Ten Things to Remember While Buying a Home

This piece emerged out of a couple of WhatsApp conversations I had over this weekend, along with a few emails that I have received over the last few months.

From these conversations and in trying to answer the emails, I have tried to develop a sort of checklist of things to keep in mind, while buying a home. Of course, as I have said in the past, when it comes to personal finance, each person’s situation is unique, and which is why it’s called personal finance.

Nevertheless, there are a few general principles that can be kept in mind. Also, this list like all checklists, is complete to the extent of things I can think of.

So, let this not limit your thinking and the points that you need to keep in mind.

Here we go.

1) If you are buying the house as an investment (not in my scheme of things, but nonetheless), please learn how to calculate the internal rate of return on an investment. Believe me, you will thank me for the rest of your life.

Also, keep track of the cost of maintaining a house and other costs that come with it. Only then will you be able to know the real rate of return from investing in a house.

Otherwise, you will talk like others do, I bought it at x and I sold it at 2x, and get lost in the big numbers, thinking you have made huge returns. While this sort of conversation sounds impressive, it doesn’t mean anything.

2) Don’t buy a house to generate a regular income. The home rentals in the bigger cities have come down post covid. Even if they haven’t, the rental yields (rent divided by market price) continue to be lower than what you would earn if you had that money invested in a fixed deposit (despite such low interest rates).

Of course, the corollary here is that as a landlord you choose to declare your rental income and pay an income tax on it. Many landlords prefer to be totally or partially paid in cash and choose not to pay any income tax. 

3) From what I have been able to gather from my conversations, people in a few cities are still flipping houses. In fact, the trick is to invest before a project gets a RERA approval and then sell out as soon as the approval comes through. This reminds me of the old days when the builder never really knew the people who ended up living in the homes that had been built.

Anyway, if you are flipping homes, do remember that many people caught in the real estate shenanigans of 2009 to 2011, are still waiting for their homes. Many of them are investors. So, if you are flipping homes, do take some basic precautions like not betting your life on any one deal. As the old cliche goes, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. 

4) Also, do remember that you are an individual and the builder is a builder. While many stories of David beating the Goliath have come out in the media, many more stories of Goliaths having crushed Davids, never made it to the media.

It was, is and will remain, an unequal fight. Do remember that. For a builder this is the life that he leads, you, dear reader, on the other hand, have many other things to do. And you are looking for a home to live in, not a builder to take on. So, be careful.

5) One question that I often get is, which bank/housing finance company should I take a loan from. I don’t think this should matter much. Most big banks and housing finance companies charge similar interest rates. As we say in Hindi, bus unees bees ka farak hai.

So, go to the financial institution which seems to be the most convenient to you.

6) One story being pushed in the media is that you should buy a home now because interest rates are low. Among many dumb reasons for buying a home, this is by far the dumbest. Interest rates on home loans are not fixed but floating interest rate loans. If the cost of borrowing for banks and housing finance companies goes up, so will the interest rate on floating rate home loans.

No one can predict which way interest rates will go in the medium to long-term (That doesn’t stop people from trying. Many economists build careers around this). So, currently, the interest rate on a home loan is around 7% per year or thereabouts. If you are buying a home, make sure that you have the capacity to keep repaying the EMI even at an interest rate of 10% per year. This is very important.

7) How do you structure the amount you pay for the home? What portion of the home price should be a downpayment? What portion of the home price should be your home loan? These are very important questions. The answer varies from person to person. Nevertheless, the one general principle I would like to state here is that don’t dip into your retirement savings as far as possible to pay for the downpayment.

It might seem like a good idea with retirement far away and your parents encouraging you to do so because they did the same and it worked out fine for them. Nevertheless, do remember that on an average the current generation will live longer than its parents, and the family support that your parents had or will have in their old age, you may never have.

8) Also, from the point of diversification, it makes sense not to bet all your savings on making the downpayment for a home. Do remember, no job or source of income is safe these days. Further, do ensure that at any point of time you have the ability to pay six to 12 EMIs, without having a regular source of income.

