Microsoft to help A.P. improve citizen services

 

Seeking to improve the use of Information and Communications Technology, drive digital inclusion and provide better citizen services, Andhra Pradesh government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Microsoft India during a breakfast meeting hosted by Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu for technology giant CEO Satya Nadella at the former’s residence here on Monday.

According to the MoU, Microsoft India will provide technical knowledge to the A.P. government and support in building three proof-of-concept (PoC) solutions by applying Microsoft Azure Machine Learning and Advanced Visualization method in the fields of education, agriculture and eCitizen services.

The PoC solutions will be built and deployed to address specific problems within each of the fields to achieve better outcomes for the State. It would use the lab method for data gathering, analysis, predictive analysis and policy planning, according to an official release from the Chief Minister’s office.

Continuing its commitment to support the government’s initiatives for Cloud adoption and improve citizen services, Microsoft India will continue to engage and train the State government’s key IT executives on Microsoft technologies such as Cloud, Mobility and appropriate Microsoft Technology stack.

The company will also deliver an exclusive workshop to the government’s key administrative officers on improving productivity by using Microsoft technologies.

Centre for excellence

The meeting lasted 80 minutes, during which Mr. Nadella assured of total cooperation for the State government in utilisation of cloud data for improving citizen services. He also agreed to set up a Centre for Excellence in Visakhapatnam.

He promised to visit Anantapur district during his next visit. The technology provided by Microsoft would be utilised, among others, to check school dropouts, improve agricultural productivity and provide better citizen services.

Amaravati builders wait for brighter days

The real estate sector that was shining the brightest, riding high on the Amaravati wave, is witnessing a slowdown and the downturn is attributed to the fact that money circulation has come to a dead stop.

Huge investments made in this sector by people of not just Andhra Pradesh but also from Telangana and Karnataka are said to be locked in Thullur.

Sources indicate that a major part of the nearly Rs. 4,000 crore, paid to buy lands from farmers in the 29 villages of the capital region, has landed in the lockers of the local banks in Vijayawada region.

“Most farmers who do not have a clue about how to invest the enormous money they made by selling their farmlands, have opted to secure them in lockers for now. With wads of money locked inside lockers, circulation has come to a dead stop. Even private finance companies do not have money to lend,” says a realtor who is a member of the Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India (CREDAI).

The capital move had far-reaching implications and cost of lands in Vijayawada and its surrounding areas too skyrocketed.

“Though this region is known for its vast wealth and robust money transactions, we are witnessing a bizarre situation. Real estate is part of people’s regular planning here. Flipping assets at regular intervals has been an integral part of growing their money,” says an investor.

It is believed that the situation will ease when works on the projects comprising the master plan are grounded. Money circulation will resume improving the scenario manifold.

Cheer factors

Builders and land developers in the region, meanwhile, have a couple of reasons to cheer. The fast-approaching paddy harvest season and A.P. Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu’s Durbar move in which about three lakh people are expected to shift from Hyderabad to Amaravati.

Enquiries for vacant flats have started pouring in for last 10 days. “This usually happens in the harvest time. People owning farmlands invest in property,” says R. V. Swamy, general secretary of the Vijayawada unit of the CREDAI. There are some 1500-2,000 ready-to-occupy flats lying vacant in and around Vijayawada city. The slump in the market had kept buyers at bay for the past many months.

“The 2,000-odd vacant flats in areas like Currency Nagar, Ramavarappadu, Kanuru, Poranki and the other side of the Vaaradhi can accommodate the NGOs shifting from Hyderabad,” says Mr. Swamy.

The CREDAI members have also submitted a list of vacant apartments, their location and their price to the Collector following a directive by the Chief Minister.

Nearly 40 mega projects envisaging construction of high rise buildings in city await clearance by the Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA). The construction companies include LEPL, Manjeera Constructions, Jai Bheri Constructions, Mahalakshmi Ventures and Ramakrishna Ventures. Some of these buildings will have 15 and even 23 floors.

