 1 per cent to 2.45 lakh units. The unsold inventory declined 5 per cent to over 4.45 lakh units in 2019.
Of this, Mumbai saw the maximum number of new launches at 79,810 units and sales of 60,943 units.
Developers apex body Naredco national president Niranjan Hiranandani says, ''in this extremely challenging scenario, housing, as a basic need, saw buyers returning. Not as much as would have been the optimum though, still buyers are back, prospecting for the ideal home. As the situation was limping back to a good start, we are struck by the pandemic now.''
He further says a representation has already been made to the government to come out with some measures like rescheduling loan repayments, a one-time rollover for debt restructuring and a deep interest rate cut, which will help salvage the challenges the industry is facing.
Credai, on the other hand, has sought declaring Covid-19 as 'force majeure' under Section 6 of the Rera Act. The force majeure provision provides that registration granted to promoters may be extended. Therefore, project completion time and exemption from penal charges should be extended by a year.
Meanwhile, some developers are deploying technology to virtually launch new projects as well as to interact with potential buyers through various platforms, including WhatsApp and virtual tours.
And in the time of the pandemic this is doing good for these developers as buyers have the comfort of safety and at the same time get to feel the property virtually.
''On Gudi Padwa day, we opened the option of online buying where families can virtually interact with our team and chalk out their plans of finalising a property from a bouquet of offerings.
They can also avail of cashback on online booking. We''ve also made our processes very easy for our customers by providing online and WhatsApp assistance with the help of virtual site tours so that they can book their dream home with a hassle-free experience even when they are at home,'' Wadhwa Group managing director Navin Makhija says.
The Vijay Khetan Group has also decided to go virtual by launching a new project in Andheri digitally on the eve of Gudi Padwa.
''Earlier, we planned a physical launch with channel partners and brokers but due to the Covid-19, we will be having a digital launch and will take customer requests only online,'' its director Anuj Khetan said. PTI PSK MR MR
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