Interviews :: Home loans slowdown driven by RERA will reverse in 8 months: ICICI Bank honcho Ravi Narayanan


Interview: Ravi Narayanan, senior general manager and head – retail secured assets, ICICI Bank.
By: Shritama Bose | Updated: November 28, 2017 12:20 PM | Financial Express

The home-loan market seems to have slowed down, first because of some postponement of demand with demonetisation, and then with the implementation of RERA. Where do you see things going from here?
The supply in the system had anyway started reducing in the last two years. Between September 2016 and September 2017, supply has dropped by over 10-12% in residential real estate in the top 40-45 cities. Till a year back, the inventory overhang used to be about 18-20 quarters in the industry. Along with supply, absorption of units was also coming down because of various reasons, one of which could be demonetisation. People expected a price correction. With RERA coming in, my estimate is that the supplies will go down still further because the act has put in various guardrails as to how the builder must manage the finances available for the project. This augurs well because inventory overhang should not be so much. The second outcome of RERA will be a rise in customer confidence. So once this whole dust settles, we will see pick-ups rising. So there will be a decrease in inventory and an increase in sales and that should be good for the industry.

Won’t that also cause asset prices to rise?
It will follow a pattern. There is an oversupply right now. If the demand-and-supply gap comes down drastically, then the prices will go up. In the next six to eight months, a lot of consolidation might happen in projects underway, which may not be amenable for prices to go up. Prices will remain, more or less, at the same level or there may be some fall in prices. Also, in the last six-seven years, real estate has seen a slight downturn. Typically, the industry follows an eight-to nine-year cycle. So in my opinion, 2018 will again see a rise in sales.

A development that followed demonetisation was the expansion of the credit-linked subsidy scheme (CLSS) for housing. Are you seeing supply and offtake picking up in that category?
Over 60% of new home launches in the industry in the first half of FY18 had ticket sizes under Rs 25 lakh. Because of this scheme under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, a lot of projects have started coming up in this category. Builders are also entitled to certain benefits if a part of their projects are of sizes below a certain threshold.

So is the phenomenon of builders allocating more space to smaller units a countrywide one?
This is happening primarily in Mumbai and Pune. Some of it is happening in Chennai and Bangalore. But, it is not happening across the country as yet. That’s partly because you have to keep operating costs and land cost under control to be in affordable housing. It is a very price-sensitive market. However, given the focus on this sector from this government, there’s bound to be more players flocking to it.

In mortgages, banks have continuously been losing market share to housing finance companies (HFCs). Have they actually weaned away bank customers for their growth?
No, because the mortgage industry is really big. The mortgage book of the country is now at Rs 15 lakh crore; over the next few years, at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 20%, it should go up to Rs 50 lakh crore. When the pie is so large, everyone will have a share. It’s just a question of how each player orients themselves. Today, most banks are focused on the metros, while HFCs are operating in the peripheries (of cities). So we are not meeting each other much. But very soon, it will all become one playground. Banks venturing into the peripheries will be much faster because we anyway have branches.

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