Thursday, 30 November 2017

Why Goa’s famous Mapusa market is a perennial source of inspiration for artists

The market features in different projects at this year’s Serendipity Arts Festival, including in a virtual game by Orijit Sen.

The word market suggests a commercial place with buyers and sellers. But Goa’s Mapusa market on Fridays is a sensory experience of colours, flavours, smells and people.

A market of abundance, filled with vegetables, meat, fish, dry fish, fruits, rock salt, spices, sausages and even wooden furniture and lottery tickets, Mapusa also includes Goa’s unique and fresh produce: pyramid-shaped coconut jaggery, kokum butter, and chicken sold especially as an offering to Devchar, a local deity.

The market’s name, as also the name of the town where it’s located, Mapusa, is generally thought to be derived from the Konkani word maap, or to measure – an apt title for a space crucial for the local economy. Yet, for many people, the market is a lot more than a place of commerce.

Graphic artist Orijit Sen said that Mapusa market, unlike a museum, is a reflection of culture that is not static. “The sheer intensity of that place is amazing,” he said. “Previously the market had only traditional produce from the nearby villages, but today you get products from all over the world. That’s the reality of Goan life and culture for me. It is not static and that interests me as an artist.”

Sen has helmed a project called Mapping of Mapusa Market as part of Goa University’s Visiting Research Professors Programme, initiated in the year 2013 under the Mario Miranda Chair. A part of this project will be exhibited at the annual Serendipity Arts Festival, a multi-disciplinary event to be held in Goa from December 15 to December 22.

With the help of students and the general public, Sen managed to map Mapusa market down to minute details over three years. For him, mapping is akin to storytelling. “I read maps as narratives,” he said. “When I see maps, I enter into that world.” Sen’s father worked as a mapmaker and the artist spent his childhood travelling with him all over the country.

Mapusa market is an important reminder of the fact that Goa is an agrarian society, not just a tourist destination. Here, in the relatively small space, mainly women bring produce from their farms along with handmade things like chorizo, pottery, cane baskets, vinegar and pickles. Anyone can sell their produce here. One merely has to just pay a sopo or rent.

“The first thing you notice about Mapusa market is the riot of colours,” said Niyati Patre, a regular at the market. “Even though it is crowded and messy, I love to shop here mainly for the local produce, medicinal herbs, plant saplings, coconut jaggery. This place is a must-see during the purumed or provisions market, just before the monsoon. At that time it is filled with spices, kokum and local rice. The market has remained the same all these years.”

It was partly this vibrancy that inspired photographer Assavri Kulkarni, author of the book Markets of Goa, to begin documenting it over a decade ago.The market signifies different things to different people. For illustrator Fabian Gonsalves, the place is filled with nostalgia and inspiration. “You could bump into that old school friend or a relative, sit for five minutes for a cup of chai, exchange stories and continue shopping,” he said. “My favourite place is the pottery section, mainly to check out any new designs, or the small vendors who sell old Goan household items for low rates, like vintage plates, locks, keys and chains.”

The installations at Serendipity Arts Festival will focus on the Flower Market or Fulancho Bazaar, as it is locally known, where one can find local flowers but also food products, like the lane where you find traditional Goan bread.Elaborating on his installation, Sen said it will involve 12 artworks by him, each measuring 3 ft x 10 ft, and navigable like an actual market. Sen has also built a game around the installation. So when you enter the space, you will be given five questions related to market’s history and culture; a treasure hunt with answers hidden in the virtual market space.

Most of the vendors at Mapusa market are women, who were up in arms against the municipal council, when a plan to demolish the complex threatened their livelihood. “They feared that the new complex would increase the rent and also it would have taken at least three years to complete that project,” Sen said. “Where would sell their produce during that time?” The plan was shelved thanks to protests by the public, but Sen fears that it may be revived again.

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Friday, 24 November 2017

Indian reality: Real Estate Asia Pacific Report 2018

Foreign investors may be giving India's investment policies for the real estate market a thumbs-up, but Indian cities still have a long way to go to become A-listers in the Asia-Pacific region. Only 3 Indian cities find a place in the list of top-20 real estate markets in the region, as compiled by PwC and the Urban Land Institute and not one of them is on the top-10.

Source: MoneyControl

Source: PWC

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Will bitcoin buy you property in India anytime soon?

