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India office and home sales fall most in decade: Knight Frank

[MUMBAI] Sales of homes and leasing of offices across eight of India's biggest cities saw their steepest fall in a decade in the first half of 2020, according to Knight Frank, as lockdowns to contain the coronavirus pandemic worsened already slowing economic growth and consumer demand.

Residential sales fell 54 per cent and absorption of office space declined 37 per cent between January and June from the same period a year earlier, the research firm said in a report published Thursday. Although policy makers have slashed interest rates, Knight Frank said higher risk perception has erased these gains on mortgages.

"With income uncertainty for future, demand for housing will take a hit," said chairman Shishir Baijal.

Commercial office space, which was the only bright spot in India's otherwise struggling property market this decade, has seen vacancy rise to 14.1 per cent from 12.7 per cent a year ago. Around 6.3 million square feet has been surrendered by occupiers back to landlords as revenue disruptions caused by the pandemic forced them to cut costs, Knight Frank said.

Bengaluru accounted for almost 56 per cent of the space surrendered during January to June. Transaction volumes in Mumbai, India's financial hub, fell by a relatively modest 17 per cent due to two large deals that amounted to almost half of the city's total transactions "and salvaged an otherwise disastrous period", Knight Frank said.

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"Most occupiers are expected to hesitate in committing to expansion in the current market scenario and may delay their leasing decisions for later," according to the report. "For the office market, it will be a wait and watch till a more permanent solution to this pandemic is found."

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