3 May 2018 – El Confidencial
The Spanish economy is returning to its roots. New real estate loans granted to households, in other words, lending that does not include the renegotiation of existing loans, is now growing at an annual rate of 17.4%. In total, such lending amounted to €36.5 billion in 2017.
And this is not a one-off blip. So far this year, although the rate of growth has softened, it still rose by 11.1% during the first quarter compared to the same period last year. That explains how real estate loans now account for 37.4% of all lending that households requested in 2017, which amounted to €97.5 billion in total.
Those €36.5 billion that were used to buy properties exceeded the amount spent on the purchase of consumer goods (€29.1 billion) and the amount that was financed through credit cards (€13.3 billion), whose growth was very significant.
Paradoxically, the most expensive financing – financial institutions apply significantly higher interest rates when consumer acquire goods using credit cards – grew by 20.3%. Therefore, by five times more than the increase in nominal GDP (with inflation).
Data from the Bank of Spain leaves no doubt about the recovery in real estate lending boosted by low interest rates, which explains that the number of renegotiations is still very active, although it has decreased with respect to two years ago, when many households changed the conditions of their loans to benefit from the European Central Bank (ECB)’s ultra-expansive monetary policy.
Specifically, between 2015 and 2017, Spanish households renegotiated loans amounting to almost €18.0 billion, which allowed them to benefit from the extraordinary monetary conditions. In fact, 1-year Euribor remains at -0.1890%, which has encouraged increasingly more households to opt for fixed-rate mortgages over variable rate products.
The average interest rate on new operations for the acquisition of homes amounted to 2.21% in February, which represented a slight increase of 16 hundredths with respect to the previous month. In any case, these are tremendously favourable real interest rates (with respect to inflation), which boost property sales.
The credit map reflecting the Bank of Spain’s statistics reveals two very different realities. On the one hand, as described, new real estate lending has soared, but on the other hand, the amount granted before 2008, which is when the real estate bubble burst, is continuing to fall very significantly. In other words, families are continuing to repay their loans and, therefore, reduce their indebtedness, but, at the same time, new operations are growing strongly.
A couple of pieces of data reflect this clearly. In 2011, the outstanding loan balance dedicated to real estate activities amounted to €298.8 billion, but by the fourth quarter of 2017, that quantity had decreased to €110.0 billion (…).
The importance of the real estate sector in the Spanish economy is key. And, in fact, the double recession was very closely linked to demand for housing, which fell by no less than 60% between 2007 and 2013. In particular, due to the drag effect on the other components of private consumption (…).
The data on real estate lending are logically consistent with those offered by Spain’s National Institute of Statistics (INE) on the constitution of mortgages, which reflect an increase of 13.8% in February (the most recent month for which data is available) compared to a year earlier. In total, 27,945 mortgages, with an average loan value of €119,708, were granted (…).
Original story: El Confidencial (by Carlos Sánchez)
Translation: Carmel Drake