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Is now a good time to invest in real estate?



by Nayana Mawilmada, Sector Head, John Keells Properties

Real estate in central Colombo has been inaccessible to a majority of Sri Lankans for quite some time. But if there was ever a window of opportunity to consider investing, now might be it.

With interest rates in Sri Lanka lower than they have been at any point in recent memory, fixed income options have drastically reduced, while the ever dependable and safe fixed deposit has become considerably less attractive after rates plummeted. So if you want your money to continue growing – or at the very least to preserve its value – real estate may be your best bet.

Investing in real estate, however, is not without risk; and in a crowded marketplace, potential investors should carefully consider their options. An understanding of the dynamics of city evolution may help.

The Future of Colombo

Colombo is a city of approximately 560,000 (within the Colombo Municipal zone), with about half a million more people commuting into the city every day. The traffic is mind-numbing. But why do people choose to spend literally years of their lives sitting through traffic?

Colombo is the epicentre of the country; most high-paying jobs, leading schools, hospitals, and malls among other social infrastructure are concentrated in Colombo. And this will likely remain the case for the next several decades.

Unfortunately, through a combination of limited affordability, lack of innovation in mortgage lending, sky high construction costs, and inadequate policy direction, the dream of home ownership in Colombo has eluded many. And thus, many learn to live with the drudgery of the daily commute.

While revamped public transport and infrastructure could change this picture drastically, that is still quite a way away from becoming a reality. What is almost certain in any eventuality is that Colombo prices will continue to rise – and if you have a bit of money to invest and get started, you can profit from it.

Even in the midst of a pandemic, the fundamental socio economic forces driving people to hover around Colombo will not change that fast. Cities provide economies of scale that make it easier to access (or distribute) resources and services.


The Mortgage Solution

Mortgages give people access, choice, and the ability to afford convenience. It is, therefore, vital that the housing finance industry begins to innovate.

At John Keells Properties, we have been focused on mortgages for a while now as a means to complement our offering at TRI-ZEN—the cutting-edge apartment community we are developing on Union Place. Our most recent innovation—the Freedom Mortgage—aims to give homebuyers and investors some breathing space and flexibility.

The Freedom Mortgage plan essentially ensures customers a two-year interest free period on their mortgage, with the customer paying 20% up front and the bank taking up the remaining 80%. Once that initial payment is made customers don’t need to make another payment for a further two years. After two years, interest payments begin, and capital repayments start three years after that. Interest rates are locked in at 8.75% for five years, or nine percent for 10 years with the Commercial Bank. Of course, selling the apartment and capturing gains on the full value still remains an option during this entire period.


When investing, location and timing are key

Humanity will survive the pandemic; and so will Colombo. While we may see a temporary slump in rental demand due to the pandemic and an exodus of expats, we will undoubtedly see that bounce back as well.

It’s important to keep an eye out for opportunities. Yes, interest rates are muted and FDs and other fixed income instruments available today will barely keep you above inflation, but at the same time mortgage costs are also low and banks are under pressure to lend, so you can get good deals on housing mortgages.

When property hunting in Colombo, proximity to the core (Colombo-1 and two), combined with the neighbourhood context, would be important in ensuring convenience and rentability. Picking a developer with the track record and strength to survive a downturn is also crucial, particularly if you consider a property that is under construction. Finding the right product match for your wallet and lifestyle is critical too.

Ultimately, if you pick the right real estate product in the right location, and have the discipline to look medium term and ride out the current turmoil, you will likely do very well.

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Cabraal briefs Chief Incumbents on Port City Project Commission Bill



On the instructions of the President and the Prime Minister, State Minister of Finance Ajith Nivard Cabraal on April 19 visited the Asgiriya Chapter, the Malwathu Chapter and the Chief Prelates of the Amarapura and Ramanna Maha Nikayas and briefed them on the relevant draft commission bill on Port City Project.

Cabinet Minister Prasanna Ranatunga, Minister of State Lohan Ratwatte, Minister of State Kanaka Herath, MP Wasantha Yapa Bandara and MP Kokila Gunawardena were also present on the occasion.



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Growing importance of training for nurses taking care of patients with NCDs



To keep pace with the rapid expansion and increasing complexity of elderly home healthcare, training needs of home healthcare nurses must be identified and subsequent training programs implemented. English Nursing Care conducts training sessions on a weekly basis covering a variety of care needs for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) such as diabetes. The World Health Organisation (WHO) record that NCDs are estimated to account for 75% of total deaths in Sri Lanka.

Furthermore, according to the Sri Lankan Ministry of Health “although people are living longer, they live more years suffering from disease and disability, mainly from NCDs; life expectancy at birth in Sri Lanka is 74.9 years but healthy life expectancy at birth is only 67.0 years.” This has a significant impact on quality of life.

English Nursing Care Sri Lanka works towards improving the quality of life of the elderly living with NCD’s by training nurses on the most advanced and developed methodologies brought through years of experience internationally and locally. Being responsible for the well-being of your loved ones is pivotal in the service they provide.

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SriLankan Airlines welcomes Indian delegation to Sri Lanka



SriLankan Airlines in a bid to recommence Indian tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka under the proposed bio-bubble tourist arrival concept successfully completed a familiarization tour for Indian media and travel trade professionals recently. A delegation of tour operators, agents, and senior editors representing influential media institutions concluded a familiarization tour in Sri Lanka.

The delegation spent six nights and seven days touring the country while being subjected to mandatory PCR testing and other health guidelines imposed by the Ministry of Health. Upon arriving in Sri Lanka, the delegation toured the most sought-after local tourist sites including Dambulla, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, and Bentota. The tour was initiated by SriLankan Holidays and the ground arrangements for the tour were handled by Jetwing Travels, Aitken Spence, Sri Lanka Convention Bureau (SLCB), and Hamoos Travels.

The main purpose of their participation in this fam tour was to restore confidence in visiting Sri Lanka, especially among the Indian tourists to provide them in-depth knowledge on how the country’s tourism industry operates under the bio-bubble concept. Apart from visiting various places, they experienced the stringent health and safety protocols adopted by the country in resuming tourism under the “bio-bubble” concept allowing tourists to roam around without mixing with the local population.

During their stay here, the delegation was hosted for a virtual meet-and-greet with SriLankan Airlines Chairman Ashok Pathirage, Chief Executive Officer Vipula Gunathilleka, and Head of Worldwide Sales & Distribution Dimuthu Tennakoon. The discussion focused on the airline’s operations to India, vaccination and quarantine travel arrangements between the two countries, current safety measures, and guidelines pertaining to the bio-bubble concept. They lauded the effort taken by officials to make their trip a memorable one.

The Indian delegation was highly impressed with the opportunities they were given to travel and explore the country and its exclusive holiday prospects for the enthusiastic traveller. This fam tour was a manifestation of the immense potential of Sri Lanka as a post-covid travel destination enticing the Indian traveller.



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