The realty industry is one of the worst-hit sectors globally following the financial meltdown, but for the well-heeled in India, this is excellent tiding. With real estate prices at an all-time low across borders, buying property abroad is suddenly making sense to affluent Indians.
"The property slump is not just confined to India. Prices have crashed considerably in the US, the UK and the Middle East and many Indians are seeing this as an opportunity to buy property there," Rajesh Goenka, chairman of Axiom Estates, the London-headquartered provider of property services in India, told IANS.
So much so, high net worth Indian investors are spoilt for choice: sea-facing villas in picturesque Mauritius, studio apartments and country cottages in Britain, condominiums in Singapore, and super-luxury homes in the Gulf.
But of all foreign locales, Dubai is the most sought after, say brokers familiar with the latest fad.
"Dubai is the hottest destination for celebrities and the rich on the hunt for a dream home. However, real estate prices were so steep all these years that very few could afford property there. Now as the slowdown has hit the Dubai realty market also, rates are down by 30-50 percent," Goenka said.
"Buying property in Dubai attracts no government tax and even if you put your property on rent, the income is completely tax-free," said Syed Mazaz, the Mumbai representative of Dubai-based real estate brokerage, Better Homes.
According to him, property prices in Dubai are comparable to those in Delhi or Mumbai - starting from as low as Rs.3 million ($62,000) for a studio apartment in the International City project in Dubai to Rs.15 million ($309,000) for a two-bedroom luxury apartment facing the sea.
"Tell me, can you get a similar bargain in Delhi or Mumbai? I'm getting many enquiries and about one-third of them end up buying a home in Dubai," Mazaj told IANS.
In Europe, Britain is the favourite destination for Indians planning property investment.
"The UK has a huge NRI population and attracts a large number of Indian professionals. No wonder people are buying property there. We alone are receiving at least 100 queries for the UK every week, leave aside other consultants," Goenka said.
"However, in most European countries and the US, the preference is for studio apartments and two-bedroom sets," he added.
One such interested buyer is Noida-based businessman Subham Agarwal. "Both my children are studying in the UK and I feel that they may ultimately settle down there. So taking a house there is not a bad option when property prices are at an all-time low," Agarwal told IANS, adding: "I am planning to buy a studio apartment for my children."
Countries such as Singapore, Mauritius, Thailand and Malayasia - where prices have dropped up to 30-40 percent in recent months - are also attracting Indian investors.
In Thailand, a two-bedroom apartment costs around Rs.2.4 million ($49,000), and can go up to Rs.40 million ($824,000) for luxury apartments. In Singapore, this would be in the range of Rs.2.6 million-Rs.26 million ($54,000-536,000) for similar accommodation, while it will be between Rs.3 million ($62,000) and Rs.12 million ($247,000) for two-three bedroom apartments in Malaysia.
In Mauritius, super luxury villas are going for Rs.20-30 million ($412,000-618,000).
Apparently, for India's affluent circles, these are 'steal deals' - getting a second property abroad at domestic rates.
Explains Jaideep Singh, head of the India desk at global property consultant Knight Frank: "People are buying property abroad because these are as expensive or sometimes even cheaper than in India, which makes it perfect for getting a second, or a third home."