Other than being able to continue repaying your EMI, it will also help you have some time to look for a job or another source of income, if the current one goes kaput.  Money in the bank, buys you time, which helps you make better decisions in life.

And most importantly, if your EMI is more than a third of your take home salary or monthly income, rest assured you are in for trouble on the financial front.

9) If you want to buy a home to live in, go for a ready to move in home. I have seen completion dates for RERA approved projects going beyond 2025 in Mumbai.

The other advantage with a ready to move in home is that some people are already living there and if there is some problem with the building (not a huge deal in India) then there are many more people who have a stake in solving the problem (as convoluted as this might sound). As always there is strength in numbers. 

10) Finally, be sure why you are buying a home. You want to live close to your place of work. You want your child to have some stability in life. You don’t like the idea of moving homes, every couple of years. And so on.

But please don’t buy a home because your parents, in-laws, extended family or relatives, expect you to do so and it gives them something to chat up on or some meaning to their lives. These are financially difficult times and making the biggest financial decision of your life to impress others, isn’t the smartest thing to do possibly.

To conclude, as I said in the beginning this isn’t a complete list by any stretch of imagination. Each person’s situation is unique. Also, you may not end up with a tick mark on all these points mentioned above and you may still end up buying a home. But the advantage will be that you will know clearly where you are placed in the financial scheme of things.

The points essentially help you think in a structured way to arrive at a decision. They do not make the decision for you. That you will have to do.

PS: Don’t know if you noticed that the terms house and home, have been used at different places. Hope you appreciate the difference between the two. 

On Homes and Home Loans

Yesterday evening I had gone to meet a cousin who lives in the Western suburbs of Mumbai. All along the way, there were billboards of Kotak Mahindra Bank advertising its home loans, which are available at an interest rate of 6.65%.

While the interest rate of 6.65% comes with terms and conditions, such low interest rates have rarely been seen before. It is possible to get a home loan these days at an interest rate of 7%.

A few things have happened because of these low rates. There have been scores of stories in the media citing surveys where everyone from women to HNIs to NRIs to millennials seem to want to buy a house and they want to do it right here and right now. 

Of course, these surveys have been carried out by real estate consultants, whose very survival depends on the real estate sector doing well. Incentives as they say.

Low interest rates on home loans also have led to stories in the media suggesting that this is best time to buy a house. The other thing that has happened is that analysts have been recommending stocks of home finance companies (HFCs).

The logic being that at lower interest rates people will take on more home loans. This will help the loan book of HFCs grow, making them good investment bets. How easy all this sounds? But is it?

All this stems from the flawed assumption that people borrow more at lower interest rates and live happily ever after. Let’s see if that is true or not.

Take a look at the following graph. It plots the increase in home loans outstanding during the period April to January, over the years.

 Source: Author calculations on data from Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy.

What does the above graph tell us? It tells us that despite very low home loan interest rates, the increase in home loans given by banks between April 2020 to January 2021, stood at Rs 78,577 crore. This was around half of the increase of Rs 1,56,362 crore between April 2019 to January 2020.

Even between April 2018 and January 2019, the increase stood at Rs 1,46,227 crore. Clearly, people borrowed much more when interest rates were higher. Hence, the logic that people borrow more when interest rates are lower, basically goes for a toss.

In fact, the increase between April 2020 to January 2021, was the second lowest in six years in absolute terms. The lowest increase of Rs 74,837 crore was between April 2016 to January 2017. This period included demonetisation when banks had more or less stopped doing everything else and concentrated on taking back the demonetised notes from the public.

If we look at the period between April 2016 to October 2016, before demonetisation happened, the increase in home loans had stood at Rs 64,501 crore. Clearly the disbursal of home loans slowed down in the post demonetisation months.

There is another point that needs to be made here. Other than banks, HFCs or home finance companies, also give out home loans. Typically, banks give out two-thirds of the home loans and HFCs, the remaining third. Nevertheless, the last couple of years haven’t been good for a few HFCs. This has meant that some of the business of home loans has moved from HFCs to banks.

