Developers relaunch, resize luxury housing

Developers relaunch, resize luxury housing
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First Published: Wed, Aug 12 2009. 01 15 AM IST

New packaging: A sketch of high-end residential project Lodha Aria launched by Lodha Group in Mumbai’s East Parel in March 2008.
New packaging: A sketch of high-end residential project Lodha Aria launched by Lodha Group in Mumbai’s East Parel in March 2008.
Updated: Wed, Aug 12 2009. 10 32 AM IST
Bangalore/New Delhi: It has sold just around one in three villas in a project it launched in Bangalore late last year, so QVC Realty Pvt. Ltd has now introduced new, smaller homes in the same project at lower prices to attract buyers.
New packaging: A sketch of high-end residential project Lodha Aria launched by Lodha Group in Mumbai’s East Parel in March 2008.
The villas are still available for the asking—for Rs1.5-3.4 crore—but the new houses will cost far less, between Rs72 lakh and Rs94 lakh.
As demand trickles back into the property sector, particularly in the affordable housing space, bringing back buyers and pushing up sales, developers such as QVC Realty, Lodha Group, Unitech Ltd and Ajmera Group are trying various ways to revive their so-called luxury projects in Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi. So while some are adding cheaper homes alongside villas to boost sales, others are relaunching their high-end offerings in the hope that there will be demand for them.
Prakash Gurbaxani, chairman and managing director of QVC Realty doesn’t think so, which explains his company’s decision to launch the smaller houses: “Given the current market dynamics, we recognized the need for a lower ticket size product. Buyers are eager to see prices for homes come down and this time it is end-users, and not speculators, driving the demand.”
The Rs150 crore project is the first development of Bangalore-headquartered QVC Realty Pvt. Ltd, the country’s first venture capital-funded realty firm, backed by IL&FS Investment Managers Ltd.
Still, other developers remain hopeful about the prospects of their relaunched offerings.
Lodha Aria in Mumbai’s East Parel area, a high-end residential project, was launched by the Lodha Group in March 2008. It was a limited soft launch, primarily for investors and the firm closed a couple of deals. In July, the project was launched again, this time for buyers. The project has 30 three-bedroom apartments, two on each floor, at 2,100 sq. ft each, with prices starting at Rs3 crore.
“It’s a good time to launch now after a dry spell last year because buyers’ interest is rising,” said R. Karthik, vice-president marketing, Lodha Group.
The launch, he added, was triggered by rising demand at the company’s other Mumbai project, where an 1,800 sq. ft apartment costs Rs3 crore. “What worked for us wasthe various sizes of apartments that buyers could pick from.”
Analysts second Gurbaxani’s assessment of the market and say demand is yet to return to the “luxury” segment of the real estate market and that there are several reasons why developers are relaunching such projects.
“First, luxury projects aren’t selling as much as affordable ones, so many projects have been reclassified from luxury to ‘upper middle class’. Developers are repositioning projects by cutting the size of apartments,” said Anuj Puri, chairman and country head, Jones Lang LaSalle Meghraj, a real estate advisory.
And demand has returned to this segment in Mumbai, Puri added.
“Developers rationalized prices by reducing size of apartments by 25-45% and by offering price protection to buyers by telling them that if prices came down, they would be given the benefit of the price drop,” Puri said.
A Bangalore developer has chosen to go the other way.
In a recent auction of nine premium homes for Rs5.5 crore each in the Century Avalon project located at Jakkur in north Bangalore, not a single residence was sold. The builder, Century Real Estate Holdings Pvt. Ltd, has now decided to sell only two to three homes in the project and sell the rest once they are ready. Houses that are ready to move in typically fetch a higher price. The developer is changing part of the masterplan to make the houses bigger and is offering customized interiors.
Unitech recently redesigned its luxury project Unitech Grande on Noida Expressway. From penthouses and duplexes, the firm now plans to relaunch the project as an integrated township with high-rise apartments, villas and developed plots.
Unitech Grande was planned on 347 acres acquired by Unitech for Rs1,582 crore in May 2006 in what was then the largest land deal. Initially, 12 towers were planned, with 36-45 floors each, including duplexes and penthouses. Waning demand for luxury apartments propelled Unitech to redesign the project. This May, the firm launched residential plots, called The Willows, at the site. Around 200 plots have been sold, a company spokesman said.
“There is demand in the market but the pricing and the positioning of the product are important,” said Alexander Moore, managing director, L.J. Hooker India, a real estate agent that conducted the auction.
At the Ajmera Infiniti project in Bangalore’s Electronic City, the developer is now selling cheaper homes in the Rs20-27-lakh category three years after the project’s launch. After initially trying to sell houses for Rs40-72 lakh, the developer is revising the plan for the remaining part of the project and will now build 250 two-bedroom and 180 three-bedroom flats.
“We have seen huge demand in other projects in the same price category. We have got lot of enquiries since we made the change,” said Bandish Ajmera, the Ajmera Group’s managing director.
madhurima.n@livemint.com
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First Published: Wed, Aug 12 2009. 01 15 AM IST