Colau Halts Investments in Barcelona’s 22@ District

10 December 2018 – Catalunya Press

Colau’s municipal government has halted several investments in the 22@ district of Barcelona, which affects companies such as Acciona, Värde Partners and Metrovacesa.

According to sources in the real estate sector, several multinationals will also end up missing out, including the French company Bouygues, the family business Espais and private funds, such as Semillas Fito.

The histories of each firm are very varied. Shaftesbury purchased an abandoned factory in 2017, where it wants to build an office building spanning 16,000 m2, a turnkey project where the multinational technology firm Cisco is going to open a research centre for intelligent cities. The land purchase involved an investment of around €10 million, according to El Confidencial.

The US firm Värde spent €50 million in total during 2017 buying land in the area affected by the revised plans of Colau, who now wants to modify the urban planning arrangements, which will mean the suspension of all projects. It was one of the largest land operations of last year in Barcelona, involving 52,000 m2 of buildable office space. At stake, a €70 million investment, which is now under threat.

Acciona has been in the area since 2001 and is the owner of an entire block between Calles Perú, Bolivia, Fluvia and Selva de Mar, which spans a surface area of 53,380 m2 and where it wants to build 33,200 m2 of office space.

Sources in the real estate sector indicate that the suspension of all of these projects, involving approximately 2 million m2 of office space, is only going to serve to put more pressure on prices in the consolidated 22@ area, which has now been completed south of La Diagonal, where Torre Glòries and the other offices are now occupied. In other words, prices will rise.

Original story: Catalunya Press

Translation: Carmel Drake

Ministry of Development to Promote 5,000+ Rental Homes for Less than €400

19 November 2018 – La Razón

The Minister of Development, José Luis Ábalos, has announced that his Ministry is going to transfer €21.5 million to the Public Land Management Company (‘Entidad Pública Empresarial de Suelo’ or Sepes) to promote the construction of more than 5,000 social housing rental homes, which will cost no more than €400 in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Sevilla, Ibiza and Málaga.

At the Europa Press Informative Breakfast, the leader of the Ministry of Development said that the creation of these 5,000 homes, together with the 1,500 already included in the State Housing Plan, would account for almost one third of the 20,000 homes recently promised in Congress.

Specifically, Ábalos said during his appearance in the Lower House that the Ministry is going to promote a stock of 20,000 public homes for rental over the next four to six years with the aim of increasing the supply of such homes and helping to stop their rising prices.

For Ábalos, these measures lay the foundations for a housing policy that aims to guarantee access to housing. Nevertheless, he said that he is aware that this task, together with the protection of access to housing, will require the assistance of all of the administrations and political forces. For that reason, he urged that a “major agreement from the State for housing in Spain” be reached.

Decapitalising the stock of social housing

In this vein, he confirmed that the stock of social housing has been decapitalised to an affordable price and pointed out that this represents only 2.5% of the housing stock in Spain and that is “one of the lowest rates” in the European Union.

“Access to housing is a total headache for the middle and working classes and merely a pipe-dream for young people”, he added, after indicating that spending on housing by Spaniards living in rental properties is “well above the European average”, which is generating “a situation that cannot be permitted”.

During his speech, the Minister made it clear that recovering talent, raising the Minimum Inter-professional Wage (SMI), providing more wage stability and increasing pensions “are the right proposals to provide stability for Spain”.

He also said that work is being performed on long-term measures to increase the supply and recover the stock of homes, although he pointed out that work is also being carried out in the short term to modify the Urban Rental Law (LAU) to “limit guarantees” and give tenants more stability, and on the Civil Procedure Law (…).

The Royal Decree for Housing: due before the end of the year

When asked about when the Royal Decree that integrates the package of measures announced at the beginning of the legislature is going to come into force, Ábalos confirmed that the plan is for it to be approved before the end of the year because, in his opinion, “some of the measures are urgent and we need to get on with them”. In this way, he said that the real estate market in Spain is “reaching breaking point”.

In this vein, he said that “in Madrid, there are a lot of people who share flats because they do not have any other choice and all of that affects the minimum life project”. “What we are doing is not going to have a direct or immediate effect, but the urgency is vital in cities such as Madrid and Barcelona”, he said.

Original story: La Razón 

Translation: Carmel Drake

Anticipa: House Prices in Madrid & Barcelona Return to their Peaks of the Real Estate Boom

11 November 2018 – El Confidencial

The (real estate) recovery is really heating up. House prices in Madrid are on the verge of returning to their peaks of 2007. What seemed impossible, is now becoming a reality. That is according to a report from Anticipa Real Estate, which forecasts two-digit increases in house prices in the Spanish capital this year and next. Specifically, it predicts that homes will become more expensive by 10.2% in 2018 and by 11.5% in 2019, rises that are twice as high as the percentages that experts consider to be sustainable.

House prices have already been growing at rates of 10% during the last two quarters, according to the Repeated Sales House Price Index, prepared in accordance with the Case & Shiller methodology from the United States applied to Spain, which analyses repeat sales of the same homes. In other words, they are rising at double-digit percentages reminiscent of those recorded at the height of the real estate boom a decade ago.

Despite that, both property developers and banks are insisting that the market is very different to the one seen more than ten years ago and they categorically rule out that we are facing a similar situation to then. On the one hand, access to financing remains very restricted for solvent clients, whilst the recovery in prices is very uneven across the country. Whilst in the cities (and in certain neighbourhoods), prices are skyrocketing, in others, prices are still decreasing.

