Urbanisation: Can We Reconnect Our Cities With Nature?

Kishor Pate 2Kishor Pate, CMD – Amit Enterprises Housing Ltd.

In pre-modern times, people in Indian cities still coexisted peacefully with nature. Sadly, in the current real estate development scenario, we have definitely witnessed an increasing separation between nature and individuals.

In the pursuit of their development and urbanisation agendas, our cities have seen high-rise buildings replacing backyards, parks and forested areas.

However, it is wrong to blame solely real estate developers and municipalities for this scenario. They are effective reacting to the growing demand for such buildings from people whose evolving lifestyles focus more on work and after-work entertainment and shopping.

Let us take the city of Pune as a case in point. In previous times, this city had a much smaller geographic spread and there was no real need to increase it.

Pune was supposed to be city for retired people. The city and its trade activities coexisted very well with a strong agrarian component both in the central and peripheral regions.

Population growth was relatively limited. The neighbouring city of Bombay, established by the British circa 1845 as a major port and trade hub, attracted a significant mass of migrants looking for urban-based employment.

In fact, the British viewed Pune – or Poona, as it was known in earlier times – as a region of political unrest and resistance against their rule. Pune began growing both in terms of population and geographical spread only after India attained independence in 1947.

Then came Pune’s Technological Revolution.

Pune transformed from a relatively small city to a full-fledged metropolis and was drawing a massive influx of people responding to its rapidly increasing employment opportunities – first in manufacturing, then also in software technology and information technology-enabled services (ITeS).

When Pune was still relatively small and untouched by the rampant urbanisation we see here today, there was negligible impact on the natural wealth for which it was once so famous.

Today, we see its once generous share of green open spaces eaten up by both low-rise and high-rise housing developments, landfills, commercial complexes and shopping centres.

Sahakar Nagar Pune
Sahakar Nagar Pune

As a result of this process, city dwellers become disconnected from nature. It is true that there is a lot of awareness and concern about the need to reestablish a healthy environment, and healthier cities.

However, it is also true that most real estate development taking place today is about amenities and facilities, and that any vegetation that is factored in is merely aesthetic and ornamental.

Essentially, the city has gone from green to grey, and any new thinking about and efforts towards reconnecting people to nature must indeed be trans-disciplinary and coordinated.

Construction is an inseparable element of a city – a city without buildings is inconceivable, and deforestation is inevitable. In fact, the very genesis of buildings lies in mankind’s need to protect itself from the wild animals inhabiting forest areas with strong, impregnable structures.

Today, wildlife has been more or less wiped out from our cities, but economic inequality has given rise to new threats of forced entry and loss of life and possessions. As long as mankind prevails, buildings will prevail as well – but can we bring nature back into our cities, as well?

An experiment to achieve exactly that is reaping astounding results in cities like Singapore, where a natural ecosystem is being re-introduced into the urban fabric. It is astounding what such a vision of futuristic urbanisation can achieve.

Clearly, concrete can coexist with abundant greenery and one must not necessarily negate the possibility of the other. However, it takes a magnificent town planning vision, coupled with a strong political will – and also unswerving support from a city’s population.

As long as demand for homes is skewed only towards concrete buildings with modern amenities and some token greenery, only such supply will follow.

Increased demand for urban housing where natural environment is more than just a token gesture and, in fact, available to sufficient saturation to actually have an environmental impact, such supply will surely follow.

We are seeing the return of such demand in Pune, and it is driven not only by the higher environmental consciousness of today’s young homebuyers but also their concerns about their own and their children’s’ health and wellbeing.

A city does not lose its ‘green’ identity overnight – in cities like Pune and Bangalore, the erosion of this identity took several decades.

It will take a few more decades to bring it back, but it is possible if all stakeholders – from town planning and municipal authorities to real estate developers and buyers – decide that it is worth it and must be done.

About The Author:

Kishor Pate, Chairman & Managing Director of Amit Enterprises Housing Ltd. is the driving force behind one of the most successful real estate development firms in Pune and beyond. Apart from its signature luxury projects like Montecito in Sahakar Nagar and other premium gated townships, AEHL has also launched highly successful affordable housing projects like Astonia Classic and Colori in Undri and the Mediterranean-style township Astonia Royale in Ambegaon.

