Every cloud has a satin lining
The occupant profile of a luxury project is the most decisive factor for property buyers in this category. One of the definitions of luxury is ‘a cut above the rest’, and this means that a luxury home buyer expects to live among people of a certain grade of professional accomplishment and social standing.
Arvind Jain, MD, Pride Group, says, “Less than ten years ago, the concept of luxury homes was tied to a city’s expensive inner locations. ‘Pin code value’ was the watchword, and developers focused on the luxury segment operated within those boundaries. The prices of homes in such locations were and continue to be exorbitantly high, but high net worth individuals (HNI) buyers were willing to pay them for the privilege of an impressive address.”
However, inner city areas do not have capacity to accommodate such luxury offerings, he adds. The sought-after addresses became available only when an old building came up for redevelopment. The value proposition of resale properties in high-value locations has been eroded by the fact that they are invariably in projects that lack the frills of what spells luxury. This includes spaciousness, security, clubhouses, swimming pools and smart home features.
Similarly, branded residences targeted towards the uber rich are luxury homes designed, marketed and often managed by global signature designers. The branded luxury residential property market has been steadily growing not only in India but also globally. “Some of the powerful real estate developers in the country are eyeing micro markets in order to build iconic buildings comparable to international standards keeping in mind the lifestyle needs of the customers. These players are walking the extra mile to overcome barriers associated with operating in the luxury market which is governed more by a social status and lifestyle statement rather than economic considerations. The buyers in this category are persons whose financial appetite in not limited to or affected by the economic deliberations,” says Dhruv Jaywant, CMO, Ahuja Constructions.
“We believe that a home should be such that it meets all the requirements of a customer in terms of open spaces, greenery and other amenities. We believe in creating homes that stand the test of time. Currently most of our developments are Platinum or Gold rated buildings. We work with some of the best-in-class partners worldwide who bring their experience and expertise in terms of innovative practices which work well for us and our customers,” says Girish Shah, EVP, sales & marketing, Godrej Properties.
Bengaluru-based Sobha Limited’s offerings include presidential villas, row houses, luxury and super luxury apartments and plotted development. In this financial year alone, the developer has launched five residential projects in the luxury and super-luxury category. They are Sobha Arena, Sobha Halcyon and Sobha Morzaria Grandeur in Bengaluru; Sobha Lake Edge, Thrissur; and Sobha Elanza, Pune. They consist of 1,128 units on a total saleable area of about two million square feet. “We are of the opinion that the demand for luxury projects, especially in the southern cities are likely to improve. Over the years, there has been an increase in the number of job opportunities, courtesy the IT and services sector, and the standard of living has definitely improved,” says J C Sharma, vice chairman & managing director, Sobha Limited. Today’s white-collared professionals aspire to own luxurious homes that complement the opulent lifestyle they wish to lead. This is primarily why there has been a renewed interest for luxury products. There is a genuine interest for high-quality luxury properties in India vis-à-vis that for similar products internationally.
Given the ever worsening shortage of land in the prime locations of our larger cities, home prices in these areas are largely beyond affordability for most buyers. Homes in such locations are bought by the extremely rich for the sake of address value and easy access to the CBD, even if they lack the superior amenities of newer, more modern buildings in further-flung areas. In such cases, the luxury factor is vested almost exclusively in the snob appeal of the location. However, demand continues to be robust for options in bonafide premium locations of the key Indian cities, but newly tailored luxury addresses are also seeing their share of action as long as the projects on offer meet certain parameters. To begin with, deals conclude rapidly in sellers’ markets where demand exceeds supply. Annual returns in such pockets are in the neighbourhood of 25%, and this figure will continue to see northward movement over the coming years as supply constraint drive prices up further.
Understanding the new aspirations, developers are creating icon projects that are world-class with respect to design, consultants on board, amenities and services provided, etc. In luxury, barring not only amenities and design concepts, location and addresses gain a strong foothold to bring in the luxury tag. The definition of luxury is also being closely scrutinised by ultra-rich buyers when it comes to evaluating offerings. Luxury housing projects in the today’s era go beyond just offering club houses and quality fittings in the apartment. They are now enjoying a new look trying out different product offerings and superior level of services comparable to a home in Manhattan, Singapore, Hong Kong and other exotic locations. Luxury buyers are looking for premium options that provide 24×7 services, mini theatre, spas, salon, concierge services, business centres, and a gated community experience as amplification on their experiences in stand-alone buildings in the premium areas. Luxury homes also focus on providing larger living spaces and artificial intelligence through latest gadgets and technologies, digital locks, electronic surveillance systems, private elevators and direct access to apartments, digital control systems and much more to delight and offer superior level of experience.