With Benami Property Act now brought to the centre stage once more, any service or commodity purchased in a form of currency which is not accepted as legal tender in India represents a risk to both buyer and seller. This, perhaps, is the strongest argument against bitcoin in Indian real estate transactions for now

Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies have been in the news a lot if recent times, often for the wrong reasons but also because of the massive appreciation Bitcoin has been clocking up. To top it off, real estate has now been dragged into the bitcoin controversy, with a handful of projects in some parts of the US and Dubai actually inviting investments via the Bitcoin route. With the ongoing slump in sales, is it possible that developers in India will offer such an option to prospective buyers as well? Let us take a closer look at this.

We should begin by understanding that the viability of any currency as a means with which to transact in real estate in India obviously depends on whether or not the RBI and Government recognize that currency as valid tender in the country. So far, that is not the case with bitcoin. While the RBI was toying with the notion of launching an Indian crypto-currency, it apparently does not see much benefit in doing so. This is quite understandable.

The market needs transparency – not more opacity
The Indian real estate market is currently in the process of transiting from being an opaque and largely unregulated market to a more governed and transparent ne. This process has been kick-started by several policies and reformative regulations like the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Authority or RERA Act, the unified Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the Benami Property Bill. As part of this process of increasing transparency and accountability for real estate and its related transactions, cash flows in and out of the sector need to trackable and accounted for at every level.

This is definitely not possible with money in the form of a currency whose origins and antecedents can, almost by definition, not be established in the majority of cases. The notion of crypto-currencies like bitcoin becoming legal tender for real estate transactions in India must first and foremost be considered in light of this fact.

No significant benefits, massive challenges
For the sake of an argument, let us assume that bitcoin transactions became acceptable in Indian real estate. Would this in any way affect the sector in a significant manner - for instance, would ROI on real estate be positively or negatively influenced? To arrive at an answer to this question, we must first consider that the value of real estate is determined by factors such as size, location, and most importantly local market rates – which, in India, are determined in rupees. This is how real estate is bought and sold in the country.

Hypothetically, If the RBI were to accept bitcoin as legal tender for real estate transactions at some point, it would be to the extent of allowing the rupee value of a property to be paid for in that currency. Remember, this would only happen if the RBI were able to establish the source of these funds to its complete satisfaction. Then consider that bitcoin has become such a popular mode of payment for crime-related transactions precisely because its sources cannot be traced if the person/s transacting in it do not want them to be traced.

Even if real estate deals transactions via bitcoin were to become legal in India, it would at best be extremely challenging - and there would be little or no real benefit to either seller or buyer. First of all, the Government levies statutory taxes on every real estate transaction and requires the payment of these dues to be clearly mentioned in Indian rupees for such transactions to be considered legal.

Likewise, market rates and property prices in India are calculated in rupees per square foot. From an ROI perspective, the currency used in transacting with it does not have any bearing on this value – and for a crypto-currency to become acceptable tender for buying a selling property in India, all these calculations would need to find a parallel monetary avatar that is acceptable to all stakeholders.

Difficult to swallow, harder to digest

Apart from the increased regulation in the real estate industry, the Indian banking and finance sector is extremely conservative and would find it very difficult to accept a currency which cannot be fully traced or regulated. Even if it did find a way to accept it, such a currency would also need to be comprehensible and acceptable to Indian end-users and investors. The currency would first need to be sanctified and accepted by various financial institutions - which is far from the case now. In fact, bitcoin has garnered itself a rather unsavoury reputation in financial circles which would make its adoption in India even more difficult.

Moreover, there is the question of safety of investment - a question which brings the Benami Property Act has now brought centre-stage once more. At the current time, any service or commodity purchased in a form of currency which is not accepted as legal tender in India represents a risk to both buyer and seller. Both end-users and investors want their real estate assets to be legal in every way so that ownership and resale do not become a problem for them. This, perhaps, is the strongest argument against bitcoin in Indian real estate transactions for now.

In short, crypto-currencies like bitcoin are very unlikely to take off in Indian real estate in the foreseeable future.

Anuj Puri
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Source: MoneyControl

Friday, 10 November 2017

NRIs switch to commercial realty as residential stutters

The preference is also being driven by better returns from the office assets and a fixed income that is being generated by such investments.

Non-resident Indians (NRIs) from the US and West Asia are now diversifying their asset exposure and investing more into commercial properties rather than residential due to high risk and the imminent slowdown in the segment.

The preference is also being driven by better returns from the office assets and a fixed income that is being generated by such investments.

“Its returns outperform those of traditional fixed deposits (FDs), mutual funds and Sensex, with an average rental return of 7-8% and overall returns of 18-22%.

Currently, 40% of our NRI clients are investing in Indian commercial real estate through fractional investment,” said Kunal Moktan, co-founder of Propertyshare.

