Will property prices crash in India due to the Coronavirus outbreak?
According to a Reuters poll of property analysts earlier this year, house prices in India’s prime cities will barely rise in 2021, despite an economic recovery and supportive policies. The January 2021 poll of 13 analysts showed that average house prices in the country would rise by 1.3% this year, while a rise of 4.5% could be expected in 2022. The poll also showed that property values in 2021 would hold steady in Mumbai, Delhi and the National Capital Region, compared to contractions of 3.25%, 3.0% and 2.5%, respectively, predicted in September 2020.
The forecasts in the poll, were based on the assumption that the risk of a COVID-19 resurgence derailing activity was low. Much has changed since then. On May 10, 2021, 3,66,161 new Coronavirus infections and 3,754 deaths were reported in the country, with numbers standing close to record daily highs, amid claims that the peak of the second wave of COVID-19 is on the decline. With this, India currently has a total tally of virus infections at 22.66 million, with 2,46,116 deaths due to the pandemic.
Even though the stress caused by the Coronavirus pandemic has impacted India’s key residential markets, the average rates of new projects continue to stick to their previous levels, data available with PropTiger.com show. According to a report by the property brokerage firm, the weighted average prices of properties, in leading markets like NCR and Mumbai showed flat growth in the October-December period of 2020, when compared to the levels seen in the same period in 2019.
Interestingly, no prime market showed any downward movement in prices during the one-year period, in spite of the severe pressure caused on growth, because of the pandemic. In what could be termed as significant at this point of time, the average rate of new housing projects in Ahmedabad and Hyderabad, in fact, registered positive growth of 7% and 5%, respectively. Pune, too, recorded a positive price growth of 4% in the past one-year period.
In the coming quarters too, price growth is expected to remain range-bound amid global agencies predicting a long-drawn recovery process for India’s economy. “A combination of supply-side scarring and demand-side constraints – such as the weak state of the financial sector – will keep the level of GDP well below its pre-pandemic path,” Fitch Rating said in a statement, on January 14, 2021.
Terming India’s Coronavirus-induced recession as among the most severe globally, the rating agency said it expected the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) to expand by 11% in FY22 (April 2021 to March 2022) after falling by 9.4% in FY21 (April 2020 to March 2021). “Supply-side potential growth will be reduced by a slowdown in the rate of capital accumulation – investment has recently fallen sharply and is likely to see only a subdued recovery,” it said further.
While the muted price growth, along with several other factors, has increased housing affordability in India to a great extent, low yields might be detrimental to the investor spirit and impact the foreign investment volume in the country, especially from the NRI segment.
Housing affordability is also getting a boost through actions by state governments. The Delhi government, for example, on February 5, 2021, announced a 20% reduction in the circle rates for all types of properties. This temporary reduction, which will stay effective till September 30, 2021, would significantly lower the cost of property purchase for home buyers in the national capital, especially in the luxury housing segment.
If a demand slowdown has been keeping price growth in India’s residential real estate market in check, the Coronavirus pandemic, which threatens to drastically impact global economic growth would wipe off any chances of value appreciation in the property market. In the near future, expecting price appreciation would be nothing but wishful thinking.
On Knight Frank’s global house price index, which tracks the movement in mainstream residential prices across 56 countries and territories worldwide, India slipped seven spots to rank 54th in the July-September period of 2020 against 47th rank in the same period last year, with a decline of 2.4% year-on-year in property prices. Compared to the previous quarter, however, the country’s the ranking remained unchanged, at 54th. The report points out that India was among the countries that saw the weakest price growth, year-on-year.
PropTiger.com numbers also indicate the nine major residential markets in India registered only negligible price growth in the past half a decade amid consumer sentiment hitting a new low.