April 09, 2007

Temple Wall Pulls Down Real Estate Prices

MUMBAI: This is one wall that has brought property prices crashing down. Realty experts say the recently erected security perimeter around Siddhivinayak Temple at Prabhadevi has pulled down the prices of apartments in and around that area by 15-20 per cent. A couple of years back the property prices were hovering around the Rs15,000 per square feet mark. “Today the prices have come down to Rs12,000 per square feet,” property consultant Ashish Desai told DNA. “If the wall comes down the prices will increase to Rs17,000-18,000 per square feet.” Desai even claims that residents are “fed up” and are willing to sell their flats for less than Rs12,000 per square feet. Besides the wall, experts also point to other reasons for depressed prices around the temple “Compared to the residents in Bandra or Mahim, who face problems once a year for a 10-day festival, residents near Siddhiviinayak face problems every week. Any prospective buyer is going to be sceptical,” says Pranay Vakil, chairman, Knight Frank Property Consultants. “There is at least a 15 per cent difference in the prices of apartments in this area (in and around the temple) to those of other places around Prabhadevi,” says property consultant Atul Shah. “The particular buildings in line of Siddhivinayak temple face the maximum price problem.”Residents admit that enquiries for their properties have come down in the past year, despite their willingness to reduce the price. Amrish Mehta, who has been a resident of Silver Apartments for the last 25 years, is disappointed at the manner in which prices have slumped in recent years.“I bought this flat, behind Siddhivinayak, for Rs600,000 (Rs1200 per square feet) twenty-five years ago. In such an inflated market like Mumbai, we are not even getting buyers for Rs10,000 per sq ft,” says Mehta.Several local brokers say the flats in and around the temple do not command the price they deserve because the wall has completely blocked all the access points. A case in point is the Kakasaheb Gadgil Marg — the road that comes from Portuguese Church to Siddhivinayak – which has been cut off for last two years. Another is the scrapping of the bus stop outside the temple due to the wall.“Access to roads, public transport and the like determine the quality of life, which unfortunately has deteriorated because of the wall. So it isn’t really a surprise that real estate prices have dropped in the area,” says Vinod Desai, secretary, Citizens Forum. “After the wall came up, even our emergency gate has got sealed as the temple’s metal detectors are placed outside it.” Prabhadevi is known for its high quality educational institutions, like the Convent Girls High School, and that has been one of the attractions of the locality.“My friend who lived in Parel got admission for his daughters in Convent Girls’ High School. He was getting a flat in an upcoming building near the temple two years ago for Rs11,000 per sq ft. But seeing the traffic snarls he opted for a more expensive house in Shivaji Park,” Chetan Save, member of Parent-Teacher Association, Convent Girls’ High School, told DNA. Experts say the wall has blocked even emergency access to the buildings in the temple area. “Even Mumba Devi is in a crowded area and is the oldest temple of our city. But the fire brigade can reach it far easily than at Siddhivinayak. Why should anyone pay for lack of basic safety?” asks SG Maheshwari, former president of Real Estate Association of India.