Once we take these factors into account then we can conclude that the increase in home loans during this financial year, has been the worst in six years. And this despite the extremely low interest rates. In percentage terms, the increase in outstanding home loans during this financial year has stood at 5.97%, the lowest in six years, and the only time the increase has been less than 10%. 

Why is that the case? For economists and analysts, the interest rate is the most important parameter that people look at while taking a home loan, nevertheless, a little bit of common sense tells us that this isn’t the case.

Let’s try and understand this through an example. As per HDFC, India’s largest HFC, their average home loan size is Rs 28.5 lakh. Their average loan to value ratio at the time of giving the loan is 70%. This basically means that HDFC on an average gives up to 70% of the price of the home as a home loan.

This basically means that the average price of a home in the books of HDFC against which they give a home loan, stands at Rs 40.7 lakh (Rs 28.5 lakh divided by 70%). Let’s round this to Rs 41 lakh, for the sake of convenience.

What does this mean? It means that in order to buy a home, other than taking on a loan of the buyer first needs to make sure that he has savings of around Rs 12.5 lakh (Rs 41 lakh minus Rs 28.5 lakh) to make the downpayment on the home loan. Even if the money is available, he or she needs to make sure that they are in a position to spend that money.

This is not where it ends. In many parts of the country a portion of the real estate transaction is still carried out in black. Money needs to be available for that. Further, a stamp duty needs to be paid to the state government. Then there is the cost of moving into a new house (everything from transport to perhaps new furniture).

Once we factor these things into account, we can conclude that the home loan forms around 50-60% of the overall cost of buying a house. Further, in a time like present, any individual thinking of buying a house will have to weigh the decision against the possibility of losing their job or facing a drop in income in their line of work.

Now let’s consider the average home loan of Rs 28.5 lakh. At 7% interest and a tenure of 20 years, the EMI on this amounts to Rs 22,096. At 9%, the EMI would have worked out to Rs 25,642. Hence, the EMI is Rs 3,546 lower.

So, yes, the EMI is lower. But what will the buyer first look at? The lower EMI or the ability to be able to pay the lower EMI and be able to continue paying it in the days to come. Of course, the buyer will look at his ability to pay the EMI and be able to continue paying it. Also, it needs to be remembered that the interest rate on the home loan is a floating one, and can rise in the years to come.

Hence, this decision will be based on the confidence that the buyer has in his or her own economic future. This is not something that can be measured at an aggregate system level and varies from buyer to buyer. The point being that everything that is important cannot necessarily be measured in numerical terms.

Having said that, the confidence in the economic future will be currently low, with many individuals losing their jobs or seeing their friends, relatives and acquaintances lose jobs. Hence, other than losing a job, there is also the fear of losing the job. There has also been a drop in their income or in some cases small businesses have been shutdown. 

Also, whether it is the best time to buy a house or not, like most things in personal finance, it depends on your finances and more importantly your mental makeup of what you want from life. If you want to settle in life and make your parents and relatives happy, and have the money to do so, then now is as good a time as any to buy a home.

Please keep this in mind at every point of time in life when some expert tells you that this is the best time to do this or the best time to do that.

So, right now if you think you have enough money and enough confidence to keep paying the EMI, and want a home to live in, then please go ahead and buy one. Also, make sure that you have enough savings to pay the EMI for at least six months to a year, even without your main source of income.

To conclude, buying a home is not just about low interest rates. There are several other factors, which people who are in the business of selling real estate, seem to conveniently forget about.

Then there are surveys in which a high proportion of people end up saying they want to buy a home to live in. Of course, they do. But just wanting to do something doesn’t add to demand. I mean, I want to buy a house in central Mumbai, but I also know that ain’t going to happen. My finances don’t allow it.

Here’s More Data to Show How Over-Priced Indian Real Estate Is


I know I am kind of going overboard with the analysis of the data released by the Income Tax department last week, but believe me it is necessary, to show how loaded things are against people who actually pay income tax.

Last week, the Income Tax department released some very interesting data-the kind of stuff that it had not released for a while.

It released detailed numbers for income tax returns filed in assessment year 2012-2013. In the assessment year 2012-2013, the income tax returns for the income earned in 2011-2012 was filed.

