BENGALURU - The outlook for India's moribund property market has brightened somewhat, with house prices this year expected to rise more than predicted three months ago, but those increases will still be the weakest in at least a decade, a Reuters poll found.
Until 2015, India's annual property price growth had typically been in the double digits. However, more recently a ban on high value currency notes and a liquidity shortage driven by bad debts on banks' balance sheets have led to a cooling in lending and a housing inventory pile-up.
The latest poll of 18 property analysts taken May 10-June 3 showed home prices are expected to rise 2.3% nationally this year, up from 1.3% predicted in March but well below overall inflation.
That is much slower than last year, when house prices rose at an average rate of 5.6%, already its weakest since at least 2010, when the Reserve Bank of India started tracking changes in house prices.
House prices are expected to rise 2.5% next year and 3.8% in 2021, well below the projected pace of consumer price inflation for those periods.
But those modest rates might not even be realised as over 80% of analysts who answered an additional question said their outlook for the housing market was skewed more to the downside.
That comes despite two RBI rate cuts this year and strong chances of another one this week, although analysts are split on whether an easing would be a good idea or not.
"Five years are too short a time to undo decades of damage. The industry stakeholders have given this government the benefit of the doubt. However, with a fresh term in hand, this government will have to deliver on a lot of initiatives," said Anuj Puri, chairman at ANAROCK Property Consultants.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, introduced a host of incentives to shore up the struggling real-estate market last year.
Modi's party gained a huge parliamentary majority in an election last month.
"The residential sector has endured significant pain over the last few years, but the NDA government's return to power will reassure investors of stability and continued focus on growth," said Aashish Agarwal, head of consulting services at Colliers International India.
"While recovery will be slow and led by reputed developers in select micro-markets, a large part of the market will continue to suffer from construction delays caused by the liquidity crunch."
What started as a bad loan problem in the banking sector last year slowly morphed into a full-blown liquidity crisis, which forced one of the largest infrastructure lending companies, IL&FS, to default on its interest payments.
"When funding becomes scarce, as a developer you become really pressurised to hive off your inventory as fast as possible," said Rohan Sharma, head of research at Cushman & Wakefield India.
"This creates a barrier for a price run to happen even if there is demand."
A regional breakdown of the latest Reuters poll data showed Delhi and Mumbai, India's two most populous cities, will not contribute much to property price growth.
House prices in Delhi, including National Capital Region, were forecast to fall 2.5% this year and stagnate next year. In Mumbai they were expected to rise 0.5% and 1.0%, respectively.
"Delhi (including NCR) and Mumbai witnessed spiraling housing prices which often didn't match with the affordability of the larger consumer base," said Anshuman Magazine, regional chairman and CEO at CBRE.
A majority of analysts rated Delhi and Mumbai average house prices either "extremely overvalued" or "overvalued".
However, two-thirds of the same pool of analysts said houses were fairly valued in the southern cities of Bengaluru and Chennai. Property prices in both cities were forecast to rise 2.0-3.5% over the next two years.