Prospects look up for real estate sector

the fantastic prices at recent land auction at Manikonda and Kokapet offer a whiff of hope for the real estate sector in the city after seven years of despair?

For the land parcels that went under the hammer, the Telangana State Industrial Infrastructure Corporation (TSIIC) got a windfall with successful bids touching Rs. 29.28 crore per acre. Justifiably elated, the Chief Minister’s office released a statement recalling that such high bids were not made even during boom time.

After the real estate boom between 2004 and 2008, it has been a downhill slide with an occasional bump, which a leading builder described as a ‘topsy-turvy’ situation. While global recession took its toll, local factors such as the protracted agitation for separate Telangana State led to prospective buyers fleeing the market.

While the creation of separate State rekindled hopes about property matters that took a centre-stage again, the same did not happen.

Particularly from mid-2008 till 2014, construction activity almost came to a halt for several projects and realtors found it difficult to offload even completed inventory. “During the boom, the builders did not factor in the possibility of a downslide and were taken in by surprise. The result was incomplete structures waiting for completion and completed structures waiting for buyers,” concedes a builder.

A positive mood in the property market which has been building up over the last six months has now become more apparent, says D.S. Prasad, Director, Aparna Constructions. “In recent months, the commercial space absorption in Hyderabad has been higher than Bengaluru and this obviously will translate into demand for residential spaces too,” he says.

Anand Reddy, Executive Director, PBEL Developers, agrees and says the acceleration in property sales has slowly yet steadily been building up and the acceleration will be more conspicuous now. “Among other factors, the State government’s efforts in supporting the sector, the IT Ministry to bring in investment and employment opportunities are paying dividends,” he says.

The present trend could result in coming up of at least 1 crore sft of IT space, which offers possibility of creating employment for one lakh persons in the coming years. “This will mean a spurt in the demand for dwelling units,” Mr. Anand Reddy predicts.

The average annual consumption of housing units, of all kinds from apartments to villas, presently hovers around 24,000 units, those in the construction industry point out that though the present scenario has supply exceeding the demand, the situation will change dramatically in the next two years.

P. Prem Kumar of Doyens Constructions says things have started appearing more positive from macro level in the city and argues that it was bound to happen. “Despite everything, Hyderabad offers the most affordable pricing among all the metros of the country and the infrastructure here is unmatchable,” he explains.

The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) has reported a rise in revenues collected from various fees from construction activity and the registration department data too has shown an increased activity. Since January this year, property prices have also been on the rise, albeit marginally in most places, and more in places such as Miyapur and Gachibowli, where the prices have spurted from 5 per cent to 8 per cent than last year.

The Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Association of India (Credai) former chief, C. Sekhar Reddy, says unsold stocks that had piled up earlier were already cleared and the fresh stocks are finding new buyers. “There are no speculators in the field now and the sector is growing steadily, healthily and strongly,” he avers.

The acceleration in property sales has slowly, yet steadily, been building up and it will be more conspicuous now

Big realtors still hopeful

Property developers are divided in their opinion about Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Raghuram Rajan’s move to keep key policy rates unchanged.

While large ones such as DLF, Hiranandani and Brigade say this was expected and bigger rate cuts are in the offing, smaller real estate firms are disappointed.

“I think the governor is waiting for the end of the financial year to give one more dose. First, he was putting pressure on the government to reduce its fiscal deficit. Now, he is putting pressure on banks to set their books right,” said Rajeev Talwar, executive director at DLF, the country’s largest developer. He expects the policy rate to go down another 50 basis points (bps) by the end of the financial year.

Niranjan Hiranandani, managing director of Hiranandani Constructions, said Rajan waited not because of whether internal demand could sustain or not but because external signs are not clear. He, too, expects another 50-bp cut in rates, at the next policy review.

