Good time for NRIs to capitalise Indian RE market

Indian diaspora is one of the largest in the world and has contributed immensely to the Indian economy over the years. People migrate from India for better opportunities in education, employment and business. Indians are the richest group of foreign origin residents in most of the developed world. A well-trained IT manpower and their requirement in these countries have accelerated this process of migration in the past few years. These non-residents have always invested back in their country of origin and several factors have contributed to NRIs investment come strength to strength in the Indian housing market over the years. Till a sometime back, they had small investments in Indian real estate, but now the expatriate community accounts for a big chunk of Indian housing demand. Some analysts expect this investment from NRIs in Indian housing market to grow in 2020-21 by more than 5% to account for more than US$13billion. That is a sizeable amount, which has grown to double already in last 6 years.

Indians abroad have been crucial growth drivers for the Indian real estate consistently. A lot of them were also fooled by some unscrupulous developers and a loss of trust was evident. However, with passing of RERA act and all the states tightening the noose on errant builders and brokers, the confidence seems to be growing back. Traditionally, major sources of NRI investments include the USA, Canada, Middle-east, UK, Singapore, Hongkong etc. Not surprisingly, Middle-east is the biggest source of NRI investments, accounting for more than 40% of the total NRI investment inflow in Indian real estate sector. Probably this also originates from the fact that these countries don’t a give a permanent residence to people of foreign origin and therefore those working there certainly plan for their return to homeland and live here. Another interesting observation on analysing the investment pattern emerges that a good percentage of NRIs are maintain a portfolio of properties and are entering the market primarily for investment purpose.

The interest in Indian housing sector by NRIs is also helped by the emerging importance of India in global attention. Internal stability, infrastructure improvements, improved foreign relations and low inflation rates are also contributing factors to this investment pattern. Traditionally, Indians abroad invested in various financial products like fixed deposits, equity, mutual funds etc., but with declining interest rates and a fluctuating stock market, real estate sector offered an opportunity to multiply their investments much faster. In addition to this, the emotional security and prestige that one derives by owning property in the motherland, is incomparable. Revision in certain legalities and government support for schemes like “housing for all” has further fueled the interest in this sector  and it is on an ascent currently.

The opportunity to invest in the sector is also being supported by a strong dollar. Due to current situation world-wide, the dollar is appreciating, resulting in better value per dollar for NRIs. Also, with the sector in a perilous state in India, developers are sitting with inventories, which they are ready to offer with substantial discounts. Prices in India are not touching the peaks they witnessed a couple of years back. However, after being stable for sometime, the housing prices in new projects in India are finding an upward trajectory. Which means that this window of opportunity is limited and the NRIs who will enter the market now, are expected to reap rich dividends in future.

Good time for NRIs to capitalise Indian RE market

Let us also look at some of the government regulations in the area. It is critical for a non-resident investor to understand and comply to these norms set by government to ensure safety of their investments.

Categories of permitted real estate purchase for NRIs: An NRI/ OCI is allowed to invest in any immovable property in India as per the prevailing laws. This however, does not include the agricultural land, plantation related property or a farmhouse. New housing projects, however, launched by reputed builders are all in the investible category and a number of developers have special support cells for NRIs. It will therefore be important to choose wisely the correct category and take help from an attorney or developer team while completing the deal.

How to invest: Investment in real estate can be made in different ways. One can purchase the real estate in the allowed category directly. It can also be obtained as a gift from a person who is resident of India or a gift from a NRI relative. As per foreign exchange regulation act, a relative is defined as a spouse, brother or sister or any lineage ascendant or descendant of the person receiving the gift.

Real estate may also be received by way of inheritance from a person living in India or from a person living outside India, who would have acquired the said property in accordance with the foreign exchange law in force at the time of acquisition.

Payment for purchase: Investment in real estate has to be be made through regular banking channel transactions. The purchase could also be by way of debit to the Non-resident account held by the NRI purchaser in India. Payments can not be made by using foreign currency and/or traveller’s cheque.

It is important that the person buying the property ensures a personal inspection of the property before buying instead of depending on feedback from others. It is also critical to buy only from one of the reputed developers to ensure complete transparency. It is important to make all the payments through official channels to ensure complete safety of investment. It will be worthwhile to check the past record of the developer and visit some of the completed projects before signing the cheque and closing the deal. While references in India may be a way to get information, verifying each detail yourself or through an attorney avoids troubles in future. There is no doubt that this is the best time to buy property in India for investment purpose by a NRIs, and if done with some caution this could prove to be a big right decision.