RBI’s judgment has spooked real estate cos

MUMBAI: The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) assessment not to slash interest rates has spooked real estate business facing the brunt of a housing business slowdown caused by the high cost of mortgage financing. RBI, on Tuesday, decided to keep interest rates unchanged in its third-quarter monetary policy review. Real estate companies were expecting a cut, especially in the background of slowing home sales in most important cities in the past few months.

”High interest rates are a serious concern as far as property market is concerned. There was some hope that the rates would be lowered today. However, the impact will depend upon the section and the demand-supply scenario there. The effect on Mumbai where the supply is limited will be minor,” Godrej Properties managing director Milind Korde said.

Buyer fighting and a sequence of interest rates hikes previous year put the brakes on home sales last year. Middle-class family put off purchases after considering prices break all records in most important metros. ET’s report, on Tuesday, cited RBI data to illustrate that home loan sales fell 39% in April-November 2007 while loans to developers eased by a fourth to Rs 12,563 cr.

Real estate shares fell after the policy. Lower rates help the real estate industry by spurring consumers into buying houses. Realty stocks like DLF, Puravankara Projects, Indiabulls Real Estate fell slightly at about 1%. The hardest hit were companies such as Unitech, HDIL and Omaxe whose shares fell down 5.59%, 5.47% and 2.12% respectively. Sobha Developers on the other side, closed at Rs 772.75, up 2.02% from the previous close.

“We were expecting at least a 25 basis point rate cut on Tuesday so that the feeling of possible home buyers turn positive, which in turn will help the developers to sell more residential units. The home sales are currently down now, but it doesn’t indicate that the developers will slash the prices,” said Director, Runwal group, Sandeep Runwal.

Jones Lang Lasalle Meghraj, chairman & country head, Anuj Puri said as the rate remain sluggish, high levels in interest rates will carry on and the impact will be felt mostly in the residential sector. This may also compel developers in some regions to sell their products at lower rates.

“Because of the subprime disaster in the US, US Fed (the Federal Open Market Committee) reduced the interest rates by 75 basis points. This naturally has created a wide gap between US and Indian interest rates, leading to arbitrage chances in the economy. US investors not only get the currency approval returns, but also higher interest income,” he said.

He added that if it occurs, there will be considerable addition to liquidity in the Indian economy. This may in turn fuel further currency approval, hurting exports. Thus, this was a strong case in favour of limiting
interest rates.

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