Seven years after auction house Sotheby’s real estate brokerage arm landed in India, arch rival Christie’s has followed suit. The famed auction house’s realty division, Christie’s International Real Estate, has tied up with husband-and-wife duo Himmat Singh and Rohini Chaudhri Singh in New Delhi and officially opened doors in the country earlier this year.
“We will effectively be representing Christie’s for all luxury property sales in this region,” Himmat Singh says, underscoring that the specific areas will include North India to focus on South and Central Delhi as well as holiday homes like in the hills of Kasauli. Future expansion will hinge on business growth and outlook and could include Goa, Bengaluru, and the Mumbai markets for high-end real estate, which he defines as anything valued at ₹10 crore and upwards.
Given that Sotheby’s has already been here, why has Christie’s been playing catch-up? Helena De Forton, director of regional operations for Europe, Middle East, Russia, India and Africa, Christie’s International Real Estate, admits that “India is a tough market to enter” and because of that they took their time to find a partner who was fully aligned with their values and expertise. “We did have (earlier) conversations with other partners, but they were not interesting to us.”
There are other reasons, too. Himmat Singh says there are upwards of 2,000 high-end apartments for sale in the Delhi region.
Shubhankar Dongre, co-founder of Zapkey (a Propstack company) says that the last six months have not been without action for the Delhi market. “Across Category A locations like Friends Colony, Golf Links, Shanti Niketan, Sunder Nagar, Vasant Vihar, and Anand Niketan, in the past six months or so there have been about 23 deals over ₹10 crore in value, with seven of those being over ₹20 crore.”
Other metros, too, have supply that Christie’s would find viable. Kamal Khetan, chairman and managing director of premium realty firm Sunteck Realty, says that across most metros—and especially in Mumbai—there’s a vibrant and growing luxury realty segment. His completed projects in Mumbai’s Bandra Kurla Complex have around 35 unsold apartments with an average value that ranges between ₹25 crore and ₹90 crore. “This piece of the industry would be well-served with reputed agents that offer premium branding and marketing capabilities,” he says.
Other luxury players agree. Adarsh Jatia—managing director of Provenance Land which built and owns the Four Seasons Hotel and Four Seasons Private Residences, and other projects in Mumbai—says that predominantly what separates regular brokerage services from brand ones is credibility and trust that’s brought on the table for both the buyer as well as the developer. “Any international brand goes through its checks and balances in terms of quality standards, service levels, and governance. Additionally, most of them also provide holistic end-to-end services like legal and administrative paperwork that are a crucial part of any deal, making them a preferred choice”, Jatia says.
Singh says that the six months after the lockdown restrictions began to be lifted the sector saw a 30% jump in the volume of deals, compared to the six months preceding the lockdown. His point is that even though the classic argument has always been that one can rent for 2% of the cost when it comes to luxury real estate, that mindset has changed with the perception that it is now key to having a bigger roof over one’s head and then figuring the rest of it out, he says.
Christie’s International Real Estate has successfully marketed high-value real estate around the world for over 30 years. Through its New York City brokerage and invitation-only Affiliate network, it has 146 partners across 48 countries and territories, and offers services to a global clientele at the luxury end of the residential property market, says De Forton.
The company has offices in London, New York City, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Palm Beach, and its affiliated brokerages have recorded approximately $500 billion of real estate transactions over the last five years, officials say.
De Forton says that the Delhi office marks the fifth affiliate to be opening in Asia.
Analysts question why the well-heeled would switch real estate brokers to go with Christie’s for local purchases, but the business that Christie’s is going after is not restricted to India alone. Singh adds that Christie’s India office would also be offering outward bound investments for real estate in the western world and other markets outside of India.
But for those in India looking for luxury properties, here’s one more reputed global name to help them in their quest.