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HindustanTimes Sat,20 Dec 2014

No slump in real estate market

Vandana Ramnani , Hindustan Times  New Delhi, August 09, 2013
First Published: 22:05 IST(9/8/2013) | Last Updated: 01:08 IST(10/8/2013)

These apartments stand out in today's lukewarm real estate market not only for their eye-popping prices — they cost between Rs. 15 crore and Rs. 30 crore and more — but also because they seem immune to the slowdown affecting the rest of the economy.

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That's because these flats, most of which are sold "by invitation only", are almost always bought by high net worth (HNW) buyers, who aren't affected by the slowdown, for personal use.

"The super luxury segment (defined as properties costing more than Rs. 10 crore) is not experiencing any pain. Those buying these properties are not worried about issues like job losses but are enhancing their lifestyle by buying such properties," said Om Ahuja, CEO, residential services, Jones Lang LaSalle India, one of India's top property consultancy firms, adding these are not volumes driven sales.

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This is in sharp contrast to the trend at the more affordable end of the market where investors, who had bought apartments at relatively low prices, are now unable to sell them to end-users as many potential middle class buyers have put off house purchase plans.

To cash in on this small but high margin market, a few leading developers have launched super luxury projects. To maintain their exclusivity and create and aura around them, many of these launches are not even advertised or publicly announced.

The unique selling proposition of these projects, mostly in Delhi and Mumbai, is generally their location, great, uncluttered views, the brand name of the developer and a price tag that few can afford.

"With the third highest capita income in India, Gurgaon is attracting entrepreneurs and business owners who have an appetite for luxury brands and residences," said Ratnesh Verma, senior vice-president, real estate and development, Asia Pacific, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, which is promoting a high-end project in Gurgaon.

"I booked my apartment (costing about Rs. 25 crore) primarily because of the exclusive gentry (industry parlance for desirable neighbours)," said a buyer who has booked such an apartment in Mumbai, on the condition of anonymity.

DLF, for example, will launch Camellias, located on Gurgaon's Golf Course Road, soon. On offer: 4-bedroom and 5-bedroom duplexes and penthouses costing between Rs. 17 crore and Rs. 32 crore. The company, however, declined to comment on the project.

In Mumbai, Indiabulls has launched Sky Forest in Lower Parel at Rs. 30,000 per sq ft. Each duplex apartment in this 50-storey building comes with a private terrace.

Real estate experts point out that though the realty market is experiencing its "pain points", the ultra luxury segment is largely untouched by the economic downturn as those buying them are not merely buying a property but a complete lifestyle.

"These high-end transactions do not reflect the reality. Those buying these properties are seeking comfort in the brand name, location, credibility of the developer, delivery record and higher product offerings," said Anckur Shrivasttava of General Advisers, real estate consultancy firm.

The size of this market is, expectedly, small. Developers are happy with three to four such sales a month.

Who buys them? Typical buyers are mid-rung industrialists, successful professionals (like lawyers, doctors) and others.


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