Let’s look at the income tax returns of individuals in detail. The Income Tax department has provided data for income for individuals under the head-salary, business income, other income, short-term capital gains, long-term capital gains and interest income.

Take a look at the following table:

This table tells us that the average income of individuals filing an income tax return is around Rs 4.40 lakh.

Table 1: Income under the head (in Rs crore)

House property income29,927
Business income4,03,251
long term capital gain30,479
short term capital gains3290
Other sources income1,28,020
Interest income44,918
Total (in Rs crore)12,67,085
Total number of returns287,66,266
Average incomeRs 4,40,476

How do things look if we look at just the salaried class?

Table 2

Salary (in Rs crore)6,27,200
Number of returns filed116,76,493
Average incomeRs 5,37,148

As can be seen from the above table the average income of the salaried class in India filing income tax returns is Rs 5.37 lakh. This is around 22% more than the average income of the individuals filing income tax return.

It is important to understand here that most individuals belonging to the salaried class would have an income lower than the average income of Rs 5.37 lakh. In order to understand this, we will have to take a look at the data in a little more detail.

Let’s divide the data in those earnings up to Rs 10 lakh and those earning more than Rs 10 lakh. Let’s consider those earning up to Rs 10 lakh first (See Table 3). As can be seen from Table 2, the total number of returns filed by the salaried class comes to around 1.17 crore.

Of this close to 1.06 crore have salaried incomes of up to Rs 10 lakh. This means around 91% of the salaried class filing income tax returns have an income of up to Rs 10 lakh. Take a look at the following table (Table 3).

Table 3

Salary rangeNumber of returnsSum of Salary Income (in Rs crore)
>0 and <=1,50,00016,00,16714,956
>150,000 and <= 2,00,00010,67,30018,853
>2,00,000 and <=2,50,00010,24,31523,120
>2,50,000 and <= 3,50,00019,18,71457,075
>3,50,000 and <= 4,00,0008,06,68530,215
>4,00,000 and <= 4,50,0007,54,20232048
>4,50,000 and <= 5,00,0006,96,21033032
>5,00,000 and <= 5,50,0005,95,29831190
>5,50,000 and <= 9,50,00020,23,583140464
>9,50,000 and <= 10,00,0001,00,1559760
Average IncomeRs 3,69,063

The average income of those earning up to Rs 10 lakh is Rs 3.69 lakh. This is significantly lower than the overall average income of Rs 5.37 lakh of the salaried class filing income tax returns. How do things look for those earning an income of up to Rs 5 lakh?

Table 4

Salary rangeNumber of returnsSum of Salary Income (in Rs crore)
>0 and <=1,50,00016,00,16714,956
>150,000 and <= 2,00,00010,67,30018,853
>2,00,000 and <=2,50,00010,24,31523,120
>2,50,000 and <= 3,50,00019,18,71457,075
>3,50,000 and <= 4,00,0008,06,68530,215
>4,00,000 and <= 4,50,0007,54,20232048
>4,50,000 and <= 5,00,0006,96,21033032
Average incomeRs 2,66,027

The average income of those earning less than Rs 5 lakh is around Rs 2.66 lakh. These individuals form around two-thirds of the overall salaried class filing income tax returns.

How do things look for those earning more than Rs 10 lakh per year?

Table 5

Salary rangeNumber of returnsSum of Salary Income (in Rs crore)
>10,00,000 and <=15,00,0005,92,41871,464
>15,00,000 and <= 20,00,0002,07,14135,566
>20,00,000 and <= 25,00,0001,10,70024,708
>25,00,000 and <= 50,00,0001,24,47241,302
>50,00,000 and <= 1,00,00,00036,77525,032
>1,00,00,000 and <=5,00,00,00017,51530,661
>5,00,00,000 and <=10,00,00,0006554,375
>10,00,00,000 and <=25,00,00,0001562,158
>25,00,00,000 and <=50,00,00,00026809
>50,00,00,000 and <=100,00,00,0006412
Average income21,69,876

The average income of those earning more than Rs 10 lakh per year comes to around Rs 21.7 lakh more and is significantly more than the overall average of Rs 5.37 lakh for the salaried class.

