Anuj PuriMr Anuj Puri is known as one of the leading thought leaders in the real estate sector in India. He was the chairman of JLL India for a long time and in the mid of 2017, he launched Anarock Property Consultants, which is essentially the re-branding of the JLL’s erstwhile residential brokerage business that he acquired. The company has set a fund platform to invest Rs 300 crore in the real estate space and targets to raise $500 million by 2020.

In a discussion with Vikram Jethwani, he talked about the various significant matters impacting the sector. Here are the excerpts.

After a series of breakthrough reformatory steps such as amendments in Benami Properties (Prohibition) Act, demonetization and RERA in the past couple of years, do you think the real estate sector is going to pick up this year?

It depends on what one means by ‘pick up’. In terms of pure sales, not very likely as the downward pressuring influences which were at play over the last couple of years have not fully resolved themselves as yet. Also, DeMo, GST and RERA have seriously shaken up the system. Pre-launches have become more or less illegal and launches themselves have reduced. Prices have bottomed out, and end-users are making purchase decisions. However, investors are still steering clear of the market. On the flip side, DeMo, GST, RERA and the vanishing of investors have also served to create a more wholesome market. This means that whatever growth we see in the future will be very sustainable. In the sense of transparency and overall health, the market has definitely picked up.

Are you noticing any major paradigm shift in the overall way real estate sector in India is perceived, both at domestic and global fronts?

Indian real estate is now being perceived as an industry which is striving towards greater transparency. While it has not attained that status fully yet, the very fact that the process is underway signals that it Can and will be taken more seriously in the future. The first REIT listings may make an appearance in 2018, and this will result in a lot of interest in commercial real estate assets. The incumbent Government’s focus on affordable housing is also being perceived as a sign that the Indian real estate market is becoming serious and geared towards fulfilling the actual needs of Indians, rather than just those of developers.

Where does India’s real estate sector stand vis-à-vis its global counterparts?

We are still way behind the developed nations in terms of transparency, accountability, aptness of products and demand sustainability. However, among the developing nations, India has become a very important market and is beings seen as a great opportunity by foreign institutional investors. We are seeing a steady flow of domestic and global investments from institutional players, but they are still being very selective and cautious, usually partnering with reputed domestic advisories who can help them in charting their course.

If you were to suggest the top 5 global best practices in India’s real estate sector, what would be those practices?

As of now, I can only mention three – a strict regulator in place, a decisive focus by the Government on affordable housing, and developers focusing on completing existing projects rather than launching new ones. These are the hallmarks of most healthy property markets in any part of the world.

Is it the right time to buy residential property, from an average homebuyer perspective?

It is the best of time for end-users to make purchase decisions. Prices have bottomed out, developers are more than willing to negotiate, and ready-to-move-in housing supply is ample. Once the market begins reviving in another 18 months to a couple of years, prices will start increasing, supply will be absorbed and opportunities available now will no longer be on the market.

How has the new GST regime impacted the sector and the buyers?

It has caused confusion, and also increased the cost of acquisition for freshly-launched supply. There is also a wide-spread sentiment that the applicable GST rates for real estate need to be revisited if the market is to pick up in earnest once again. But on the whole, it at least promises to eliminate the multiple levels of taxation which were previously applicable to real estate transactions.

What is your viewpoint on the use of technology in India’s real estate sector?

Technology is one of India’s strengths, but it has not been deployed sufficiently in the real estate sector. There are limitless opportunities for using advanced technology in every level and stage of the real estate business – from planning and designing projects to fitting them out and selling them. These opportunities need to be adopted en masse, but right now only the large developers and real estate consultants have the inclination, wherewithal and ability to use modern technology to the fullest extent.