Mumbai: Neeraj Sharma, proprietor at the Sharma Real Estate brokerage firm in North Goa, was hit by a slump in business in March, when the entire country and most of the world went into a lockdown due to Covid-19. Migrants, who made up a bulk of the rental market in Goa, left in large numbers as some lost jobs and others started working from home. Commercial rentals too were hit with offices scaling down premises.
But then, by 1 September, the Goa government opened its borders and lifted all restrictions on the movement of people, and Sharma’s business saw an uptick, albeit a small one.
“We have lost our regular market, but we are getting a lot of calls from people outside Goa who are looking to rent or buy houses here, since they are anyway ‘working from home’. These are mostly people from big cities such as Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune,” Sharma said. “Business is now slightly better because of such people.”
With Covid-19 still looming large and many offices allowing employees to work remotely — some even indefinitely — several big city dwellers have begun acting on their once-wishful plans of moving to Goa. Insiders from Goa’s real estate market say this has pushed up the demand for mid-to-upper-range villas, apartments in gated communities, as well as houses in the state’s luxury segment.
Half the rent, double the space
Dhruv Sachar, 25, who works in a Mumbai-based advertising agency, moved with four of his friends to an independent house in Parra over a month ago.
Parra is a quaint, green village lined with palm trees, conveniently located on the outskirts of Mapusa town and close to the beaches of Anjuna and Vagator, famous destinations on Goa’s tourist map. For Sachar, this is the opposite of living in Mumbai’s congested, traffic-ridden Goregaon, as he did until recently.
“I love Goa and moving here eventually was always on the cards. The pandemic accelerated my plans. We were working from home and we were told that we will be doing so indefinitely. When we have to get back to office, we will be told a month in advance,” Sachar said, adding he often finishes work and goes for a walk or unwinds at one of his favourite bars.
For now, Sachar has signed a three-month lease, but his landlord has assured him that he and his friends can extend it and stay for longer if they decide to.
Sachar and his friends pay Rs 40,000 a month for their four-bedroom Goa house. “I was paying more than half of this for a one-bedroom flat in Mumbai,” he said.
Akshat Awasthi, a talent acquisition manager for a media company, moved to Goa last month for a “more balanced lifestyle”. He moved with his wife, a freelance visual designer, and their dog, Sky.
“We have found a house in Canca in North Goa. The rentals are 50-60 per cent cheaper here. We have taken a lease of 11 months and plan to stay here,” Awasthi said. “Sky has been to the beach a couple of times and loves it.”
Slight increase in rentals, inventory running out
Real estate developers say people are largely interested in locales around Goa’s northern coast, such as Vagator, Siolim, Assagao, and the hinterlands of Goa.
Amit Chopra, president of the Goa Association of Realtors, said the influx of people looking for short and long leases has pushed up rentals by about 5-7 per cent.
“In certain segments, rentals have also moved up by 10-15 per cent. There is supply as of now, but the number of people coming in is only increasing, and at some point, the supply will start slowing down,” he said.
Chopra, director at Escala Realty Pvt Ltd, added that a lot of IT sector employees are among those moving to Goa, because ‘work from home’ culture is relatively permanent in their jobs.
Property sales have also seen a boost, he said. “Investors who always had an eye on Goa thought it was a good time to invest. The pandemic has also changed the way people think. Those with flats worth Rs 20 crore in Mumbai are now investing in grand villas at just Rs 4 crore-Rs 5 crore in Goa. Today, the inventory in the luxury segment is almost over,” he said.
Jagannath Desh Prabhudesai, former president of the Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Associations of India (CREDAI) in Goa, said the inquiries started pouring in as early as the two-month-long complete lockdown.
“Covid-wise, the situation is not any better, but Goa’s real estate market is picking up. People from places such as Mumbai and Delhi are showing interest in buying property. Many are buying houses and putting them up for holiday rentals,” he said, adding that the interest is largely in the north, close to the beaches.