Being a real estate agent in Lahore, Azeem like many others peers invested in the one of the most sought after housing society in the city. News of the mastermind behind the project Malik Riaz being caught up in a national level scandal has witnessed prices of the society plummet and create a panic among real estate agents.
“I have not only invested my savings in this scheme, but also money of my investors,” said Azeem.
The society has been doing well for some years and was providing a big relief to the real estate market of Lahore but the scandal is reversing the land price and putting our investments in jeopardy.
Malik Riaz, one of Pakistan’s most high-profile businessmen, has alleged that Arsalan Iftikhar, son of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, took almost $3.6 million from him in exchange for favourable verdicts in cases involving Riaz’s businesses. The case is still under trial at the Supreme Court.
Prices of a 605-square yard plot have declined up to Rs200,000 in the last few days, agents told The Express Tribune.
There was a time when the real estate developments in Lahore were based purely on providing housing units, with little regard for any other facilities. The military-owned Defence Housing Authority began offering a few improvements in infrastructure but the trend did not catch on until the late 1990s, when Bahria Town began offering ‘lifestyle real estate’. From then on, a trend started that has continued since.
Other than this, another boom to the real estate market was the migration of people from across the province looking for a save-haven against the rise in criminal activities.
Bahria Town is the second largest housing society after Defence Housing Authority in Lahore, however, the property magnate backed-society has become the preferred choice due to its unique and international living standards.
Prices of land and houses have been stagnant in DHA while Bahria Town prices have declined. Majority of the growing middle class is investing in Bahria Town as it is much cheaper and provides more facilities than DHA.
The day the saga hit all news channels, investors panicked and started selling, even at prices lower than the market going rate, said property expert Shahreyar Ashraf while warning that this is just the start.
The son of Malik Riaz, Ali Riaz, in a statement recently announced that he is handling Bahria Town affairs, but this was not enough to lift investor confidence, Ashraf added. The real estate market is volatile to news flows.
Investors fearing the worst have started shifting their investment to other societies.
Property investors operating at a large scale have the option to divert their investment but we can’t, said Azeem. We can just pray and hope for the best, he added.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 17th, 2012.