News & Views on Indian Real Estate

Friday, May 23, 2008

Real estate sector needs Indices Similar to Equity Market

The Real estate industry in India has been growing by leaps and bounds in the past few years. However, the country still lacks a credible way to cross-check the price swings (real or reported) in the sector. For example, recent reports of residential prices cooling off in major cities of the country could not be verified. There was no authentic data to indicate such a trend. Thus, property buyers remain confused, not knowing, for instance, whether Mumbai property prices fell more than that of Delhi in the last quarter? The same does not happen with equity investors. If, at the end of the day, anyone wants to know the day’s market trend, he could visit BSE/NSE website or see next day’s newspaper to know the exact rise or fall of Sensex or Nifty. And nobody questions the authenticity of Sensex or Nifty as a barometer of market sentiment. With years of index publishing, a sort of credibility and association has been built with the equity investors by these financial institutions. Could National Housing Bank (NHB) replicate the same with various real estate stakeholders — government and policymakers, builders, individuals and housing finance industry? Could it start making its real estate index figures (Residex) public, say every three months? However, getting data from NHB has been tough for analysts. With various mutual funds planning to soon launch real estate funds, it is imperative that a reliable index data, preferably from a government body like NHB, is made available to act as a benchmark. Capturing real estate prices in India has its own challenges. Thanks to different types of housing that are made available by builders, there are large variations in property price in a single locality. It is difficult to put a single price to a locality which has different class of houses, say premium as well as low cost. However, NHB with its wealth of information on loan disbursements and other crucial figures could do a lot for the industry. If NHB cracks the same, it could be one big step towards making the industry more competitive.