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Looking at the horizon

Jonathan Fernandes is a determined dreamer who stepped into the real estate world at the age of 21. In the last six years he has made a mark as a builder and his company Horizon is here to stay, writes Michael Fisher
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. But in the case of Jonathan Fernandes, he is just a determined dreamer. Never has this been more apparent than now, when he put on the entrepreneur cloak in 2008 to promote his real estate company Horizon at 21.
A Business Management Graduate from St Xavier’s College, he has been chasing his dreams the hard way. Despite the double impact with the stoppage of sand extraction and the ban on iron ore mining, Horizon has delivered luxury residential projects.
His father Cosmas Fernandes has been his biggest source of strength and guidance when he entered the real estate market at a time when India felt the ripples of global recession. Banks’ lending to real estate developers curtailed and a sense of gloom prevailed over under construction projects.
With project finance assistance from EDC, he developed Horizons Azura in Pilerne. Every effort is made to ensure that the projects don’t look copy-cat. The architects constantly innovate to try new styles of designs that blend in with the picturesque Goan landscape.
The latest on the horizon is the Casablanca at Sangolda uses 50 per cent FAR, a low density with a building height of just nine metres coupled with amenities such as tree plazas, gym, jogging tracks, senior citizen sit-outs, among other attractions. Today Horizon has 10 employees while the legal and architectural experts are outsourced. Excerpt of an interview follows:
How much has the cost of building material gone up?
Raw material prices have seen almost a 100 per cent jump since we started operations. For the first project we sourced stone at Rs 9 per piece, sand at Rs 500 per cu m3 and metal aggregate at Rs 900 per cu m3. Today the same has seen the cost rising 100 per cent with stone aggregate at Rs 21, sand at Rs 1,200 per cum3 and metal aggregate at Rs 1,400 per cu m3.
A fresher at 21 when you started, how did you manage to convince customers?
Architect Sunil Sardessai and Engineer Shirish Kamat assisted me by cementing the foundation for the Horizon at a time when I was being looked at too young to run the show.
How was the real estate market moving then?
The real estate market was in full bloom in 2008, but had no serious players in the luxury residential segment and this was an opportunity I was looking at. Simultaneously, the government would talk about affordable housing and nothing came out of it.
Till date how many projects are completed or in progress?
We have developed and completed two properties Horizons Azura and Horizons Shalom. At present we have Horizons Casablanca our super luxury Spanish-styled apartment and Horizons Shalom the affordable luxury project which is in progress. Apart from these we have three Super luxury projects in the drawing stages.
What the cost of an apartment today and is by how much has it gone up since the past five years?
Almost every aspect of the construction process has witnessed a huge increase in costs, right from land to raw material and labour. All these coupled with the increased registration fees and stamp duty costs have pushed costs of ownership roof high. To add to buyers woes the government has placed a 3.09 per cent service tax levy resulting in the ownership costs up by almost 10 per cent. If the government talks about affordable housing the first step should definitely be a re-look at these high rates of taxes.
What lessons have the builders and buyers learnt from the Canacona `Ruby’ debacle?
The Ruby debacle is nothing but a case of rouge developers penetrating the market.These developers are here to milk the customers. For them, long-term customer relations and reputation were never their goals.
Please advise the buyers.
Buyers need to thoroughly introspect on developer and builders’ credentials before investing their hard earned money. If the developer had the right intent he would have owned up to his failures and shortcomings and accept responsibilities and looked at getting things working back in the right direction. Absconding and leaving buyers in the lurch is nothing but cowardice that speaks volumes of the business houses intent.
How should the government safeguard the interest of buyers, builders and customers?
The real estate industry faces the biggest red tape in the cumbersome approval process. Successive governments have promised opening single window clearances but nothing has really taken shape on ground. Real estate investments are capital intensive and the government’s recent indecisiveness on imporatnt matters such as the regional plan has hit many a developer hard with projects stuck in imbroglio. It’s high time the government recognises the industry as a major contributor to the states economy both through direct and ancillary contributions and does its bit to support and strengthen the same. A re-look at the high direct and indirect taxes will also go a big way in providing relief to developers and buyers akin.
Is the second home for outsiders still a trend?
Homes apart from being a basic neccessity of life are also an economic commodity.There will always be a certain section of buyers who look at it solely from the economic point of view as investment avenues.Restricting sale of such a commodity will create an unfavourable economic atmosphere. I know of many a Goan who has bought second homes in other parts of the country based on its economic viability.Man has always wandered to other territories in his quest for employment, leisure and commerce and will always continue to do so, I guess that should explain the trend of second homes to you.

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