While there is disappointment among developers about banks not passing on the earlier rate cut benefits to borrowers, Hiranandani said he expected banks to do so in the next 30-60 days to home loan borrowers. However, he added, a cut in rates for corporate loans would take time.

“With the economy on an uptick and key legislations in the offing, growth is already reflecting in the automobile, consumer and manufacturing sectors. Another rate cut would have fuelled growth but there are multiple triggers lined up in the next 60 days to revive demand in the real estate and construction sector, specifically in Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad,” said Om Ahuja, chief executive, residential, Brigade Group.

Smaller developers are disappointed

"The industry was hoping for a marginal rate cut which was the need of the hour, even a small rate cut would have given a right signal about downward trend in interest rates and created an optimistic environment among buyers and encouraged the fence sitters to take a positive decision," said Rajesh Prajapati, MD, Prajapati Constructions, a Mumbai based developer in a note sent by the company.

Added Manju Yagnik, Vice Chairperson, Nahar Group, in a note: "The real estate sector was expecting a further rate cut at this stage which would have helped in improving market sentiments, bringing some respite to customers with home loans as well. Given the current property rates and stagnant market conditions a rate cut would have sent out a positive signal to home buyers and industry alike and would have given the much needed thrust to the realty sector. "

Removal of Double Taxation Can Boost Realty'

HYDERABAD: Making the process of issuing permissions easy and doing away with double taxation are the two major features which real estate bodies and builders associations want to be included in the new Real Estate Bill mooted by Telangana government for the development of Hyderabad realty.

 

The new Real Estate Bill, promised long back by Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, has once again stirred a discussion among realtors in Hyderabad following KCR’s statement in a recent meeting with realtors  that the proposed bill, to be on the lines of TS-iPASS, would be brought in soon.

 

‘Easy-to-do’ business has become the buzzword all over the globe and KCR is very focused on making it applicable to the Hyderabad realty. The government is mulling over many options like online application process and self-certification for builders. “Though it is a continuous exercise to bring in world-class features in regulation of real estate sector here, initially the main demand from builders is to ensure that getting permissions for new constructions is simplified,” said C Shekar Reddy, past president of the Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Association of India.

 

Right now, a builder has to take permissions from more than 20 government departments if he has to come up with a new construction right from the time of acquiring land to completion of the project. The regulation process is so tedious that from the time of acquiring land to starting of work it is easily taking about six months’ time for a builder.

 

Today every state government is offering sops to attract investors. In this competitive environment if global real estate players have to enter and play key role in Hyderabad’s development, even we have to come up with policies which will attract them. TS-iPASS is getting good response and the need of the hour is to make permissions process easy as Hyderabad has good scope to attract national and internationally reputed realty firms, said P Dasharath Reddy, president of Telangana Real Estate Development Association.

 

Besides making issuance of permissions easy, realtors also want removal of double taxation. For instance, in the case of NALA tax or VAT, either the builder or buyer has to pay more than once for the same service.

Win-Win Situation for Home Buyers, Builders in 2016: Realtors

HYDERABAD: The year 2016 is expected to see a ‘win-win’ situation for both home buyers and builders in Hyderabad, opine realtors and real estate associations. As real estate scenario in the city picked up momentum this year, realtors expect that further progression will occur in 2016, thus leading to rise in home sales and creating a buzzing market. “There has been a revival of realty sector this year with both home sales and launches rising. While realty sector got back from brink this year, we expect it to regain its vibrancy next year. We are expecting a growth of about 20 percent in 2016,” said S Ram Reddy, president of Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India (CREDAI), Hyderabad. For the sector troubled with various reasons for the past half decade, a 20 percent growth expectation is a positive sign.