What do these tables tell us? That the average salaried Indian who files income tax returns doesn’t earn much. As mentioned earlier, around 91% of the salaried class has an average income of Rs 3.69 lakh. Close to two-thirds have an average income of Rs 2.66 lakh.

This basically means that the income of the average salaried Indian filing an income tax return is significantly lower than the overall average salaried income as well as overall average income. At least that is how things were for the assessment year 2012-2013.

A question worth asking here is what sort of a home can individual earning a salary of Rs 3.69 lakh per year, actually afford. An annual income of Rs 3.69 lakh translates into a monthly income of around Rs 30,755.

What sort of a home loan would a bank give against this amount? Typically, a bank works with the assumption that 40% of the monthly income can go towards servicing an EMI and accordingly gives a loan.

In this case that amounts to around Rs 12,300. An EMI of Rs 12,300 at an interest rate of 10% and a tenure of 20 years, would service a home loan of Rs 12.75 lakh. Banks typically lend up to 80% of the official value of the property. This means an official value of property of around Rs 16 lakh (Rs 12.75 lakh divided by 80%). Please take into account the fact that I have used the word official because there is bound to be a black component as well.

What this number tells us is that most salaried class in 2011-2012, were not in a position to buy a home to live in, across large parts of the country. There is no reason to believe that things would have changed since then.

The point is that the demand for real estate is in the below Rs 20 lakh market price segment. But what is being built across large parts of the country is clearly above that price. As RBI governor Raghuram Rajan said in a recent speech: “I am also hopeful that prices adjust in a way that encourage people to buy.”

Let’s wait and see if Dr Rajan’s hope becomes a reality, any time soon.

The column was originally published in the Vivek Kaul’s Diary on May 6, 2016

SBI’s FlexiPay Home Loan Basically Looks Like a Marketing Gimmick

In yesterday’s column I discussed
why the State Bank of India(SBI) has launched the FlexiPay home loan. This home loan allows a borrower to borrow up to 120% of what he would have been able to do in the normal scheme of things.

Further, the borrower has the option to pay only interest on the home loan for the first three to five years. The EMI, which will lead to the principal being repaid as well, kicks in only after that.

The question to ask here is, how much will this benefit the borrower. Or is this just a marketing gimmick which the country’s largest bank has come up with in order to issue more home loans. It is clear that SBI wants to give out more home loans, given that they have a very low default rate in comparison to the other kinds of home loans that the bank gives out.

Let’s try and understand whether FlexiPay home loan is a marketing gimmick or does it ‘really’ benefit the borrower. Let’s take the example of a borrower, who in the normal scheme of things, is eligible to take on a loan of Rs 40 lakh. While this number may seem very low to those who live in metropolitan cities, the average home loan given out by HDFC, the largest housing finance company in the country, is around Rs 23.6 lakh. So a home loan amount of Rs 40 lakh is pretty decent by that comparison.

Getting back to the example. Let’s say a borrower is eligible to take on a loan of Rs 40 lakh. In the case of FlexiPay home loan, he will be eligible for a loan of up to Rs 48 lakh (1.2 times Rs 40 lakh). The interest that SBI charges on its home loan is 9.55% (It’s 9.5% for women).

The interest only option of the FlexiPay home loan allows the borrower just to pay interest on the home loan for the first three to five years. As the SBI press release on FlexiPay home loan points out: “Further, to lower the impact of such additional loan amount on monthly repayments in the form of EMIs, the customers availing Home Loan under ‘SBI FlexiPay Home Loan Scheme’ will also be offered the option of paying only interest during the moratorium (pre-EMI) period of 3 to 5 years, and thereafter, pay moderated EMIs.”

The idea, as SBI puts it, is to give the borrower the option to pay a lower amount every month during the initial years. But is this amount really low? Let’s do some maths to understand this point. I had done this in yesterday’s column as well, but on reading it later, I found that the point did not come out as strongly as it should have.

