## The Delhi/NCR real estate market is dead

The real estate consultant Knight Frank has released a research report on the real estate market in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR). The most important point in the report is that home sales in Delhi and NCR have crashed by 50% to 14,250 units, during the period January and June 2015, in comparison to the same period last year.

The launch of new homes has also crashed dramatically by 68% to 11,360 units, during the period January and June 20115, in comparison to the same period last year. The total number of unsold homes in Delhi and NCR currently stands at around 1.89 lakh units as per Knight Frank.

Hence, the quarters to sell unsold inventory has jumped dramatically. As of June 30, 2015, the quarters to sell unsold inventory number was at 19 quarters. What does this mean? Knight Frank defines quarters to sell unsold inventory as: “The quarters to sell unsold inventory (QTS) is the number of quarters required to exhaust the existing unsold inventory in the market. The existing unsold inventory is divided by the average sales velocity of the preceding eight quarters in order to arrive at the QTS number for that particular quarter.”

Hence, quarters to sell unsold inventory is derived by dividing the total number of unsold homes currently, by the average rate at which homes have been selling over the past eight quarters.

Given that the average sales over eight quarters or two years is considered, the current average sales rate is lower than the overall average sales rate. Hence, if the quarters to sell unsold inventory were to be calculated using the latest average sales rate, the number would be even higher than 19 quarters.

Let’s do some basic maths and try and understand this. The total unsold inventory of homes in Delhi and National Capital Region stands at 1,89,678 units. The quarters to sell unsold inventory is 19 quarters. This means that the average sales rate for the last eight quarters thus stands at 9,988 units (1,89,768 divided by 19).
What is the latest sales rate? For the first six months of 2015 the total number of homes sold in Delhi were 14,250 units. This means a sales rate of 7,125 units (14,250 divided by 2) on an average, over the last two quarters.

If this number were to be considered as the average sales rate, then the quarters to sell unsold inventory would jump to 26.6 quarters (1,89,678 divided by 7,125) . What does this mean? If the total number of unsold homes continue to sell at the rate that they are currently selling at, it would take more than six and half years (26.6 quarters divided by 4), to sell them totally. And this, if no new homes were to be built in the days to come.

As can be seen from the accompanying graph, the quarters to sell unsold inventory has jumped big time over the last one year.

 Quarters To Sell (QTS) Unsold Inventory Analysis

As Knight Frank points out: “NCR has moved from a quarters to sell unsold inventory of 14 to 19 in a six-month period. Though January to June 2015 was the leanest half in terms of new launches, the absence of sales velocity has pushed the quarters to sell unsold inventory to nearly 5 years.”

In fact, as the earlier calculation shows the actual quarters to unsold inventory might be more than six and a half years. This is the kind of mess that the real estate sector in the Delhi and National Capital Region is in. Some of the unsold inventory is more than three years old, as can be seen from the following graph.

 Micro-Market-Wise QTS vs Age Of Inventory

Data Source: Knight Frank Research.
In fact, to realise how quickly the situation is deteriorating we need to look at how things stood at as on June 30, 2014, a year earlier. The total unsold inventory one year back stood at 1,67,000, data from Knight Frank tells us. The quarters to sell unsold inventory stood at 9. One year later it is at 19.

Also, the average sales rate was at 18,556 units (1,67,000 divided by 9). Currently it is at 9,987 units, which is a fall of more than 46%, during the course of one year. As Knight Frank points out: “The opening up of new land parcels for development while the existing ones were still not fully utilised is seen as one of the reasons behind the inventory pileup in NCR.”

What makes the situation worse is that new supply (despite falling) will keep hitting the market. As of December 2014, 1,92,568 units were under various stages of construction in Delhi and National Capital Region. The latest report of Knight Frank does not provide an updated number. But given that only 11,360 new homes hit the market, the under-construction number as on June 30, 2015, cannot be significantly different from the December 2014 number.

To conclude, the real estate market in Delhi and the National Capital Region is dead. It will take many years for this market to recover. Your money will be better invested somewhere else.
Postscript: Hopefully, next week I won’t write on real estate.

The column originally appeared on The Daily Reckoning on July 31, 2015

## How politicians, banks and builders conspire to keep real estate prices high

Sex sells,” is an old adage in show business and advertising. If I were to come up with a similar sort of statement when it comes to writing on business and economics it would have to be “real estate sells.” An article on the real estate scenario in India has more chances of being read than anything else.

People who make a living from the real estate industry, be it brokers, real estate consultants or builders, like to tell us time and again that real estate prices are only going to go up. So, it’s time that we forgot about all other ways of spending money and bought a house.
Various reasons are offered, right from shortage of land(they are not making any more of it) to now that Narendra Modi has become the prime minister, everything is going to be fine. In my previous pieces on real estate (you can read a few of them
here and here) I have tried to expose several myths that over the years have come to be associated with the sector.
In this piece we will just look at one data point that tells us loud and clear that real estate prices should not be going up, as has been justified by those make a living from real estate, time and again.  Look at the following chart:

 City Quarters to Sell Unsold Inventory Mumbai 12 National Capital Territory 9 Pune Approx 7.5 Bangalore 7 Hyderabad 8—8.5 Chennai 7 Source: Knight Frank India Real Estate Outlook

Quarters-to-sell(QTS) can be explained as the number of quarters required to exhaust the existing unsold inventory in the market. The existing unsold inventory is divided by the average sales velocity of the preceding eight quarters in order to arrive at the QTS number for that particular quarter,” the India Real Estate Outlook Report brought out by Knight Frank points out.

