The Indian real estate industry, particularly the residential sector, was in the past correctly characterized as being unregulated and unorganized with unreasonable project delays and poor quality of construction being definitive aspects.

The arrival of the Real Estate Regulatory Act (RERA) in March 2016 brought in a paradigm shift in the sector and metamorphosed it into a more mature, systematic and regulated one. RERA came into force on May 1, 2017, and is meant to be a homebuyer-friendly regime which will address their grievances and promote transparency, efficiency, financial discipline and accountability in the sector.

Indeed, buying a home is not only the most cherished dream for many Indians but also one of the biggest long-term financial commitment in the buyers’ lifetime. Considering this, there are 14 important guidelines incorporated in the RERA umbrella to prevent unscrupulous players from raining on consumers’ homebuying plans:

1. Enforcing timely delivery of projects: In case of project delays, buyers have the right to – (i) Seek withdrawal of booking (the developer is liable to refund the entire amount along with interest)
(ii) Go ahead with the project (with the condition that developer will pay interest for every month of delay until the property is ready for possession). The maximum time for refunding the buyer’s investment is within 45 days of it becoming due.

2. Facility to check RERA registration number: All builders have to mandatorily register their projects under RERA with the respective state regulatory authority and obtain a registration number for every project. Without RERA registration, developers are not allowed to sell the project. The project details, construction progress, commencement/occupation and other certificates, sales details, etc. must be updated on the single-point information window i.e. RERA portal, at regular intervals.

3. Financial safety via an escrow account: Homebuyers’ investments can be considered safe, as RERA obliges developers to deposit at least 70% of the buyers’ money received for a particular project into an escrow account. This prevents the developers from ‘rolling’ these funds into other projects. The rolling of funds was a major reason for project delays in the past.

4. Ability to verify the builder’s track record: Buyers can now opt for properties only from reputed developers who are complying with RERA norms and have a good track record and financial stability, which can be verified by buyers.

5. Transparency in advertisement and marketing collaterals: Developers can now promote a project only after registering it with RERA. The unique RERA registration number has to be published with every advertisement/brochure, or in any kind of project promotion at all.

6. Clarity on carpet area: The hitherto conventional practice of developers charging homebuyers on the basis of the super built-up area no longer works. Under RERA, the quoted price has to be mandatorily based on the carpet area of the property. What you see is what you get (and buy).

7. Strict norms on building changes: Around 2/3rd of the buyers’ consent in a particular project is necessary in case the developer intends to modify the building or layout plans/specifications/liabilities in the project.

8. Facility to check payment plans: Homebuyers can do due diligence before opting for a particular payment plan, a variety of which developers now offer – including flexi-payment, down-payment, possession-linked and construction- linked plans.

9. Booking amount cannot exceed 10%: Developers can only take 10% of the total property cost as a booking amount while the sale agreement is drafted at later stages. RERA prohibits developers to accept more than this. If guilty of charging more than 10%, the developer potentially invites a penalty of imprisonment of up to 3 years.

10. Brokers must be registered under RERA, too: As service providers to real estate consumers, property brokers are also liable for all deliverables committed by the developers they represent. Hence, they must register themselves with their respective state Regulatory Authorities.

11. At long last, a reliable redressal mechanism: RERA provides a strong redressal mechanism to consumers by imposing a penalty on developers/brokers for any breach of obligation. Homebuyers can file complaints against developers/ brokers which will mandatorily be resolved in a span of 60 days from the date of the complaint.

12. Structural defects must be addressed: In case of issues within the building or apartment, such as inefficient plumbing, visible cracks, etc. in the initial five years after possession, developers are liable to rectify the defect in less than 30 days or else give compensation to the buyer.

13. Availability of land title documents: These vitally important documents were, more often than not, inaccessible to buyers before RERA. Now, they can scrutinize documents related to a project’s land title ownership on the RERA website.

