Weak rupee sparks property boom by Indian expats
DUBAI // With the rupee riding low against the dollar, Indian residents are looking to accelerate investment plans back home.
Soaring prices in New Delhi and financial hub Mumbai has made property in southern cities such as Bangalore and Chennai more attractive to non-resident Indians (NRIs).
For the thousands visiting the Indian Property Show at Dubai World Trade Centre at the weekend, the timing was just right.
"The exchange rate is good so this is really a good time to buy," said Rakesh Bhatia, who works in the oil and gas sector. He plans an investment in Bangalore to add to apartments in Delhi and Mumbai.
"Those two cities are out of reach, even with NRI money, so we are looking for a luxurious apartment in Bangalore - the city has better weather and we may live there once we go back to India."
The rupee's sharp dip against the US dollar, to which the UAE dirham is pegged, has made it tempting for Indians in the Emirates to buy property at home since they can buy more rupees with each dirham they earn.
The rupee has fallen by about 25 per cent against the US dollar since August last year and is currently 54 to the dollar.
Only Indian citizens, NRIs or Indians living overseas and persons of Indian origin, such as people who at one time held an Indian passport or whose parents were Indian citizens, are permitted to buy property in the country.
Developers confirmed interest had increased due to favourable exchange rates.
"The dip in the rupee has increased sales because people want to get value for their money," said Adrian Fernandez, manager of Expat projects and developers.
"Bangalore is number one now and even if rates are going up, it's not as high as Mumbai."
While two bedroom apartments in Bangalore are available for upwards of 6 million rupees (Dh404,300), the price for similar property in Mumbai and Delhi is upwards of 20 million rupees (Dh1.3m).
The growing investment appetite of NRIs has also prompted real estate management companies to set up shop in Dubai.
"We saw a business need because NRIs want to invest at home but often do not have good experiences with feedback from individual brokers once they have put in their money," said Nishant Singhal, the director of Investors Clinic.
"Our job is to understand whether they are buying for their own use, for investment, what their budget is and whether they want to resell property.
"The volume of transactions is only going up because of the rupee depreciation since they make automatic gains."
High prices in Mumbai did not put off some from investing their dirhams in their hometown.
"The price factor does make it very difficult to fulfil your dream and it's out of reach unless we plan well," said Ashok Rai, who works in insurance and is on the lookout for a fourth investment in Mumbai.
"We're from Mumbai, our roots are there and there are family ties so we can only think of investing there," added his wife, Asha.
However, some visitors to the property fair said inflated prices in major Indian cities did not make investments worthwhile. Rama Subramaniam, who has three properties in Chennai, has decided against buying a fourth.
"Why should I go for real estate when if I invest in mutual funds the trend is a 10-15 per cent return?" asked Mr Subramaniam, a risk manager. "There is no point in blocking my money anymore in real estate."
Sunil Agarwal, a sales manager, said he would postpone his first property purchase because he believes the rupee will fall further.
"If it does then I will have additional money available to invest," he added.
Published: December 16, 2012 04:00 AM