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From virtual real(i)ty to township living – how six months of COVID changed real estate industry

As business activity slows down across the country, the sector may take at least two more quarters to normalise

At the onset of the year, the real estate sector that was already going through a prolonged period of a slowdown was pinning great hope on 2020. The industry was expecting a revival. The markets showed signs of incremental growth in the first quarter and it seemed that the ascent would keep up the momentum.

However, as the nationwide lockdown was imposed in March, the adverse impact was visible in the $180 billion housing market as well. COVID-19 has been a destabilising factor since. In most major markets, sales have plummeted by around 60 percent in the last six months.

As business activities slow down across the country, the sector will continue to suffer from muted demand for some more time and it may take at least two quarters to normalise.

Here’s a look at some trends that are here to stay.

Increased digitisation

COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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The crisis has resulted in digitisation and wider technological adoption in the sector. From sales and marketing to collections and CRM support, technology is playing an important role.

At a time, when physical interactions are restricted, online media will play an important role in driving marketing activities. Besides digital marketing, there is a spurt in online content and social media. Similarly in CRM, we are seeing API integration, which is bringing the entire operational process online.

Going forward, virtual reality will be used to showcase properties digitally without the need for repeated physical site visits  The millennial population will drive the change. The recent success of virtual property shows and the growing popularity of webinars points to this trend.

The Online-to-Offline (O2O) model will be inclined towards the online medium with actual site visits now getting pushed back to the final stage of decision making.

Demand patterns will evolve

The crisis has challenged the popular notion to own a home in the central part of town. With the rising work-from-home culture, people will now opt for larger homes in the outskirts. Going forward, new launches may take place in the periphery. Interest in township living is also on the rise.

In the new normal, buyers are looking at second homes, independent farmhouse living, and holiday homes.

Should buyers expect price cuts?

Property prices have already corrected over the years and a further decline may not be feasible. Price of land, too, is unlikely to come down. Large scale disruptions, increasing labour and construction material charges are all going to add up to costs.

Attractive schemes are here to stay

To push demand, developers will continue to provide attractive schemes. Some freebies such as registration charges, club membership fees and other facilities may be offered. There may also be some innovative payment plans.

Government intervention is the need of the hour

Real estate constitutes around 8 percent of India’s GDP. Governments, both at the central and state level, must provide a policy impetus to drive demand.

Recently, the Maharashtra government decided to reduce stamp duty rates until March 2021. Madhya Pradesh has also taken a similar initiative. This has helped revive market sentiments to some extent. Other states should also follow suit.

More initiatives in the form of a reduction in GST rates, income tax benefits should also be considered.

Ankit Kansal
first published: Sep 30, 2020 06:42 pm