Mumbai: Land deals are being struck at rates lower than or the same as five years ago, brokers, builders and real estate consultants said, as lower residential demand from end consumers and high leverage among developers ease pressure on land. There are few takers for large plots and developers are mostly opting for joint developments with land owners.

Barring a few prime locations in Mumbai and Delhi, land transactions have slowed in the last few years and prices have stagnated or fallen countrywide.

“When we are buying land, we are constantly negotiating downward. With slow pick-up in residential demand in the last three years, landowners who want to sell land are smart enough to drop (prices) by 5-10% particularly in the suburbs of Mumbai," said Venkatesh Gopalkrishnan, chief executive officer (CEO), Shapoorji Pallonji Real Estate.

The Mumbai-based firm has been scouting for land in Mumbai, Pune and Bengaluru for affordable housing projects.

In Gurugram, where home sales have significantly dropped, land prices, too, have dropped in the range of 25-50%, he said.

The past year has seen some deals at attractive valuations.

For instance, after two failed attempts, GlaxosmithKline Pharmaceuticals Ltd sold 60 acres at Thane to Oberoi Realty Ltd for 555 crore.

Analysts believe the developer struck a plum deal with a 30-40% discount though it will have to pay various government charges for conversion of industrial land into residential.

Recent land deals in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) include Lodha Group buying a five-acre plot for 375 crore at Jogeshwari and Kanakia’s purchase of a seven-acre land at Vikhroli for 360 crore.

Runwal group is close to buying 2.7 acres from Rashtriya Metal Industries for 180 crore.

Land brokers say all these deals are being closed at around 20% lower than the asking price or at the same rate 4-5 years ago.

“Apart from a few well-developed plots, prices have clearly not moved up across the country. Even (prices in) some of Delhi’s prime residential colonies are down by 40%," said Rajeev Talwar, CEO, DLF Ltd. DLF recently won a prime 12-acre land through an auction for 1,496 crore.

According to property advisers, DLF paid a premium of 30-40% than the surrounding area. Talwar says the deal is not reflective of the market and it was “opportunity-based given the scarcity of good land parcels around the area".

“Landowners have become more realistic now and have accepted that land as an asset will not appreciate much in urban areas in the next three-four years as well," said Nishant Kabra, local director and head of land services (West India) at JLL India.

According to Ashish Singh, managing director (real estate investments), Standard Chartered Private Equity Advisory (India) Ltd, while land prices haven’t dropped in absolute value, in an inflation-adjusted terms, prices may have fallen by as much as 50% in the last 6-7 years.

He said the involvement of PE investors at the land-buying stage unlike before have restricted developers from indulging in speculative buying of large land banks.

“This also puts a downward pressure on land prices. There is a demand side push, too, to bring prices at a rational level," Singh added.

High government charges and premium have made it tough for developers to buy new land parcels and execute projects in cities like Mumbai.

“The increase in development potential of certain areas should effectively lead to appreciation on the land price, but on a per sq. ft basis, land prices have not moved up and land deals are happening at a discounted rate," said Vrushank Mehta, head-corporate strategy and land acquisition, Wadhwa Group.

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