What Lies Ahead For The Pune Property Market

Kishor Pate 2Kishor Pate, CMD – Amit Enterprises Housing Ltd.

Pune’s real estate market is the stuff of legend, and justifiably so. All the five main verticals of the property sector – residential, commercial office space, retail and hospitality – are performing optimally in Pune.

This is by all standards an exceptional real estate market. Moreover, Pune is always growing and adding to its geographical spread, making it by far the largest and most vibrant real estate market in Maharashtra and beyond.

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that investors from Mumbai, dissuaded by the high property rates and slow market conditions in the financial capital, are extremely active in Pune.

Apart from these, there is a constant flow of investments coming in from other Maharashtrian cities like Nanded, Nasik, Sangli, Kolhapur, Nagpur, Jalgaon and Amravati. As a result, the Pune property market is extremely resistant to stagnation.

Know what drives demand

The huge degree of job creation the city’s manufacturing, automobile and Infotech and services sectors is causing inward migration from almost all parts of India and very rapid absorption of commercial office spaces.

This, in turn, is constantly ramping up residential property demand as well. Additionally, thanks to its many educational institutions, Pune boasts of constantly replenishing talent pool which fuels the growth of all the sectors active in the city.

Because of the multidimensional growth drivers that the city enjoys, the Pune residential property market is quite resistant to the severe demand fluctuations being seen in a number of other cities.

However, successful investment into the Pune residential real estate sector still calls for knowledge about what works, and what doesn’t.

Pune_India

Know where to invest

Like in every other city, Pune’s residential property sector sees the most rapid impetus in pockets or locations that are still developing. It is primarily in these emerging locations that we find the most real estate activity, both its terms of development and demand from buyers.

Areas like Undri, Ambegaon, Keshavnagar and Bhugaon have already established themselves as Pune’s fastest-growing new suburbs. The growth of such locations also serves the important purpose of decreasing demand and development pressure in the central regions. However, even in these areas, there is danger lurking for uninformed property investors.

In many of the emerging residential property destinations, we have seen a huge load of housing projects where construction has either been stalled or delayed far beyond the initially committed completion timelines.

Investors and end- users who bought into such projects at the pre-launch phase to take advantage of attractively low rates have literally become stuck along with the projects.

Know your developer

In Pune, the difference between beneficial and hazardous housing investment lies primarily in the reputation and credibility of the developer. While credibility is a much-abused qualification that almost every developer lays claim to, it is actually quite simple to verify.

One merely needs to examine the builder’s track record of successfully completed housing projects. ‘Successful completion’ does not mean ‘eventual completion’, but completion within 1-1.5 years of the delivery timelines promised to buyers.

RERA Compliance – the new Gold Standard

With the Real Estate Regulatory Act (RERA) slated to finally become a nation- wide reality by mid-2017, Pune’s residential real estate market is going to become more vibrant and lucrative for property investment than ever before.

Thanks to this key reform in the real estate sector, the city is set to shed a lot of its ‘bloat’ – or burden of small-time, inexperienced builders out to make a quick buck with small, shoddily designed and executed projects which are also often of dubious legal status.

Such players will simply not be able to sustain operations post-RERA, and will vanish from the market.

What will remain are builders of good repute, market standing and track record – credible players who are able to abide by the strictures that RERA lays down to protect the interests of buyers and investors.

While this landmark is understandably a source of fear and trepidation for fly-by-night builders, it heralds the even more powerful emergence of strong, credible developers.

About the Author

Kishor  Pate, Chairman & Managing Director of Amit Enterprises Housing Ltd.  is the driving force behind one of the most successful real estate development firms in Pune and beyond. Apart from its signature luxury projects like Montecito in Sahakar Nagar and other premium gated townships, AEHL has also launched highly successful affordable housing projects like Astonia Classic and Colori in Undri and the Mediterranean-style township Astonia Royale in Ambegaon.

6 Tips For Investing In Rental Property

Kishor Pate 2Kishor Pate, CMD – Amit Enterprises Housing Ltd.

From the initial choice to really purchasing your first rental property as an investment, there’s plenty of planning and work involved.

Buying rental property should be approached with a lot of circumspection and forethought so as to get optimal returns and avoid a serious financial setback resulting from a wrongly-chosen property.

There are a number of aspects to be considered when looking for an income-generating property.

You should begin hunting for your rental investment property with an unbiased approach to areas and all of the properties in your investing range.

