It’s still early days, but Kolkata’s property turf appears to be recovering slowly if responses at the city at the recently concluded property fair, Realty Expo 2009, is any indication. The city’s annual property exhibition witnessed record footfalls, enquiries and residential spot bookings. The state chapter of Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Associations of India (Credai-Bengal) — the apex industry body and organisers of the fair, claims the number of spot bookings nearly doubled this year compared to the 30-odd recorded in 2008. What’s more. The fair saw an unprecedented degree of footfalls with some 12,500 people visiting this year, a near 20% jump against the last edition.
“We did not anticipate such a turnout for the fair, especially since market sentiment has been negative in the past few months. It has come as a pleasant surprise, especially for the 60-odd realtors who participated in the property fair. Apart from spot business, developers are now confident of accomplishing significant incremental business in the coming weeks,” feels Credai Bengal president Pradeep Sureka. Rough industry estimates suggest that spot business during the fair could well exceed Rs 10-to-15 crore. Credai officials, however, claim it’s the ‘quantity’ that matters in this market rather than the value. Says leading realtor PS Group chairman & managing director Pradip Chopra, “There were many more serious buyers this time. Consumers have long been waiting in the wings for a good deal and the fair offered just that.”
PS Group has been one of the most successful exhibitors in the fair. It sold some 20 flats of ‘Ixora’ coming up at Rajarhat on-the-spot and hopes to close deals for another 50 flats shortly. “We sold flats at Rs 1,699 per square feet (sq.ft.) — rates which are much lower compared to Rs 2,000 per sq.ft. which Rajarhat was commanding even an year back,” Chopra adds. Is it merely a price correction that has lured consumers back to the market or is it the recent spate of home loan rate cuts ? Most in the industry feel it is a combination of both factors which propelled end users to visit the fair on a daily basis. Property prices have shrunk by nearly 5-20% across the city. Even promotional schemes like the EMI waiver created excitement amongst prospective consumers.
“Builders have become much more flexible and consumer-centric. The focus of the fair was on affordable housing — which has been the flavour of season. We have also showcased some commercial projects for the first time. Even these properties received good response,” says Sureka. If the fair’s success is considered a yardstick, the city’s realty community feels the market is finally on a revival path. “Consumer sentiments are reviving bit-by-bit. People are probably realising that all those doomsday predictions are unlikely to impact India. Kolkata’s property turf has always been much more stable than other cities. Hence, it is reviving faster than other markets,” avers Hiland Group managing director Sumit Dabriwala. While demand for projects across all formats — be it residential apartments, row houses, villas, plotted land, premium lifestyle projects, malls, office buildings and even IT parks — is picking up, the craze is for affordable flats priced at sub-Rs 20 lakh. Little wonder, Credai Bengal kept ‘affordability becomes reality’ as the theme for its fair this year.