Madrid & Barcelona: Drivers Of The Housing Mini-Boom

4 January 2016 – Expansión

The housing market is now in full recovery mode, driven by the improving labour market and access to credit. House prices rose by 1% in 2015, which represented the first year of positive growth following seven years of decreases. Specifically, the average price per square metre increased by 1% between Q4 2015 and the same period a year earlier, according to Tinsa’s Local Markets Index. This put an end to the decreases seen following the burst of the real estate bubble during which time house prices decreased by 40.7%, compared with their levels in 2007.

According to Tinsa’s report, this 1% increase was driven by a miniboom in the large urban markets of Barcelona and Madrid, which accounted for the majority of the overall upward swing, together with other smaller cities such as Badajoz and Ávila. Thus, the Catalan capital recorded a 8.7% increase, whilst prices in Madrid rose by 3.8%. Significant increases were also registered in Badajoz (5.7%), Ávila (4.3%), Ciudad Real and Cuenca (3.3% in both cases) and Palma de Mallorca (2.2%).

According to the experts, several factors have led to the relatively sharp rise in house prices in these areas, such as the decrease in the volume of stock and the increase in demand. On the other hand, these areas have fewer remaining unsold homes, which means that demand is pushing prices up much more quickly. Unsurprisingly, Madrid is one of the most liquid markets in Spain, according to Tinsa, since it only takes 7.2 months, on average, to sell a home in the province, compared with 10.2 months for Spain as a whole. In addition, Madrid and Barcelona are both highly attractive areas, with demand from overseas savers and other citizens moving from the rest of Spain and overseas to work in the two cities.

Both areas have also seen a marked adjustment in terms of prices in recent years. In 2007, locals in Barcelona used to have to spend 36% of their average incomes on mortgage repayments, making it one of the most expensive cities in Spain; now, they have to contribute just 22% of their salaries, in line with the national average. In Madrid, that figure is one point lower (at 21%) and it only takes 5.3 years of salary to acquire an average home there, compared with 5.9 years for Spain as a whole.

Nevertheless, this is not the case in all of Spain’s large capital cities. Valencia recorded timid growth of 0.6% in 2015, whilst prices in Sevilla fell by 0.3%. The decreases amounted to 1.6% in the case of Bilbao, to 4% in Zaragoza and 6.7% in Murcia, still heavily affected by the surplus stock.

The striking variations between Spain’s major capitals is also reflected by the marked differences that exist between the different types of market in Spain, given that the majority of the country is still experiencing price decreases, or at best, price stability. That is one of the reasons why Tinsa prefers to talk about “a trend towards price stabilisation, which will be consolidated over the coming year”, rather than a general upturn in prices. (…).

Original story: Expansión (by Pablo Cerezal)

Translation: Carmel Drake

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