Let’s say the borrower opts for an interest only option for the first five years. He has taken a loan of Rs 48 lakh, as is allowed under the FlexiPay home loan. An interest of 9.55% would amount to a total payment of Rs 4,58,400 during the course of the year.

This means a monthly payment of Rs 38,200 to service the interest on the loan. If the borrower had taken on a normal home loan, he would have got a home loan of Rs 40 lakh. The maximum tenure of an SBI home loan is 30 years. Hence, the EMI on a Rs 40 lakh, 30-year home loan, at an interest rate of 9.55%, would work out to Rs 33,780. This is lower than the monthly payment of Rs 38,200 that needs to be paid as interest on a Rs 48 lakh home loan, if the borrower opts for the interest only option for the first five years.

So there is clearly no moderation in the payment as SBI claims. And that is primarily because the interest to be paid on the FlexiPay home loan is the same as a normal home loan. If the interest were to be lower, then the interest payment would have been lower as well and the moderation claim would have been true to a certain extent. But in that case the bank would have been taking on more risk as well.

Now let’s flip the situation. If the borrower were paying an EMI of Rs 38,200, what is the loan amount he would be able to service. The maximum tenure of an SBI home loan is 30 years. Hence, paying an EMI of Rs 38,200, for a tenure of 30 years, at an interest of 9.55%, the borrower would be able to service a home loan of Rs 45.23 lakh. The EMI for this loan works to around Rs 38,197.

The loan amount of Rs 45.23 lakh is around 5.8% lower than the loan amount of Rs 48 lakh. Hence, is it worth paying only an interest of Rs 38,200 per month for a Rs 48 lakh home loan, when for the same EMI one could get a loan of Rs 45.23 lakh. And that is the question that any borrower should be asking himself.

SBI will not give the borrower a loan of Rs 45.23 lakh under a normal home loan scheme, given the borrower is eligible only for a loan amounting to Rs 40 lakh. But the bank is willing to give a loan of up to Rs 48 lakh under the FlexiPay home loan scheme.

Hence, the borrower should take this opportunity of taking on a higher loan amount of Rs 45.23 lakh, if the need be, under the FlexiPay home loan scheme. But at the same time ensure that he does not opt for the interest only option but repay an EMI. Why do I say that? If the borrower takes on a loan of Rs 48 lakh and opts for the interest only option, he has to pay an interest of Rs 38,200 per month.

Over a period of five years this amounts to Rs 22.92 lakh, close to half the loan he has borrowed. Further, at the end of five years, not a single paisa of the loan amount has been repaid and he has to start repaying the loan. The borrower will have to repay the loan over a period of the next 25 years. For this, he needs to pay an EMI of Rs 42,104 per month, which is 10.2% more.

Now what would have happened if the borrower had opted to pay an EMI of Rs 38,200 per month on a home loan of Rs 45.23 lakh, and repaid it over thirty years. At the end of five years, he would have repaid around Rs 2.03 lakh of the loan already. In the interest only option, not a single paisa would have repaid. Also, it is worth pointing out here that the difference between a loan of Rs 45.23 lakh and Rs 48 lakh is not huge. Further, when a borrower pays an EMI, the principal amount of the EMI is allowed as a deduction under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act. And this deduction will not be available if interest only option is chosen.

What these numbers tell us very clearly is that the FlexiPay home loan looks more like a marketing gimmick to lure in prospective home loan borrowers. The borrowers are better off opting for the EMI option rather than the interest only option.

The column originally appeared on the Vivek Kaul Diary on February 3, 2016


Will home loans be the next big worry for banks?


Vivek Kaul

I am amazed at the strong belief that people have that real estate prices will never fall. Every time I write a column on real estate readers get back to me with newer theories on why I am wrong. A new theory that was put forward(actually it is not so new, just that no one had come back to me with this theory for a while) to me on Twitter was that the government won’t allow real estate prices to fall.

To this another Twitter follower replied by saying that if real estate prices can fall in China(where the government is far bigger and has a lot more control over things than in India) then they can fall in India as well. Guess that is a fair point.

Anyway, this column is really not about why real estate prices will fall (in fact they have already started to fall). That bit I am already convinced about, I just need to keep reiterating it for the benefits of the believers who don’t see it coming.

