Are Indian Real Estate Heading For a 50% Crash in Prices
We all know that real estate in India is terribly expensive and is now selling at prices making it practically unaffordable for almost everybody who wants to buy a home to live in. But how expensive is expensive? This is an important question that needs to be answered.
One way of looking at this problem is through the rental yield available on houses at any point of time. Rental yield is the annual return that can be earned by renting out a house. The number is obtained by dividing the annual rent of the house by its market price.
And what is the rental yield in India? As Ashwinder Raj Singh is CEO – Residential Services of JLL India points out in a June 2015 column in The Indian Express: “Rental yields vary across the globe, but an average of 2 per cent of rental yield is considered a good deal for residential properties in India.”
Singh goes on to write: “In India, the cities which currently offer a higher rental yield are Mumbai, Pune, NCR-Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad. All these cities offer a rental yield of 2 per cent and above, and you can be assured that the average is not going down anytime soon. Investing in these cities will offer you the maximum returns on investment in properties bought for generating rental income.”
Why would anyone invest for a return of 2 percent is a question that only perhaps Singh can answer? And at 2 percent the rental yield is already very low. We will leave this argument for another day.
Hence, we have an expert telling us that an average rental yield of 2 percent is considered good in India at this point of time. But is it enough? In a recent research report titled Real Estate: The Unwind and its Side Effects analysts Saurabh Mukherjea and Sumit Shekhar of Ambit provide the answer.
As they write: “In a fairly-priced real estate market, the rental yield tends to be somewhere close to the cost of borrowing. Instead, Mumbai has a rental yield of close to 2% (this is gross of tax and maintenance charges) whilst the lending rate hovers around 10%. The difference between lending rates and rental yields is one of the highest.”
As the above chart (Exhibit 11) shows us, even China which has had a huge real estate bubble going has a rental yield better than that of India. In fact as the next chart (Exhibit 12) shows the difference between the interest rate at which money can be borrowed and the rental yield is one of the highest in the world, in India. At this point of time a home loan can be borrowed at 10 percent whereas the rental yield is 2 percent, a difference of 8 percent.
What does this tell us? The rental yield as explained above has two inputs: the annual rent and the market price of the house. A rental yield of 2 percent means that the market price of homes in India has risen at a much faster rate than the rents.
And why is this the case? As Mukhejea and Shekhar write: “Rental yields in property markets in India have remained extremely low as compared to its other Asian peers thereby pointing to the over-valuation of this asset class mainly because it can absorb black money.”
The rental yield cannot continue to remain out of whack. For it to come to the right level, the rents need to rise or the market prices of homes need to fall. Given the surfeit of homes available right now, it is highly unlikely that rents will rise. The chances of property prices falling are significantly higher.