What Can We Expect From The Housing Sector?

30 November 2015 – Cinco Días

It goes without saying that the real estate sector was the most vilified during the crisis. Blamed for almost all of the problems that ended the greatest economic boom in recent history, the sector has been striving to rise from the ashes since the end of 2013. International investors returned to Spain first, attracted by the low prices – according to statistics, property prices have now decreased by between 30% and 40% since their peaks.

Next, came a rise in the number of transactions, driven by improvements in the labour market and expectations of an economic recovery. Following this increase in sales, came a moderation in the price decreases and, finally, the cranes returned to the urban landscape of the large cities, albeit in a very piecemeal way. The housing stock, i.e. the huge surplus of new homes (389,00 units in total, according to a recent study from Tinsa), has stopped representing such a problem in certain cities and therefore, the moment to return to property development has arrived.

The problem is that the crisis has practically destroyed the real estate sector along the way. Today, sales represent just one third of their levels in 2006, firms are constructing only 4% of their historical peak volumes and instead of property developers and construction companies, the business has now diversified and is in the hands of the banks, Sareb and new servicers.

Macro-economic figures

The truth is that the key macroeconomic figures are starting to show real signs of the real estate recovery. Employment is growing by more than 3% and the flow of financing is increasing. Mortgage lending continued to increase at rates exceeding 20% in September, which means that it has now been recording double digit increases for 16 consecutive months.

Nevertheless, the experts warns that the “exit from the crisis is not going to be the same for everyone”, says Luis Corral, CEO of Foro Consultores. “There is a dual market. The euphoria being seen in Madrid, and to a lesser extent in Barcelona, contrasts starkly with those places where the surplus has not yet been digested and, therefore, nobody wants to build there”, he says.

The evolution of these two variables, employment and credit, will determine whether the recovery strengthens or stagnates at its current modest figures. Demographics are working against it, since the rate of household creation that was seen at the end of the 1990s, which really spurred on real estate demand, is not expected to be repeated, according to the population projections made by Spain’s National Institute of Statistics. That is why nowadays, almost no-one, except from the sector association Asprima and the appraisal company Tinsa, dares to venture a projection about what demand for homes will be like in the future. Both entities forecast that between 200,000 and 250,000 homes will be constructed over the next few years.

New Projects

Prudence is one of the key words that everyone is talking about in the market at the moment. Prudence in terms of projections, lending, construction etc.

Refurbishments

Moreover, the logical evolution for Spain’s stock of more than 25.5 million homes involves renovations and refurbishments. The vast majority, almost 95% of homes, do not comply with basic energy efficiency criteria and many established neighbourhoods in large cities could be rejuvenated with good urban renovation and renewal projects, with the corresponding boost to activity and employment that such projects would involve.

Original story: Cinco Días (by Raquel Díaz Guijarro)

Translation: Carmel Drake

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