What this shows us clearly is that there is a huge amount unsold inventory when it comes to residential apartments across metropolitan India. In fact, what is worse is that this number has been going up over the last few years.

The above table shows us the quarters-to-sell unsold inventory in Mumbai. This stands at 12 in June 2014. What this means is that it will take close to three years to sell the current accumulated inventory of unsold homes in Mumbai. This number was at 5 in December 2011. Hence, Mumbaikars are going slow when it comes to buying homes is a conclusion that can be easily drawn. And that is not surprising given the astronomical prices that builders want for a home in the maximum city.
Here is a similar table for the National Capital Territory (i.e. Delhi and its adjoining areas).

The quarters-to-sell unsold inventory in the NCR in June 2014 stood at a little over nine. This means that it will take a little over two years to sell all the unsold residential apartments in NCR. The number had stood at around 6 in June 2012.
If we look at this graph for other cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune etc, it is along similar lines, though the curve may not be as upward sloping as it is in the case of Mumbai and NCR.
Take the case of Bangalore where the curve is kind of flat. This tells you that people in Bangalore haven’t slowed down on buying residential homes at the same rate as people in Mumbai and NCR have. Hence, the quarters-to-sell unsold inventory has more or less hovered around 6.

Indeed, what these graphs clearly tell us is that the supply of residential apartments in India’s biggest cities has clearly been more than their demand. And given this Mumbai has 2,13,742 residential apartments which have been built but not sold. The same number in NCR stands at 1,67,000.
Hence, between two of India’s biggest residential markets, the total number of unsold homes stands a little over 3.8 lakhs. In total, the sales fell by 27% during the first six months of 2014, in comparison to the same period last year. Nevertheless, those associated with real estate expect prices to continue to go up. The Knight Frank report forecasts that the real estate prices in Mumbai will “ increase for the entire year (2014) [by] 10.1%.” An increase in prices is forecast for NCR and other cities as well.
The point here is that with so many unsold homes, how can housing prices continue to go up, unless they are rigged? Further real estate
developers are sitting on a huge amount of debt. As a recent report in the
Business Standard pointed out “At end of March 2014, the country’s top listed developers were sitting on Rs 39,772 crore of debts.”
As we know most real estate developers in India are not listed on the stock market. Hence, the total amount of their debt must be considerably higher than Rs 39,772 crore. So how are real estate developers going to repay this debt unless they get around to selling the homes they have built? One answer is that they keep launching newer projects, raise money and use that money to repay their previous debt. (
I discuss this in detail here). And then launch newer projects to collect money to build their previous projects. So the cycle works.
But in the recent past the number of new launches has been falling. During the first six months of 2014, the number of new launches fell by 32% in comparison to the same period last year, the Knight Frank report points out. Hence, new launches as a source of funds seems to have slowed down, but they do bring in some money nonetheless.
Another possible explanation is lending by banks. Bank lending to the commercial real estate sector has been growing at a much faster rate than overall lending. Between July 26, 2013 and July 25, 2014, lending by banks to commercial real estate grew by 18.2%. In comparison, the overall lending grew by just 11.3%.
With newer launches slowing down, the only possible explanation for this lending is that banks are essentially giving fresh loans to real estate companies so that the companies can repay their old loans. This has allowed real estate companies to not cut prices on their unsold inventory. If bank loans had not been so forthcoming, the real estate companies would have to sell off their existing inventory to repay their bank loans. And in order to do that they would have to cut prices.
Further, most real estate companies as we know are a front for politicians. During the Congress led United Progressive Alliance, a huge number of scams and a lot of corruption happened. Hence, the conspiracy theory I would like to offer here is that the money that politicians got through various rounds of corruption during the UPA rule has also found its way into the real estate market. This has allowed real estate companies to continue holding prices at high levels, despite supply far outstripping demand.
As I mentioned in the previous piece I wrote on real estate, real estate consultants make money from real estate companies and hence, it is but natural for them to keep telling us that prices will continue to go up. Nevertheless, data from the International Monetary Fund shows that real estate prices in India between the period January to March 2014, fell by 9%. This was the most in a sample of 52 countries. (Click here for table) The IMF of course does not have an incentive to ensure that real estate prices in India continue to remain high.
To conclude dear reader, if you still have the money to buy a house, this is the time to drive a hard bargain.

The article originally appeared on www.Firstbiz.com on September 2, 2014

(Vivek Kaul is the author of the Easy Money trilogy. He tweets @kaul_vivek)