14. Goodbye to soft/pre-launches: RERA has put a complete halt to soft launches, pre-launches and any other interpretations of selling something which doesn’t exist as yet. As a result, speculators have now been pushed out and the market has turned extremely buyer-friendly.

REAL ESTATE INDIA Three Major India Real Estate Hiring Trends in 2018

When it comes to the factors influencing recruitment trends in Indian real estate in 2018, a lot comes to mind. However, there are three interesting developments which can be considered predominant among them:

1. Technology adoption

Adeptness in digital technology and upskilling to Digitech skills are definitely prime watchwords for selecting the right candidates. To be sure, technology is the change driver around which more and more real estate recruitment decisions will be taken.

This is because, whether an industry which tends to hang stubbornly on to the traditional ways of doing its business likes it or not, technology will replace – and in fact is already replacing – at least 75% of the traditional methods of sourcing real estate opportunities at both the buyers’ and sellers’ end. In this highly opportunistic market, operational speed is of greater essence than ever before, and the use of technology to achieve this speed is indispensable.

Nor is this increasing focus on technological skills limited to just consultancies – even developers have woken up to the fact that they cannot survive any longer without getting the ‘tech edge’, and prefer hiring young people who have these skills in their DNA, so to speak, rather than investing in upskilling their existing workforce.

Especially in the case of smaller developers, there is a very visible aversion to technology adoption among older employees who fail to understand what all the fuss is about. However, such developers face a much deeper problem. Their inherent lack of knowledge about modern technology-driven ways of doing real estate business makes hiring the right talent difficult. In many cases, they would have to change almost their entire staff – beginning with HR – to not only hire but also adequately utilize more tech-adept people.

In response to the deep-rooted technology handicap that such developers face, the agiler real estate consultancies and brokerages leveraged real estate technology long before, and are able to provide their clients with the benefits of this expertise. Being already tech-entrenched, they also know exactly which kind of talent to hire, and provide constant upskilling to ensure that they stay ahead of the constant and lightning-fast tech learning curve.

2. RERA (non) compliance

The second real estate hiring trend of note in 2018 is dictated by the recent policy changes which have defined how real estate business is done in India. While it has not managed to make a 360-degree sweep of them as yet, RERA is in the process of eliminating non-registered property brokers from the field.

Individual brokers working with a real estate consultancy are covered under the company’s RERA registration and do not need to register under RERA individually. However, this game-changing act has still had a distinct impact on the hiring activities of RERA-registered consultancies. Many smaller brokerages (and individual brokers) do not, for any of a number of reasons, see themselves as having much of a future in the post-RERA era.

The operatives which such agencies have had to let go, and individual brokers who have some degree of real estate experience but cannot hope to succeed on their own now, are currently scouting the job market for opportunities. The numbers here are considerable, and the result is that there is something of a glut of aspiring real estate agents applying with RERA-registered property consultancies.

However, because of the stringent rules that RERA requires property consultancies to comply with, less than 10% of this newly-available talent is actually recruitable by serious real estate firms.

Brokers who made a living bending the rules or ignoring them altogether are often too set in their ways to learn to play by the book. This makes them very risky hiring propositions, no matter what they profess – the saying ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions’ comes easily to mind. RERA-registered property consultancies cannot afford to gamble on wild cards. The kind of talent they now look for is grass-roots honest and firmly believes in transparency, rather than just nodding vaguely in its direction.

3. The diversity imperative

Diversity is and will continue to be a very big factor directing the HR policies of real estate players who are in it for the long haul. This is not just about amplifying their appeal on the job and business market – it is about recognizing that a workforce with a good balance of men and women simply does better business. Indian real estate has historically been a pretty male-oriented arena, but this is changing fast.

Not only does broadening the hiring decisions open up at least 50% more qualified and appropriately tempered candidates; it also is the framework of a significantly more productive workforce. Also, women are really excellent at not only property brokering and consulting but also as researchers, team players and team motivators. In 2018, we are already seeing a lot more women being hired by the larger and organized real estate developers, property consultancies and home finance firms.