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City tops the realty charts

- Sharpest spurt in project launches

Calcutta witnessed the sharpest spurt in new project launches in residential real estate in India during the first quarter of 2014 on the back of rising demand following a dull year.

Realtors offered 3.5 times more homes to customers during January-March than the preceding quarter, much ahead of the national average, leaving behind Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi.

Leading the pack in Calcutta is the affordable housing segment, where the most number of new units are being built even though mid and high-end projects are also being rolled out regularly.

According to an estimate by international property consultancy Cushman & Wakefield, 6,724 units hit the market in the last quarter, against 1,937 units between October and December.

“There has been a definite up-trend in the Calcutta market. Sales and enquiries are up 15-20 per cent over last year. The previous quarter was good and I think the positive trend will continue during the rest of the year,” Abhijit Das, office director (east) of C&W, said.

Harsh Vardhan Patodia, president of the real estate trade body Credai Bengal, said buyers were more positive than last year about making the “big” purchase. “The economy was uncertain and customers were in two minds. Now the general feeling is that the worst may be over and the economy will look up post-election if there is a stable government in Delhi,” he said.

The upbeat mood is even forcing some to advance their plans to buy property. “I have waited more than a year to buy a property in Ballygunge Place, hoping that prices will soften. But it seems rates will harden since the economy seems to turning around. Look at the Sensex. So I decided to take the plunge,” said a buyer who has just acquired an apartment for Rs 1.6 crore.

He is not the only one. Rashid Iqbal, a businessman who lives in Kidderpore, said he had been scouting for a flat for a long time before deciding to go ahead with his purchase. “I booked an apartment as the developer is providing amenities at an affordable price. Also, I fear rates will go up if the economy turns around.”

The significant increase is, among other reasons, because of projects in peripheral locations making their presence felt. Among them is Highland Greens in Batanagar that has closed bookings for 3,800 units.

The Batanagar-Maheshtala and Joka belts have contributed nearly 70 per cent to new unit launches, followed by the north and northeast sub-markets with 13 per cent and 11 per cent respectively.

The affordable segment accounted for 57 per cent of the new launches, followed by the mid-end segment with a 40 per cent share.

Patodia’s Unimark group, along with Concast, launched a luxury project on the Bypass on Friday with a price tag of Rs 2.5-4 crore. “I think now is the right time to launch this project,” Patodia said.

But pundits predict that Calcutta will remain the cradle for budget and mid-segment projects. Highland Greens developer Nandu Belani said a new phase with 1,500 units would be launched in two-three months. “We sold 18,000 forms and received 5,200 applications but could only allot 3,800 units. Unsuccessful applicants will get options in the second phase,” Belani said.

Das of Cushman & Wakefield predicted that affordable housing with amenities would be the rage.

City-based BGA Realtors plans to develop hundreds of flats priced under Rs 10 lakh on the southern periphery and Siliguri. On Friday, it handed over keys to 768 flat owners at a project in Sonarpur where prices range between Rs 2-4.6 lakh for a 301sq ft 1-BHK apartment.

Shampa Ghose, a partner in the firm, said a new phase had been launched with a flat size of 460sq ft and all facilities with a price tag under Rs 8.5 lakh. “We think there is a big, untapped market and we want to fill the vacuum.”