Chandigarh, October 26, 2020.

As ever-increasing numbers of Americans and other Westerners are moving abroad as expats, both working and retirees, the time has come for the Indian realty market to focus on attracting this segment as potential buyers and renters of high-quality housing. The number of expats has more than doubled in the last fifteen years, according to the most recent figures released by the U.S.government in 2017. The US State Department estimated that in 2016 nine million Americans were living abroad as compared with four million in 1999. And, the number is expected to keep going up as baby-boomers, those born in the late 1940s, take retirements in massive numbers in the next few years.

“Highly affordable cost of living and healthcare were cited as the top reasons by expats, especially retirees, among their criteria for selecting their destination country,” said Expat Insider 2018 in a report. Vietnam and Malaysia featured among the top 10 countries for retirees, International Living magazine said in August this year. Chandigarh-based Family Nest Real Estates Pvt Ltd. Director Jatin Mohan Seth said that if Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia can rank among the top countries for Western retirees, surely India offers equally strong, perhaps even better, attractions to compete. “Take the Indian healthcare industry, for example. Medical tourism, worth $3 billion in 2015, attracted 234,000 foreign patients that year providing healthcare at one-tenth the cost that Americans typically pay at home,” he further said. Government figures show that by 2017, the number of arrivals had jumped to 495,056, and a further quantum jump is expected by 2025.

Texas-based Professor Emeritus, Kuldip R. Rampal, said that, “when you consider India’s highly affordable living costs, entertainment and amenities, attractively priced housing, good climate, wide use of the English language, an open and stable political system, then you have a country that has the makings of a top retiree destination. “The question is: Are the government, through favorable residency and visa policies, and the housing industry, through attractive buying and rental packages, ready to reach out to woo this clientele?” Rampal asked.

Rising foreign investments in Indian realty indicate that the West is looking at India with renewed interest. For example, Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management is buying Indian developer RMZ Corp.’s commercial properties for $2 billion, the biggest real estate deal in India, Bloomberg reported Oct. 20. Cumulatively, Indian realty has attracted more than $15 billion in foreign investment since 2011, according to property research firm Knight Frank. “Such investments bode well for the construction of housing units and apartment buildings as per global standards,” Jatin Mohan Seth said. That should provide an additional incentive not just to expats, but also to NRIs, he added.

Kuldip R. Rampal added “NRIs and overseas citizens of India are likely to throng the Real Estate market due to prices bottoming out and a bright growth outlook for the Indian economy.” Indeed, BloombergQuint reported on Aug. 21, 2020, that as many as 40,000 NRIs could be looking to purchase assets in India. If this demand gets converted into sales once travel curbs ease, post Covid-19; this could be a “historical high.” Weaker rupee, low interest rates and integrated townships, which offer lifestyle features similar to what expats have experienced in foreign countries, are triggers that are bound to convert interest into sales. Rampal added, “As the world’s romance with China subsides in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is India that is attracting huge global attention. Indian Realty and government should do their part to take advantage of this welcome phenomenon.”

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