Dhaka, Aug 14 (bangladeshinside.com) — Realtors are slashing apartment prices in a bid to revive the housing sector, reports the Daily Star.

“The apartment prices in Dhaka are around 25 percent cheaper now than three years ago,” said Toufiq M Seraj, managing director of Sheltech (Pvt) Ltd, a real estate company.

In 2010-11, each square foot of a flat was trading at Tk 16,000 in Dhanmondi, he said. “Now, it has come down to Tk 12,000-13,000.”

In sector-10 of Uttara, an apartment is now selling at Tk 4,500 per square foot, which was Tk 6,000-6,500 in three years ago, according to Seraj.

Md Abdul Awal, managing director of Structural Engineers Ltd, another developer, however, said further price cuts are needed as apartment values “increased abnormally in 2010 and 2011”.

Around 18,000-20,000 ready flats currently remain unsold, according to Md Wahiduzzaman, general secretary of Real Estate and Housing Association of Bangladesh (REHAB), a platform of realtors.

“Most of us are now at a break-even point. Cash-flow is needed to adjust bank loans. If we don’t pay interest in due time, our liability will rise significantly. We have no other option but to charge low rates.”

Meanwhile, Bangladesh Bank’s directive on Monday to rein in banks’ exposure to real estate suggests apartment prices are likely to fall further.

Banks will not be able to spend more than 30 percent of their paid-up capital on real estate and are forbidden from buying any new property unless they bring down their portfolio to the new threshold, the notice said.

The government, too, has taken a number of steps, such as the scope to gain amnesty for black money by investing in the housing sector and resumption of new gas and electricity connection for ready flats, to stimulate the sector.

But the sector is still failing to lure in customers. The precarious political scenario and higher lending rates, too, are not helping matters, the realtors argued.

“Customers have taken a ‘wait and see’ approach due to uncertainties over the next general election,” said Md Kamruzzaman, managing director of Greho Noksha Holdings Ltd, another real estate company, which has around 50 ready apartments in Dhaka and Chittagong.

His two companies, Greho Noksha Holdings and Western developers Ltd, usually sell around Tk 30 crore worth of apartments annually. He, however, expects the figure to halve this year.

The opportunity to legalise black money via the housing sector has not so far received good responses, he said.

Around 1,200 REHAB members build, on average, 15,000 apartments a year, according to industry insiders. The sector now employs around 30 lakh skilled, semi skilled and unskilled people, contributing around 15 percent to the gross domestic product.

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