PUNE: The continuous slide of the rupee against the US dollar may be a cause of concern for many, but has led to NRIs considering investing in real estate back home. Industry observers said there has been a marked rise in the number of inquiries from NRIs and international investors in the last six months, during which the rupee has declined over 10% against the dollar. Realty developers and observers told TOI that the trend is more noticeable in the commercial real estate sector, which is suffering from weak interest andhigh vacancy for the last many quarters. Though the US dollar has hardened against many other currencies, NRI investors are more inclined towards India, albeit partly, due to the emotional bond with the country. The interest is primarily rooted in the fact that they would be shelling out fewer dollars to acquire properties than they would have last year, experts said. The current interest in real estate is only reflective of an established trend, just that it has picked up. According to Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the net NRI remittances into India are rising with the current fiscal registering a record net inflow of over US $12 billion, almost double the remittances of US $7 billion witnessed in the last financial year. About 40% of these inflows have gone in the real estate sector, the RBI has said. Rohit Gera, vice-president of Credai Pune Metro and director of Gera Development, said, "Properties are cheaper than they were a year ago in terms of dollars. We have already seen a spurt in inquiries from NRIs over the last seven to ten days." Ashutosh Limaye, head of research real estate investor services at realty advisory firm Jones Lang LaSalle India, said, "The Indian rupee has seen 12% depreciation against the US dollar since May 2013. This has led to a decrease in its value against all the other currencies pegged to the US dollar." Limaye added that according to a recent survey conducted by Sumansa Exhibitions, NRIs place a higher intrinsic value on property owned in India over the ones owned in other countries. While global investors such as foreign private equity (PE) investors are shying from investing in India and waiting for the rupee to stabilize, NRIs have been thinking otherwise, say realtors. "The depreciation of rupee has eroded the exceptional gains made by foreign PE funds in the last few months. Hence, short to medium term interests from several foreign PE funds may be subdued in view of the current economic performance," said Neeraj Bansal, partner at business consulting firm KPMG in India. "However, there is no shortage of funding for grade 'A' projects with promoters having strong track records. The fall in rupee is being cheered by NRIs who are now in a better position to invest in properties in India," he said. "As the rupee continues to fall, the IT/ITeS sector, which is among the largest occupier of commercial real estate (SEZs and office space) in India, is expected to witness a strong growth. This may result in increase in offtake of commercial office space," Bansal said. Anuj Bhandari, secretary, Credai Pune Metro, said around 20% more NRIs as compared to the last couple of years inquired about residential schemes. This may result in 7-8% increase in the purchases by NRIs, he added. Realty Interest: 20% rise in NRI inquiries for residential schemes Much interest in 'A' grade projects Trend more noticeable in commercial real estate Realtors say inquiries have picked up in the last 7 to 10 days 40% of total remittances are towards real estate, says RBI
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