Gone Up

As anticipated there has been no panic sale of properties in worst flood hit areas in Srinagar.  Sehar Qazi reports how some of the posh addresses in Srinagar refuse to bow down to market pressure

Collapsed-house-during-floods-2014

Few days after floods, a signboard reading ‘House for Sale’ hung outside a partially damaged residence in Bal Garden area of Srinagar. The owner was asking for Rs 50 lakh. But when he got no response, he removed the signboard and started repairing the house on his own. “There were apprehensions that market would take a hit post September floods,” said a property dealer from the areas. But as life started to limp back to normal the slum in the market seemed unlikely. Months later, after repairing the house, the owner sold it for a whooping Rs 1.25 crores.

Official records suggest September 2014 floods left 261361 structures damaged, while washing away 21000 of them completely. It forced valley’s otherwise booming real estate market in a lurch, though temporarily.

Even after a year, a good number of people still live in Musafir Khanna as rebuilding or purchasing a new house needed huge investment.

One look around the city’s worst hit areas and one comes across a mix of exquisitely giant, desolate and dirty houses.

“Investors know where to invest their money. Land is always a safe investment. There are people who don’t have money to rebuild their damaged houses so they prefer to sell them. They take the money and shift to some other place,” says Farooq Ahmad, a resident of Raj Bagh.

Ghulam Mohammad, 80, resident of Lal Mandi sits near his new painted cement shop observing the changing skyline around him. “There has been a sudden change in the real estate market after flood. Houses and shops are being sold at high prices and at some place at a lesser margin. Overall rates have not decreased rather there is an increase. Selling and buying of properties has been more in the Jawahar Nagar area as compared to our area.”

The cost of property varies according to the location. It is high in commercial areas compared to residential colonies.

Mushtaq Ahmad, a resident of Ikhrajpora believes that there has been a substantial increase in property rates despite floods. “One of my neighbors sold his house and shifted to Harwan. The house was sold at around Rs 80 lakh which is more than the asking price before floods,” says Mushtaq.

Since September floods, areas in north Kashmir have seen skyrocket growth in housing and real estate sector.

Farooq Ahmad, a property dealer from Baramulla says, “The change was only in terms of number of deals and the circulation of money. Everything else has remained the same.”

The slow circulation of money post floods only delayed real estate deals, not cancellations as assumed by the property gurus. “There has been a slight increase in migration to safer places. But this migration is more on the lines of economical benefit. People are selling their houses located inside commercial areas and shifting to lesser expensive areas for living.”

Walking through the narrow lanes of Sutra Sahi one could feel the signs of flood even after a year. Pointing towards the newly constructed houses, Shareef Din seems to have full knowledge about the rates and the houses sold in his locality, “This house was sold for Rs 30 lakh after flood. Now the new owner is eyeing an Rs 56 lakh deal, all in a span of few months.”

Even after one year Shutra Shahi areas in Srinagar presents a desolate picture. Avatar Singh, a local resident’s house was completely damaged in the floods. All he could salvage was mud and stones. “I had to build it again brick-by-brick,” says Singh. “Apart from rising property rates inflation in building material prices is quite worrisome. Everything including cement is sold at a higher price.”

Singh believes that the market value of land has largely increased, but not decreased.

Farooq Ahmad, a resident of Gol Market in Karan Nagar, who own a grocery store in the area, is busy collecting money from his regular customers. “Who said rates have decreased? They are at all time high.”

Recently, a house in commercial area of Karan Nagar was sold at Rs 1.20 crore after floods, much higher than expected. The buyer has dismantled the house paving way for a multi storey shopping complex.

Jawahar Nagar area is no different. People have converted their damaged houses into commercial shopping spaces. There is no such thing as post flood panic selling as perceived by people. “There was a house that was sold for Rs 2.30 crores recently. The buyer converted it into a big shopping complex,” says Sidiq Ahmad, a local resident.

Last month 1.5 kanal of land was sold at Rs 1.25 crore in Jawahar Nagar, says Shaban Dar.

While big properties are sold at the same rate there has been hike in the price of small properties. The deals that were finalized before the flood got delayed because sellers started observing the market post floods. “The slump in flow of money stalled many such deals. But mostly it was because of sellers change in heart post floods that called off the deals,” says Dar.

Even in areas like Chattabal property rates have skyrocketed. Farooq Ahmad Zargar, a local, giggles at the fact that few months back two rooms have been sold at Rs 13 lakh. “Property rates are touching sky post floods. I fail to understand this phenomenon. This area was inundated up to first storey level!”

Recently 4 marlas of land were sold at Rs 20 lakh, compared to standard Rs 16 Lakh last year.

The market has increased in areas like Soura, Zakura, Lal Bazaar, and downtown as compared to other uptown areas. “Land prices have never gone down in Kashmir, no matter what happens. Even during peak militancy ear land prices have only gone up,” feels Nazir Ahmad Bhat, a resident of Karan Nagar who is dealing in properties since last 20 years.

Interestingly, there has been a reverse migration of sorts, thought very small, to downtown areas of Srinagar city. “It was because this part of the city was safe during floods. People who have migrated from old city shifted back,” says Azad Khan, a property dealer from downtown.

“One of my friends who lived here wants to come back. Recently I sold a house to a party for Rs 30 Lakh,” says Khan.

Meanwhile south Kashmir has witnessed migration of people from areas like Sonwar, Shivpora and other adjoining areas. “One kanal of land at Konibal near Pampore now costs Rs 40 lakh. Before floods the same land would find no taker for ever Rs 10 lakh,” says Mushtaq Ahmad Ganie, a social activist and resident of Pampore. “Whereas 1 kanal at Zaffron colony now sells at Rs 45 lakh compared to Rs 25 lakh before floods.”

Mushtaq believes that this increase is rooted in the fact that these areas remained untouched during recent floods. “People feel safe at higher altitudes.”


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