But what makes real estate insiders come up with such a promising forecast? Already there is shortage of office space in Hyderabad now and more multinational companies are setting up their shops here. As a result more jobs will be created, more people from other areas will come to Hyderabad, leading to rise in home sales. Already there has been good activity in office space and we hope the same will be replicated in terms of residential segment, opined P Dasharath Reddy, president of Telangana Real Estate Developers Association (TREDA). Over the past year reputed companies of international fame including Google, ICICI bank, Amazon, Wipro, among others have scaled their operations in Hyderabad, thus creating enormous demand for office space. It is a natural consequence that demand for office space automatically leads to demand for homes. Besides government’s eagerness to cater to these companies by adopting ‘ease of doing business’ approach is expected to further help the cause of Hyderabad realty. Therefore real estate developer bodies are forecasting a tremendous rise in home sales and planning accordingly. “We are sure of rise in home sales in the coming year. However, instead of going for new launches immediately, we are urging our members to first clear existing inventory if any.

Realty sector eyes New Year to end multi-year slowdown

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: With a multi-year slowdown continuing in 2015 despite abundant supply and fall in prices, the real estate market is desperately looking for a recovery in the New Year when a new law is also expected to herald the much-needed transparency and accountability in the sector.

 

Experts said the housing sales have remained flat this year despite 15-20 per cent fall in prices and multiple interest rate cuts, while a glut continued in the market because of investors still Property developers and consultants hope that the new real estate law will see the light of day in 2016 and bring in the much-needed efficiency, transparency and accountability into this sector.

 

The proposed law, which was recently cleared by the Cabinet and would now go to Parliament for approval, can boost customers confidence, which has dented a lot because of delays of up to 5 years in delivery of projects forcing buyers to protest on streets and even go to courts.

Housing sales, which stood at 1.75 lakh units during last year in the primary markets of seven major cities, are likely to be around same level in 2015, property consultant JLL said, adding that sales were marginally down to 1.16 lakh units in the first nine months of this year.

Launches of new homes reduced drastically this year, still over 6 lakh housing units remain unsold in eight big cities, according to Knight Frank India.

Developers tried their best to boost sales by offering apartments, on both offline and online platforms, at discount laced with freebies and easier payment plans, but potential buyers chose to wait for further correction in housing prices

However, realtors are confident of turnaround in 2016, banking on the RBI's move to reduce key interest rate by 125 basis points and the government's steps like easing of FDI rules and launch of Housing for All and Smart Cities schemes that could provide new growth opportunity for the sector.

 

"We started this year on a very bad note. But the end was much better than the beginning in terms of housing sales. Overall, sales remained almost same as 2014," realtors' body CREDAI President Getamber Anand said.

He said the housing prices have gone down by an average 15-20 per cent in last 18 months. On outlook, Anand said: "There will be a constant steady increase in sales volume and velocity. We can hope for very robust 2016".

DLF's CEO Rajeev Talwar said: "With banks passing on the interest rate cuts in the form of reduction in home loan rates, we are already seeing signs of buyers coming back to the sector. As the impact of these measures unfolds, we expect buyers to make a comeback to the property market in 2016".

The year 2015 did not bring the hoped-for growth in housing segment but the silver lining is that the bad days seem to have bottomed out, JLL India Chairman and Country Head Anuj Puri said.

Stating that sales have picked up in some cities, he said: "2016 may well bring an end to the long and painful journey this sector has had, and signal an upward growth trajectory".

Unlike housing, the office and retail segments performed better and reported higher leasing numbers against 2014.

With developers facing severe liquidity crunch due to slow sales, there has been sharp jump in private equity investment in the realty sector to over Rs 18,000 crore.

According to property consultant Cushman & Wakefield, the PE investments in real estate was up by 84 per cent to Rs 18,300 crore in January-September of calendar year 2015, the highest since 2008.

Among the big-ticket deals, DLF sold 50 per cent stake each in two upcoming projects in Delhi for nearly to Rs 2,000 crore to Singapore's sovereign wealth fund GIC. It announced sale of its cinema business to PVR for about Rs 500 crore.

