A pandemic property boom has struck Goa, stoked by Indians fleeing crowded cities where coronavirus has been rampant.
The popular beach resort on India’s south-western coast is typically a favourite winter destination for sun-seeking European tourists. But foreign arrivals have dried up after the country shut its borders last year as the virus swept across the country.
Goa has instead been deluged by domestic arrivals, many of whom are looking to hunker down in the tropical idyll for months while waiting out the pandemic. India has been hard hit by coronavirus, with 10.8m confirmed cases and more than 154,000 deaths.
“I have never done so many rentals,” said Rishi Kawatra, a local property broker. “We don’t have places. All my rental inventory is finished.”
Demand for properties to buy is also strong, in sharp contrast with the malaise elsewhere in India. “A lot of people are selling properties in Delhi and Bombay and shifting here permanently,” Kawatra said.
Amit Chopra, president of the Goa Association of Realtors, said: “Goa has natural social distancing because of the lower population density. People want those kinds of open spaces, which you don’t get in cities.”
Brokers said most arrivals were wealthy and looking for second homes. They were often retirees and IT professionals working from home who were fed up with claustrophobic urban apartments.
“They can get a much larger place for a much lesser price here,” said Chopra. “A lot of people are looking to buy a place that can give them a working space also.”
Goa, like much of India, was put under lockdown in March in a bid to contain the virus. Thousands of foreign tourists, mainly Europeans, were stranded before being ferried out on special evacuation flights.
But when domestic travel restrictions were eased in July, urban Indians began travelling to the city, often driving hundreds of kilometres to avoid contact with crowds.
Anshu Dorairaj, a financial services executive from Mumbai, rented a villa on a long-term lease to live and run a ceramics studio. “Here, restaurants are open, beaches are open and you can go out for dinner with friends,” she said.
Dorairaj said she had met many residents of Bangalore, Pune, New Delhi and Mumbai who initially came to Goa for a brief respite but have decided to stay, enabled by the work from home policies still in force for many Indians with white-collar jobs.
“You could be in Timbuktu but it doesn’t make a difference as long as you are delivering,” she said.
Surging demand is driving up prices. Apartment rental rates in Goa’s have risen by 15 per cent to 20 per cent in the “beach belt” since July, and 10 per cent to 15 per cent inland. The price of land for building villas in popular beach locations is up 30 per cent to 35 per cent, Chopra said.
Standalone villas — some priced as high as $2m — are scarce, with most buildings due for completion over the next three years already sold out.
“Luxury villas used to sell when they were almost nearing completion,” Chopra said. “Now ‘ready to move in’ is very rare. The inventory is exhausted.”