What impact does interest rate have on the state of real estate sector in India?

18th December 2013 was keenly watched by the markets and industries alike, particularly the real estate sector in India. RBI governor was to announce the monetary policy and interest rates hike was expected because of the stubbornly high inflation prevailing in the economy. However, to the surprise of all and sundry, Raghuram Rajan refrained from rate hike and brought smiles to the market and industry.

Commenting on the policy, Real estate major DLF Group Executive Director Rajeev Talwar said: “It’s a welcome step. This is the first sign of recovery. If government can release food stocks to contain food-based inflation then possibly in coming time RBI may be able to take more steps for recovery of the economy. RBI governor has taken a bold step by keeping the rates flat.” Most other real estate developers and consultants welcomed the step. So, what kind of impact can interest rate have on property sector in India, let’s explore.

  • Firstly, what are interest rates?

Consider an investment portfolio having investments in all productive activities in the economy based on their respective share of the economy to the total value of all productive activity in the economy, the rate of current earnings on such a portfolio would be equivalent to the real rate of interest. Such a rate would also be the rate required by economic units to save rather than consume from current income. This is also the minimum rate of interest that any investor, be it in realty sector, would least likely expect from their investments. Therefore, when RBI announces that Repo rate would stay unchanged at 7.75%, it was welcomed by the industry.
In addition to the real rate of interest, a concern that all investors have when making investment decisions is how inflation will affect investment returns. Inflation in India is particularly high; however, of all the commodities which form the basis of calculating inflation, the food inflation has been highest. And RBI was worried about curbing the inflation which eats into returns on investments or future incomes. However, RBI’s view is that most of the concern for inflation is the supply side and having had excellent monsoon would probably bring the inflation down due to bumper crops. Therefore, Rajan refrained from raising interest rates.

  • Effect of interest rate on real estate supply:

Real estate supply is the addition of new stock of housing, office spaces, retail spaces, etc. to the market. Now, when a real estate developer decides to bring that supply to the market, he/she has to justify at-least the real rate of return on his/her investment. If the returns are low, investors would rather save their money than invest in realty projects. Therefore, when interest rates are low, it encourages builders to invest in real estate projects rather than save their money. At the same time, they can borrow funds from the market at lower rates and thereby cost of building real estate projects come down. Additionally, the debt servicing for the leading real estate developers come down and there is renewed excitement for all the real estate players. Financing real estate projects involves borrowing on a long-term or short-term basis. Because large amounts are usually borrowed for property development, financing costs are significant in amount and weigh heavily in the decision to develop real estate projects. Therefore, the lower the financing costs, the better it is for builders to bring new supply to the market.

  • Effect of interest rate on real estate demand:

The demand for housing or commercial property is generally determined by the population growth, household income, household preferences for other goods and investments, and the interest rate that must be paid to finance the loan. Now, an individual who is looking to invest in a property will certainly evaluate his/her financing costs and higher the financing costs, the less likely, that individual would be to refrain from investing in property. For example, an individual buys an apartment at Rs. 30 Lacs. He procures a loan of Rs. 20 Lacs for 20 years at 11%. The EMI or monthly payment will be Rs. 20643.77. However, as we noticed today, State Bank of India has recently reduced their lending rates. And even a drop of 50 basis points or 0.5% would bring down the EMIs from Rs. 20643.77 to Rs. 19967.60. Thereby, cost of financing goes down by Rs. 676.17 a month or Rs. 8114.04 a year. Hence, bringing interest rates down encourages buyers to invest in property.

Having the desired equilibrium between inflation and interest rates will lead to the growth of realty sector where both suppliers and consumers of real estate feel encouraged in participating.  And this will eventually lead to the overall growth of the Indian economy.