What I am worried about is what will happen in the aftermath of home prices falling. Banks clearly have a reason to worry. And here is why.

Every month the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) puts out data regarding the sectoral deployment of credit by scheduled commercial banks operating in the country. For a period of one year ending May 29, 2015, the total lending by banks grew by 8.5% to Rs 61,51,600 crore. During the same period, the total amount of home loans given by banks grew by  17.1% to Rs 6,48,400 crore.

Now compare this to what happened during the period of one year ending May 30, 2014. The overall bank lending had grown by 12.7% to Rs 56,684,00 crore. In comparison the total amount of home loan given out by banks had grown at a similar 17% to Rs 5,53,800 crore.

If we go back a year further to May end 2013, the overall growth in bank lending had stood at 15.3% whereas home loans grew by 18.4%. (Actually the period here is a little more than a year, between May 18, 2012 and May 31, 2013).

What this clearly tells us is that even though the overall growth of lending by banks has considerably slowed down, the growth in home loan lending continues at almost the same pace. What conclusion can be draw here? The RBI does not give out the total number of home loans that banks are giving out. Neither does it tell us the average size of a home loan.

Nevertheless, one explanation for home loans continuing to grow can be that the increase in the price of homes has also led to the increase in the average size of home loans.

What happens if we look at the data a little differently? Over the one year period ending May 29, 2015, the total lending of Indian banks grew by Rs 4,83,210 crore. During the same period the total amount of home loans grew by Rs 94,590 crore. Hence, home loans constituted around 19.6% of bank lending during the last one year.

What was the scene a year back? For the one year period ending May 30, 2014, the total lending of Indian banks grew by Rs 6,40,570 crore. Home loans had grown by Rs 80,260 crore during the same period. Hence, home loans constituted 12.5% of the lending during the course of the period.

For the period of one year ending May 31, 2013, home loans constituted around 11% of the overall lending by banks. (As mentioned earlier, the period here was a little more than a year, between May 18, 2012 and May 31, 2013).

Now what does this tell us? With overall bank lending slowing down, banks have increasingly become dependent on home loans. As Deepak Shenoy of Capital Mind puts it: “the demand for housing loans is pretty much the only game in town for the banks.”

Home loans were formed 11% of the total loans given out during the period of one year ending May 2013. This number jumped to 12.5% during the period of one year ending May 2014. And for the period of one year ending May 2015, home loans amounted to 19.6% of the overall portfolio. Things get even more complicated once we look at the divide between priority sector home loans and other home loans. Home loans of up to Rs 25 lakh get categorised as priority sector loans.

For the period of one year ending May 29, 2015, priority sector home loans grew by just 4.9%. On the other hand home loans of value greater than Rs 25 lakh grew by 32.2%. Hence, higher value home loans are growing at a significantly faster rate. For the period of one year ending May 30, 2014, priority sector home loans had grown by a much faster 8.7%. The home loans greater than Rs 25 lakh had grown by around 29.1%.

The problem is that with the real estate bubble starting to loose fizz banks are likely to face the next spate of bad loans from the home loans that they have given out. I might be jumping the gun here a little, but the numbers show an increasing dependence of banks on home loans and that is clearly not a good sign.

As the analysts Saurabh Mukherjea and Sumit Shekhar of Ambit write in a recent research report titled  Real Estate: The unwind and its side effects: “Over the last decade, the combined real estate portfolios of banks and NBFCs have increased at a CAGR[compounded annual growth rate] of ~20%. A breakup of this growth between value and volume shows that two-thirds of this growth has been driven by increased ticket sizes (due to the continued increase in ticket sizes), and volume growth for the sector has been relatively modest at ~8-9% CAGR over the last 10 years.”

This is going to change in the days to come. As Mukherjea and Shekhar write: “Housing finance companies/banks would be an obvious casualty if real estate prices correct.”

Disclosure: The idea for writing this column came after reading Capital Mind’s research report titled Bank NPAs Show Alarming Signs, Add to Woes of the Sector

The column originally appeared on The Daily Reckoning on July 24, 2015