Commercial office space vacancy has almost halved in the past six years due to robust demand from corporates. Office space absorption is not only strong, but pre-leasing is at an all-time high, which is an indication of sustained demand and occupiers’ interest in commercial spaces.

“Over the last one year, we have sold around 1 lakh sq ft of small offices in Navi Mumbai. Of this, 15-20% have been bought by NRIs and this is a significant jump compared to our earlier experience. ,” said Ashok Chhajer, CMD, Arihant Superstructures.

Commercial real estate investment in India is driven by leasing, which guarantees higher returns. Post-demonetisation, the NRI community is also focusing on mid-income and affordable residential segment along with a special preference for commercial segment.

“We have concluded a fairly good number of transactions between NRI and HNI clients last year for our commercial portfolio. NRIs are increasingly giving preference to invest in Indian commercial real estate market as comparative yield incomes are less in international markets like Dubai and London,” said Bijay Agarwal, MD, Salarpuria Sattva Group.

According to CBRE, a real estate consultancy annual absorption of office space also continues to be robust led by a growing number of mid-sized and smaller transactions with the segment clocking 18 million sq ft of absorption in the first half of the 2017.

In contrast, residential real estate is facing challenge of high inventory, lower consumer Interest and sales. The second quarter of 2017 marked a record low for units launched, over 20,000 new units, across India with unsold residential units recorded at 4.2 lakh, a fall after 30 months, showed data from Anarock Property Consultants.

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Source: Economic Times

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

How much tax do you pay on real estate?

While the new tax regime has kicked in, all stakeholders in the real estate sector are at their wits’ end. We spoke to taxation experts to find out if real estate can be fully brought under GST and how much tax you pay on real estate.

Union finance minister Arun Jaitley recently stirred up a debate on bringing the real estate under the ambit of Goods and Services Tax (GST). "The one sector in India where maximum amount of tax evasion and cash generation takes place is the real estate, which is still outside GST. I personally believe that there is a strong case to bring real estate into GST," he had said, while talking about India's tax reforms at the Harvard University.

While the new tax regime has kicked in, all stakeholders in the real estate sector are at their wits’ end. We spoke to taxation experts to find out if real estate can be fully brought under GST and how much tax you pay on real estate.

Disadvantaged buyers of under-construction properties

As far as real estate is concerned, under-construction properties are taxed at 12%. For instance, if a person buys a property worth Rs 1 crore, he has to pay Rs 12 lakh as GST. Additionally, he has to pay stamp duty in the range of Rs 4-8% (differs from state to state) on the entire amount. This means that a consumer pays GST, stamp duty, registration charges and property tax (annual municipal levy) on a property.

Before GST, service tax was applicable at 4.5% on under-construction properties. However, no credit of tax paid on goods namely on VAT and excise duty was allowed to developers. For a completed property, GST is currently not applicable.

Speaking at Magicbricks’ weekly digital show This Week In Property (TWIP), experts deliberated that the difference between the GST rate and service tax, in case of under-construction properties, was expected to be bridged by VAT and excise duty, factored by developers in the price. In other words, developers were expected to reduce the pre-GST sale price before applying the 12% GST.

Priyajit Ghosh, Partner (Indirect tax), KPMG, says that computation of revised sale price is a complex as well as time-consuming task. Developers have to depend upon their contractors to know the VAT and excise duty incidence and have to wait for the project to complete before they know how much price reduction can be done finally. While the incidence would depend upon the type of project, estimates suggest that price reduction, even if done on estimated basis, is unlikely to be sufficient to bridge the gap between GST at 12% and service tax at 4.5%.

Experts at Magicbricks also advised buyers of under-construction properties to re-negotiate with their developers on how much less amount they will have to pay in the wake of ITC (Input Tax Credit). This means that whatever construction takes place post-GST, the developer can claim ITC which can be passed on to the consumer.

Consumer veers towards ready-to-move-in projects

“From a consumer’s viewpoint, paying GST and stamp duty for an under-construction property leads to an overall tax outgo of 17-18%. If he buys a ready-to-move-in project, he only has to pay stamp duty,” says Pratik Jain, Partner (indirect tax), Pricewaterhouse Coopers. He adds that as of now, developers would not be able to claim input credit and it would become a cost to them. “But ITC is less than 12% because a large chunk of money in a project goes towards the purchase of land and there is no GST on land,” explains Jain.

Ghosh further says, “Consumers who have invested into projects that are almost complete will face the brunt of the new policy on the amount to be paid under GST. As a large part of the construction of their project is over beyond one year, their developer will not be able to claim input credit.” Although the government has allowed past one-year to claim credit, a majority of them either have not maintained the requisite documents such as invoices or have incurred the taxes beyond past one year.

