Experts have written off the residential real estate sector multiple times over the past decade, citing inventory overhang, high prices, regulatory changes etc. The sector has also dealt with challenges including structural reforms in the form of RERA, demonetisation, GST and the NBFC crisis. While the first few months of Covid-19 had its impact on the residential property market, the industry started witnessing green shoots of recovery with demand returning from the fence sitters.
Things are starting to look better now. A small number of buyers have reportedly deferred their plans, but many are taking advantage of offers and reduced interest rates. In fact, if you are confident about the health of your finances and are looking at a horizon of 3-4 years (the average residential construction timeline) to move in, this is actually a great time to purchase. Given the key learnings from this pandemic, it is also important to view the project keeping health and safety in mind. Here are some things to keep in mind.
The digital buying experience
The lockdown has seen many developers migrating their marketing and sales processes online. Look for developers who effectively use digital tools to showcase the property’s features through Augmented or Virtual Reality, interactive visuals, mobile apps, etc. The developer should also be able to provide any supporting information you request (for example, about safety measures or local schools and hospitals) in a prompt manner.
In addition, you can learn a lot from the way the developer handles your request for a site visit—i.e. how professionally and safely the tour is conducted. It’s also a bonus if the developer has put their housing inventory online, since it enables you to check availability and book your home from the safety of your current location.
The most basic motivation behind buying any home is to acquire a safe space for ourselves. In the wake of Covid-19, this assumes even more importance. Features like 24x7 security, access controls, technological surveillance and vetting of visitors are important to shield families and communities from potential exposure to this virus or similar future threats.
Layout and design
With travel and gatherings remaining risky and companies extending work-from-home, our lives will revolve around our homes and immediate surroundings for the foreseeable future. So, ask yourself: what kind of place would maximise space, comfort and convenience for your specific lifestyle? In general, look for well-designed layouts that minimise wasted space and allow for optimum social distancing, while also being self-sufficient in terms of key essential services like ancillary retail, pharmacies etc.
Until a vaccine or cure is found, physical distancing will remain important. However, shared amenities such as playgrounds, gardens, gyms, pools and libraries provide relief from isolation and create ‘trust circles’ where communities interact and form lasting bonds. A majority of A Grade developers are creating projects with the amenities mentioned above—but ensure that the developer has put adequate safety protocols in place for all shared spaces and amenities in the property.
Buying a home right now may come with an unexpected benefit—bargain deals. Developers are also offering schemes including waiver of stamp duty, registration fee or GST; deferred EMI holidays and payment plan options or interior upgrades. Home loan rates have also been slashed, making bank finance more affordable than it’s been for a long time.
This pandemic has impacted every aspect of our lives, and real estate has been no exception. However aspiring buyers are advised to be guided by their own needs and their assessment of the options available, instead of letting the circumstances or market speculation make that decision for them.
The writer is President of sales and marketing at Piramal Realty