Godrej Properties sold 4.35 lakh sq ft of commercial space at BKC in Mumbai to healthcare products major Abbott for Rs 1,480 crore, while Piramal Realty raised Rs 2,700 crore from Warburg Pincus and Goldman Sachs.

On legal front, the year 2015 saw realty major DLF getting a major relief after the Securities Appellate Tribunal passed a 'majority order' quashing the three-year market ban imposed on the realty giant by regulator Sebi, even as the Presiding Officer dissented.

However, market regulator Sebi slapped fines totalling Rs 86 crore on DLF, its top executives, their family members and various other related entities for entering into "sham transactions" to mislead IPO investors about eight years ago.

Meanwhile, the government rationalised capital gain tax regime for the sponsors of newly-created business structures REITs and INViTs to give a fillip to the investments in realty and infrastructure sectors.

 

It also exempted the levy of minimum alternate tax (MAT) on gains and losses arising from exchange of shares with the units of a business trust REIT/InvIT. The liability under MAT would arise only on actual transfer of such units.

Yet, developers did not come forward to launch the REITs to raise funds by listing their rent-yielding commercial assets on stock exchanges.

Through the year, the real estate regulatory bill could not be passed much to the disappointment of consumers.

Realtors kept opposing the bill with demand that the government authorities, which give sanctions for development of the projects, should be brought under the ambit of law.

Last month, the government relaxed the foreign direct investment (FDI) norms in construction sector by removing two major conditions related to minimum built up area as well as capital requirement. It also eased rules for foreign investors to exit and repatriate their investments.

Looking back at 2015, CBRE South Asia Chairman and MD Anshuman Magazine said the investors are yet to return to the market despite reduced home loan rates, relaxation in loan-to- value (LTV) ratio in the housing sector, and significant discounts and attractive offers from developers.

However, he said the property market in 2016 is expected to see a qualitative change with realty firm likely to focus on quality construction and timely delivery.

In contrast to the housing segment, office space leasing rose by 17 per cent to 35 million sq ft in 2015 in seven top cities - Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Pune, mainly on the back of IT/ITeS sector and growing e-commerce business in the country.

Leasing of retail space is estimated to rise at about 2 million sq ft from 1.6 million sq ft in 2014, according to JLL India.

Paranjape Schemes chairman Shrikant Paranjape said, "The year was fairly an exciting one year for the sector where we have seen the government taking a keen interest on reviving the sector that has been stagnant for the last two years. The government has begun the process of initiating policies that will help sustain growth in the years to come."

Prajapati Constructions Managing Director Rajesh Prajapati said, "I see 2016 focusing on affordable, low- to mid-segment of the housing market. Also, with RBI reducing interest rate levels we expect more and more home buyers to take advantage and book their homes in 2016."

"The focus for 2016 will definitely be on affordable housing which has potential to give the much needed thrust to the entire sector. With rising prices there is a huge demand for the affordable to lower-mid segment housing," Paranjape said.

Shapoorji Pallonji Real Estate expects 2016 to witness net absorption of office space of around 30-32 msf, higher than 2015 levels. According to its Senior VP for Sales and Marketing Cyrus Engineer the realty industry outlook is looking increasingly positive, based on improving macro-economic fundamentals. There is a stable inflationary policy and over the long term this will continue to benefit asset prices leading to an increase in demand.

"Commercial realty is seeing increasing buoyancy and there is a particularly bullish feeling around the office market."

Affordability is Hyderabad Realty's Hallmark

HYDERABAD: The tag of being ‘the most affordable city’ among all the metros in India, is helping the Hyderabad real estate sector to draw buyers and investors from all parts of India to the city.

‘Being affordable’ is the only one feature which is helping it survive in spite of a prolonged slump in sales and stagnant growth. The prices have been so affordable in Hyderabad that there has been no increase in the prices of homes in the past three or four years so.