Let us have a look at the top 6 things you need to think about when trying to find the best rental property.

1. AREA:

The quality of the location in which you purchase a rental property will determine the kinds of renters you will find, and how frequently you may face vacancies.

For instance, in case you purchase the home in an area near a university, the odds are that your pool of expected renters will largely consist of students.

You may be faced with frequent vacancies during the times when students generally return home for the holidays. Also, there would be a higher churn of tenants, when ideally you want long-term leases.

Examine the location and project for existing and planned public parks, shopping malls, gymnasiums, cineplexes, public transportation stops and all the other factors that would conceivably entice tenants.

You can peruse developers’ project brochures and also do online research to establish the saturation of such facilities in a neighbourhood.

You also need to know what new developments are coming in, and what has been zoned for special purposes by the local municipality.

You are looking for a region with excellent growth prospects where schools, business parks, shopping malls and entertainment zones are either already in place or planned.

Simultaneously, be wary of any new developments which could reduce the value of surrounding properties, such as by causing the loss of green open spaces or public parking facilities.

2. PROPERTY TAXES:

Property taxes aren’t standard across the board and, as an investor intending to earn money from rent, you would like to know about how much you’ll be losing to taxes.

High property taxes are obviously justified in very good areas which are superlatively connected. Such areas also usually attract long-term renters. Locations in upcoming growth corridors should be preferred.

3. EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTES:

Your tenants may be a family with kids, or intending to have kids, who would prefer areas which are near to one or more good schools. The presence of quality schools in the area you invest in will positively impact the worth of your investment.

Remember, the total worth of your rental property comes into play when you finally sell it, even though you’ll be mainly concerned with earning monthly rentals in the interim.

4. JOB MARKET:

Areas with growing employment opportunities have a tendency to draw more people – meaning more renters.

Obviously, the most desirable situation for you would be to own a rental property near to or well-connected to an established or rapidly growing workplace hub with reputable companies active and generating jobs there.

5. PROJECT QUALITY:

Today, rental home seekers prefer projects which add value to their lifestyle. Good projects with the best lifestyle deliverables may be out of their purchasing reach, but they expect to get such facilities in a rental home.

Projects with all the amenities like garden, children’s play area, sitting area for elders, reliable security and professionally managed maintenance are always preferred by families hunting for rental flats. The ambience inside the complex is very important to them.

6. RENTS:

You should be aware of what the typical rent in the region is. Make sure you find out enough about the region to judge where it is headed in the following five years.

Property taxes may rise and even if you can afford them now, significant developments in the area which increase property taxes may make them less affordable.

Single-family homes often bring renters looking for long-term leases. A dual-income family is definitely preferable over single professionals, as they are likelier to pay their rent on time and to be fiscally stable.

As a landlord, you would like to find an area where finding such tenants is likely and where such properties are available.

When you’ve narrowed down the right location, look for a property that can potentially yield you steady and growing rental income as well as appreciation on the capital value of the home.

Consider properties which are within your budget and slightly above it as well. The slightly costlier options can be paid for by some bank leveraging, and developers may be open to negotiating the price.

Also, remember that buying property can become even more desirable with some modifications and cosmetic uplifts, which will attract tenants who are willing to pay higher rents.

Such changes to the property will also serve the purpose of increasing the sale value of the home in case you want to put it on the market after some years of good rental income.

Every state and every city has areas which have both suitable and excellent properties when it comes to rental potential.

In Pune, areas like Undri, Kothrud and Ambegaon are excellent locations for rental properties because of the consistently high demand.

In Mumbai, the more cost-effective locations in Navi Mumbai such as Koparkhairne, Airoli and Ulwe are very good options, though property prices are naturally higher there.

Do your research well and ensure that you have your finances in place if and when a very good option comes up.

Remember, real estate investing does not begin with purchasing a rental property – it starts with creating the finances where you can purchase a rental property.

About the Author:

Kishor  Pate, Chairman & Managing Director of Amit Enterprises Housing Ltd.  is the driving force behind one of the most successful real estate development firms in Pune and beyond. Apart from its signature luxury projects like Montecito in Sahakar Nagar and other premium gated townships, AEHL has also launched highly successful affordable housing projects like Astonia Classic and Colori in Undri and the Mediterranean-style township Astonia Royale in Ambegaon.