x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Agent with a difference but prices stay the same

Raj Shah is on a quest to find "method in the madness" in the $66 billion Indian property industry.

Raj Shah, 29, works for his family owned business Square Feet Realty Consultants in Mumbai, India. Pia Heikilla for The National
Raj Shah, 29, works for his family owned business Square Feet Realty Consultants in Mumbai, India. Pia Heikilla for The National

Raj Shah, 29, is not your typical Indian estate agent.

Soft-spoken and articulate, he is on a quest to find "method in the madness" in the US$66 billion (Dh242.43bn) Indian property industry.

"The Mumbai property industry is huge. However, it lacks a systematic perspective," says Mr Shah, while sipping his iced tea.

He joined his family-owned business, Square Feet Realty Consultants, in 2008 after working at India's popular matrimonial website Shaadi.com.

He has watched the property industry change over the years.

"Hundreds of families come to Mumbai every month. The biggest problem of the industry is basic - there is a limited supply but unlimited demand.

"The city is growing at a rate faster than the rate of infrastructural development," he says.

"Typically a person should be able to buy an apartment in two year's worth of income, but even a 1BHK [one bedroom, hall and kitchen apartment] in South Mumbai can cost as much as 4 Indian rupee crores [Dh2.8 million].

"People can't afford to buy property in Mumbai, so they end up renting."

But renting in this city of dreams is not easy either - apartments are small and rents are going through the roof. Finding a good apartment requires a lot of patience, good connections and a capable agent.

"In this industry anyone can become a property agent. There are multiple agents in each locality and sometimes there are two or three agents in just one lane. The agent network is highly competitive and complicated and agents are overloaded with work, trying to seal a deal before someone else does. The product is more important than the service. So, often, agents tend to be unprofessional," Mr Shah says.

For Square Feet, the internet is one of its main tools. Its six-staff service works with connecting to other estate agents in different localities .

Convinced of the power of the digital medium since his Shaadi.com days, Mr Shah aims to one day open online. "We are working on creating a property portal where people can find a suitable property online, thus cutting short the lead time of finding an apartment drastically."

He is particularly pleased with a 2BHK rental deal he has recently closed in the Beaumonde Towers in the posh locality of Prabhadevi.

With a monthly rental of $4,800 and a deposit of $27,300, on site amenities include six swimming pools, tennis courts and even a mini theatre. But what does one find in this city on a monthly budget of say $117?

Mr Shah looks stumped. "Even a 1BHK in the district of Thane [an hour's train ride from central Mumbai] would cost $156 per month."

business@thenational.ae