Pau Abello, MD, Roca, says, "While creating a symbol of luxury a lot of emphasis goes into finishes, seamless structures and hidden fixations. Functionality plays a key role. In terms of research there are two basic formats, one is to create your own exclusive design and second to strategically partner with world’s renowned designers. Armani/Roca was developed when two companies united their talent and set out to create an intimate and elegant bathroom area which can provide a comfortable and harmonious atmosphere."
Reema Kundnani, VP, head, marketing, corporate communications & luxury residential sales, Oberoi Realty, says, “Our quality requirements have compelled us to adopt technologies and standards that are very different from the normal Indian construction industry. We have been successful in introducing international contractors whose expertise in innovative construction techniques like ‘slip form construction’ and ‘pre-fabrication construction’ have been incorporated in our projects. We have also introduced the Mivan technology in construction in our high-rise buildings. As a part of our construction methodology, we try to maximise our off-site construction and reduce on-site construction activities. We have also adopted hydro-pneumatic systems in our MEP designs to reduce top weight of the building.”
Oberoi Realty’s international contractors have not only improved the construction techniques but also raised the bar for standards of construction, ultimately giving consumer a superior finished product. These contractors have also improvised the safety standards in the construction process. Learning from the global players, the company has ensured that all employees and even the smallest subcontractor are compelled to follow set norms, which are defined for all activities on site, including the smallest action such as wearing head protection everywhere on site.
The connectivity factor is not ignored. Developers of this new line of luxury homes ensure that their locations are accessible to the city’s business hubs via new road networks. High-end townships offer the highest level of convenience within their own perimeters, negating the need to travel to other areas for shopping, healthcare and entertainment. Lack of infrastructure was previously the hidden price that HNI buyers paid along with the inflated cost of properties in traditional luxury areas. Today, modern social and civic infrastructure is very much part of the deal.
Manju Yagnik, vice chairperson, Nahar Group, says, "Every project delivered by Nahar Group has something unique to offer. The super luxury multi-themed podium villas at Nahar Amrit Shakti offer the rare luxury of a private garden. The villas have a ceiling height of 11-feet, which is uncommon in city apartments and offers a unique quotient to the villa. The wooden flooring and chandeliers add to the exquisiteness of the villas."
The developer’s luxury project in the same township is the Barberry & Bryony project that has all garden facing apartments. With only two apartments per floor, it offers complete privacy to the home buyer.
Not surprisingly, the arrival of these new age luxury projects is giving birth to new addresses that spell ‘arrival’. The cramped, dusty, ageing flavour associated with traditional luxury locations in the inner city has given way to the spaciousness and ethos associated with new addresses.
V Gopal, executive director, projects & planning, Prestige Group, says, "As the luxury market gains momentum in India, people today are looking for novel, innovative amenities as an integral part of their homes. We were the first developers in south India to install smart homes technology. Price is not an impediment as buyers opt for quality first."
Prestige has also tied up with world-renowned interior designers and vendors for designing, furnishing and accessorising each apartment in their upcoming luxury projects. Prestige, along with their international associates, handpick home accessories, artwork, best of toilet fittings and Italian branded wardrobes and kitchens.
Another Bengaluru-based developer, Sobha Limited, is the only full-fledged backward integrated real estate company in India. It has the competence to design and execute all products in-house. This includes various facets of construction such as glazing and metal works, interiors, woodworks, concrete products, architecture and designing, and mechanical, electrical & plumbing (MEP) works. “Through our state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities and an architecture and design team of over 150 talented professionals, we are able to provide international quality products to customers,” says Sharma. Many of their projects are centred on unique themes such as Sobha City – the Mediterranean themed apartments and row houses; Sobha Arena – a sports and outdoor activity focused property, Sobha Silicon Oasis – tropical styled resort residences etc. The company also integrates sustainability practices in its projects. Be it the rain water harvesting facilities, the sewage treatment plant, organic waste converters or ample open spaces and foliage, our projects provide luxury and are environmentally friendly.
Oberoi Realty, on their part, believes in bringing the best of the world to India in terms of quality, design, style and innovation. They follow an outsourcing model by partnering with several domestic and international consultants in the areas of architecture, design, engineering and construction. Their flagship development, Oberoi Garden City, has been master planned by landscape architect David Blackwood Murray from London. In their on-going mixed-use development at Worli, where it has The Ritz Carlton Hotel, and Residences that will be managed by The Ritz Carlton, leading names such as architectural firm KPF, USA, Structural consultant LERA, USA and Samsung C&T are on board.
Ahuja summarises, “Indian developers have not been fazed by the challenge that the deeper socio-economic connotations of what constitutes luxury poses to their new offerings, and have come out with concepts to seek to defy the ‘premium location’ logic. The success with which their efforts have been greeted varies, depending largely on how imaginatively they have been able to bring out the concept of modern luxury in new locations.”
It stands to reason that the country’s most prominent residential locations cannot yield more options for those who look for the highest status value in their homes. However, these buyers will continue to seek specific social environments that developers will have to provide in every new location and project.