Ghosh adds that complying with the anti-profiteering provision will be a big task. “While this is a good principle that can be applied in case of tax saving, if the same is mixed with change in the procurement cost it goes into a grey area. Will it be applied on a project basis, state basis or pan-India basis? Will there be any index for reference?” he wonders.

Experts at the Magicbricks show (TWIP) believe that the government has assured that when the books will be audited, it would be easy to point out if developers have passed on ITC to consumers or not.

One tax for real estate

There is a growing clamour from a large number of states to bring real estate fully under GST. This means that GST should be charged on the sale of completed buildings. “But this should be done in a logical manner. The government should either substantially reduce stamp duty or eliminate it because it can’t double tax the consumer. So, it can’t have stamp duty on sale of land as well as GST on it,” says Jain. Experts say that if GST covers the entire chain of transactions in the real estate, a lot of cash component will also vanish.

But how difficult is it for the government to bring real estate fully under GST? “Fairly easy,” says Jain. As per him the Centre needs to convince the states that it will help check tax-evasion.

Citing operational complications, Ghosh says that convincing the states may not be that easy. “Under the dual GST regime where the Centre and States currently share revenue in a 50-50 ratio, substituting stamp duty with the neutral GST may not be that easy.” He says that states may not agree to let go the stamp duty share and put it in the common pool because “if stamp duty is subsumed into GST the Centre will get additional mop-up, which will be a burden for consumers. This means that if the State’s share of GST is kept at 6% then automatically the Centre’s share becomes 6% as well, taking the total incidence to 12% as opposed to 4% to 8% stamp duty currently”.

So, what is the way out? Ghosh suggests two possible solutions, “However, both are likely to distort the current structure”. He advises on making the state’s share as 4% to 8% and exempt the Centre’s share. “It could lead to departure from the currently dual GST structure,” he says. Alternatively, the Centre taxes at 2% to 4% GST and convinces the states to go with the same rate making the overall incidence 4% to 8% and assure the states of compensating them for balance loss of stamp duty. “This would, however, result into another compensation claim apart from potential loss of revenue which is currently assured to the States for 5 years,” he sums up.

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Source: Economic Times

Friday, 3 November 2017

India receives real estate investments worth $2.87 billion, a 100% jump

Mumbai ranked 81 amongst all global cities on RE investment volumes; No.1 gateway city in terms of growth rates in the world

Real estate investments worth USD 2.87 billion poured into Indian cities of Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune, Delhi–NCR, Chennai and Hyderabad in the one year period ending June 2017, recording an almost 100 percent jump in investments, says a new report by Cushman & Wakefield.

These markets were able to attract capital based on strong economic drivers, acceleration in reforms, high yields and rapidly modernising business base. Of the total real estate investment received by the various cities of India, the largest share of over 55 percent came in from North America, while domestic and regional sources saw a decline in share of capital invested in India, it says.

Funds from Europe, which had not made its presence in the previous year, were seen contributing approximately 14 percent. Mumbai has recorded real estate investments worth USD 1,749 million and is ranked 81st position in the global survey ranking cities by their success at attracting capital. The Indian financial capital took the top spot amongst gateways cities with a 194 percent increase from the previous year. Only Pune over stripped Mumbai in terms of investment growth at 285 percent, says the report titled Winning in Growth Cities that surveyed over 400 global locations.

The report also placed Bengaluru at 161 spot with the total real estate investment volume of USD 461 million.

“Current economic drivers are biased towards developed markets, but Indian cities are performing ahead of expectations and are clearly offering superior medium to long-term growth potential in real estate. While established markets of Mumbai, Bengaluru and Delhi NCR have seen the larger share of capital investments, cities such as Chennai, Hyderabad and Pune are also key destinations due to their inherent strengths as crucibles for multi-sector manufacturing activities for automobiles, engineering goods, white goods, pharmaceutical products, etc,” says Anshul Jain, country head and managing director, India Cushman & Wakefield.

New York (USD 51 billion) remained the top city in the survey followed by Los Angeles (USD 39  billion) and San Francisco (USD 32 billion). In Asia, Hong Kong (global rank of 8) received the highest volume of investment at USD 18.4 billion.

The global property investment market saw volumes rise 4 percent year-on-year to USD 1.5 trillion in a one year period ending June 2017. The rise compared to the previous 12 months reflects improving sentiment in 2017. The APAC region remains a very viable investment target for global capital. The region’s diverse development backdrop and deepening property markets will allow investors to turn their attention to secondary and tertiary markets and alternative property and set the stage for next core strategies, the report said.

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Source: MoneyControl