Get Ready For Flat Prices & More Building Sites

1/12/2014 – Cinco Dias

In this last month of 2014, the real estate sector of Spain already notes that this year has been much better than the previous one. All the evidence is that this was the last annus horribilis for Spanish housing, at least for the moment. Both prices and development activity suffered abrupt drop-offs, reflected in, for instance, data showing that from more than 860.000 dwellings started in 2006, only 34.200 were finished till 2013. Secondly, prices have contracted by 30.7% on average since the 2007/2008 peaks, official statistics point out.

And this is the average as in some municipalities depreciation reaches 50%. A slight improvement in employment and recent return of lending seem to be the key factors for ‘the sector’s stability‘. It is predicted that prices will go down ahead but not as sharply as they used to. Moreover, experts await more cranes in desirable areas where ‘reasonably priced’ homes would be welcomed. In spite all these positive signs, specialists agree Spanish housing won’t come back to mid-2000 levels… will it?

The Prices

Over the past months, various statistical sources were repeatedly reporting seemingly contradictory data. Some said houses cheapened, while others claimed there have been first rebounds in prices, first in  month-on-month and then in year-on-year comparisons.

However, all contained a grain of truth. The catch is that each of them employs different periodical information. The calculations coming from the notaries are not equivalent to studies from the registrars (who base on deal figures from 2-3 previous months). Similarly, pricing reports using appraisal data are not comparable to a real-market study involving visits to new building sites.

The proof that all of them are reliable is that all conclude pointing at the same trend, also showing that the free-market laws apply. Thus, they coincide in showing an increase in sales, earlier stock absorption, a slowdown in pricing slump and reapearance of cranes in new property developments.

The Wealth Effect

Let it be the Ministry of Public Works’ data or the Appraisal Association’s, two sources which have been providing reports on Spanish housing for at least the last 20 years, average accumulative decrease of house values in the country posts 30%, meaning the same level as in 2004. As Maria Romero from Analistas Financieros Internacionales (AFI) says, the figures mean a negative equity for those households which acquired a dwelling ever since.

Still, statistics also show that in some geographical areas prices started to rise. Will the trend expand? ‘High unemployment rates and insufficient income especially affect the first-home buyers, as well as prospective demand. In any case, we do not expect any additional, deep adjustments’, claims Mrs Romero. Experts from Sociedad de Tasación portend the prices will continue to go down until finding what they call ‘the balance point similar to end-2000’.

The Stock

At the beginning of this new cycle, prices and sales in in-demand areas level out, whereas in the zones where product is in excess, prices are being squeezed down and new development seems impossible in there.

The increase in transactions contributes to faster absorption of new homes for sale which shrank by one-third since the 2010 peak (700.000 units).

The New Property Development

At the moment, large cities’ centers, excellently located neighbourhoods and those with good infrastructure were the first to see return of house construction. They are very carefully selected projects with 100% sales guaranteed and attractive prices. It is demonstrated by the fact that building permits bounced back in September for the sixth consecutive month (up 31.6% year-on-year).

Logically, developers strike areas of high demand and income per capita which proves better financial ability of the buyers.

Experts forecast further rise in building permits’ number in the next months, triggering a phenomena unseen since the recession began – more homes will be started than finished. In fact, works completion certificates keep steering down (by 35.6% annually in the third quarter). To compare, last year only 4% was started of what was constructed throughout 2006.

The Financing

Like individuals, developers also started to receive the ‘approved’ seal on their loan applications. Thus, as the Bank of Spain reported, not only mortgage lending to eligible customers is returning but also loans to developers become more and more common.

What is more, value added to investment in housing again increased quarter-on-quarter by 1.3% in Q3.

Recent studies reveal that in all European countries where homes regained value also the GDP grew up. That means that better conjuncture is vital for housing sales to confirm a recovery, which in turn feeds up economical well-being: from more real estate transactions, through related industries (decoration, repairs, etc.), vivid activity, more jobs, increased confidence, and here we go again, more housing sales.


Original article: Cinco Días (by Raquel Díaz Guijarro)

Translation: AURA REE