“Hyderabad is the most affordable metro city. Barring in a few areas in West Hyderabad  like Hitec City, Gachibowli and Nanakramguda, prices have remained more or less the same. As a result, not just local people but also people from other cities find it easy to buy a home here,” said Veer Sanjeev of a property portal, 99acres.com.

In a recently-released report on ‘affordability’ by financial advisers ArthaYantra, Hyderabad has emerged as the most affordable city. While the survey was done on the eight top cities in India, leave about top destinations like Mumbai and Bangalore, Hyderabad has been found to be more affordable than Pune and Ahmedabad.

“While cities like Delhi and Mumbai are out of reach for the middle-class Indians, even in cities like Chennai and Bangalore one’s annual income has to be at least Rs 15 lakh to be able to buy a home. But situation in Hyderabad is quite different with property prices staying stagnant for past three to four years. It is not only affordable to buy home here but also rentals are lower,” said Nitin B Vyakaranam, CEO of ArthaYantra.

While a good home in Hyderabad costs between Rs 3,000 and 5,000 per square foot (sft), in cities like Bangalore the starting price itself hovers around Rs 5,000 per sq ft for a middle-class buyer. Property prices are lower in Hyderabad than those in Kolkata and Pune, according to the observation of pan-Indian realtors.

New legislation to rein in realtors

The Kerala Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act has finally come into force with the just concluded Assembly session passing the Bill last week. Hitherto, it remained only as an ordinance.

Government sources said the absence of stern laws in the real estate sector had compelled the State government to bring in legislation in this regard. Now, all complaints pending before the Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum and the Consumer Redressal Commission will be transferred to the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA). Civil courts will not have jurisdiction over the RERA or the Real Estate Appellate Tribunal (REAT), which will be soon established to settle disputes.

The new law requires all real estate projects and real estate agents to be registered with the RERA. However, no registration is needed where the area of land proposed to be developed in a real estate project does not exceed 1,000 sq. m.

The same rule will apply when the number of building units proposed to be developed in a real estate project does not exceed 12. But then, the total carpet area of the building units should not exceed 1,000 sq.m.

Specific rules have been framed for real estate agents and buyers. The RERA has the powers to reject the application of the real estate agent. The allottees will be entitled to obtain information relating to the site and layouts, specification of the apartments and stage-wise time schedule of completion of project.

But the allottee will be liable to pay interest for any delay in payment towards any amount or charges, the new law says.

However, the Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India (Credai) says several bodies such as the Kerala Water Authority, the Kerala State Electricity Board, the Local Self-Government Institutions and Fire and Rescue Service Department, should be governed by the new Act.

Williston REALTORS® Complete Busy Year

 

Members of the Williston Board of REALTORS® recently raised $4,450 through an auction at their Christmas party to benefit their community. The money was split between two local organizations, Christmas for Veterans (CFV)/all veterans’ reunion, and Christmas for Kids.

Two local REALTORS® were honored for excellence and years of service. Norman Streifel, Streifel and Associates, was awarded the Omega Tau RHO (OTR) Medallion of Service as a token of high esteem and in recognition of his leadership skills. C

reated in 1950, the OTR honorary fraternity honors and inducts REALTORS® with exemplary dedication to their organization and their community.

Roger Cymbaluk, Basin Brokers, achieved Emeritus status from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). Emeritus status recognizes members who have held membership in NAR for a cumulative period of 40 years and have made significant contributions to their profession and their community.

Cymbaluk was North Dakota REALTOR® of the Year in 2002, has served on the ND Real Estate Commission for many years and has been active in local professional and civic organizations.

The Williston Board also inducted officers for 2016. These are: President: Jill Kjorstad, Fredricksen Real Estate Vice President: Mitzi Bestall, RE/MAX Bakken Realty Secretary/Treasurer: Heather Kitzman, Fredricksen Real Estate Past President: Kassie Gorder, Basin Brokers Director: Sarah Schroeder, RE/MAX Bakken Realty.