Although on average, by the end of 2019, house prices in Spain will be 15% below the peaks recorded in 2007, according to the report from Anticipa Real Estate, there are some hot spot areas where those prices have already been exceeded. In Cataluña, another of the hot spots in the Spanish market, increases of around 9% are expected next year and that despite the delicate political situation in Cataluña, which has had a direct negative impact on the real estate market – in Barcelona -, which, until a year ago, was performing extremely well in terms of transactions and prices.

Madrid stands out from the rest of Spain, with an evolution in terms of residential prices that has caused the first alarm bells to start sounding. In certain neighbourhoods, such as Chamartín, Chamberí and Salamanca, second-hand homes now cost the same as they did ten or twelve years ago, whilst in others such as Arganzuela, Centro, Moncloa and Tetúan, prices are close to exceeding those levels. In others, where prices are still well below their peaks of the bubble, the market is rising at rates of 20%, rapidly reducing the gap with respect to 2008.

They are peripheral areas of the city towards which price rises are moving like an oil slick. And that is because prices, both to the purchase and rental markets in the centre of the city have reached such prohibitive levels that much of the demand is moving en masse to more affordable areas, resulting in significant upward pressure on prices.

According to the latest data from Tinsa, in Vicálvaro, Ciudad Lineal and Villaverde, house prices have risen by more than 20% in the last year, compared with rises of 8.5% in Chamartín and 13% in the district of Salamanca. Meanwhile, the municipalities of Barcelona, such as L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, Castelldefels, Esplugues de Llobregat and Sabadell, are experiencing a similar phenonemon with increases of more than 15% (…).

Original story: El Confidencial (by E. Sanz)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Savills & HomeAway: Spain is the Most Attractive Market for Buying a Second Home

29 September 2018 – Finanzas.com

According to an international study compiled by the real estate consultancy Savills and HomeAwayTM, a global expert platform for holiday rentals, Spain is the most attractive destination for investing in a second home, according to 19.3% of those surveyed, followed by Portugal (13.2%) and France (13.1) in third place.

Spain is attractive for overseas investors

According to the survey, 44% of owners of second residences in Spain are foreigners. The main countries of origin of those owners are the United Kingdom (19%), Germany (12%), The Netherlands (4%), France (3%) and Belgium (2%). The remaining 56% of owners are Spanish.

The main areas where second homes are located in Spain include the Canary Islands (12%), the Costa del Sol (9%) and the Balearic Islands (9%).

Where are they buying homes?

People’s behaviour when it comes to acquiring a second home is different depending on where the buyers come from. The study reveals that British and Dutch owners are those who buy the most second homes outside of their own countries, nevertheless, Spaniards, Italians and Portuguese citizens tend to choose their own countries as the destination for acquiring second homes (around 95%).

Second homes: for personal use and to rent

According to the study, 28% of Spanish owners cover some of their expenses with revenues generated from the rental of their properties and 38% obtain a profit.

Summary of second homes in Spain

The average price of the second homes acquired last year by the Spanish owners surveyed amounted to €245,000, 22% lower than the average acquisition price ten years ago. Moreover, 28% of those surveyed confirmed that they personally financed the acquisition of their second home, 52% acquired it using a mortgage and 8% inherited or were gifted the property.

In the same vein, Spanish owners of second homes obtain an annual income of €12,000 (from their properties) and they rent them out for 19 weeks a year, on average. 43% of owners had the same number of reservations in recent months as they did during the same period a year ago, 41% had more reservations and 16% had fewer.

Second homes, with some specific characteristics

Two-bedroom apartments are the most popular types of second home for the Spanish owners surveyed.

Features that owners are looking for when it comes to buying a second home include: proximity to restaurants and bars (88%), a balcony or terrace (88%) and proximity to the supermarket and shops.

According to Juan Carlos Fernández, Director General for Southern Europe at HomeAway: “The fact that Spain is the most attractive destination for foreigners looking to buy a second home indicates that Spain is a robust market that is very attractive to investors and that is something that we must take care of and promote”.

Owner profile

  • Average age when they acquired the property, in 2017: 51 years old
  • Average number of weeks leased during the year: 19 weeks
  • Typical property type: 2-bedroom apartment
  • Average acquisition price in 2017: €245,000.

Original story: Finanzas.com

Translation: Carmel Drake

Construction Costs Soar & Feed the ‘Boom’ in House Prices

9 September 2018 – El Confidencial

“A year and a half ago, I asked for a quote from a small construction company for a building project in Leganés. I drafted the plans, obtained the permit from the Town Hall and when I spoke to the construction company again about starting the work, they quoted me 35% more than we had originally agreed. It was crazy. And something similar has just happened on another project in Móstoles. I signed a building contract with another construction company two months ago, the work starts next week, but they can’t stick to the price we agreed because they can’t manage to hire workers for that price”.

The speaker is a property developer from Madrid, who prefers to remain anonymous so as to not generate hostility amongst construction companies. Over the last few months, he has suffered as a result of the significant rise in construction costs. There are severe labour shortages, which are causing prices to rise, given that the cost of construction materials, although increasing slightly, has remained much more stable.

The increase of 35% is not generalised across Spain, but it is starting to become quite frequent in cities such as Madrid, Barcelona and Málaga where real estate activity has recovered more strongly than in other parts of the country, according to the experts consulted.

To give us an idea, according to a study prepared at the beginning of the year by ACR Grupo, residential construction costs have risen by 17.5% in the last 24 months, and by 12% in the last year alone. After 2007, and coinciding with the crisis, those costs decreased by 20% and remained almost flat for more than five years until two years ago, when the long lethargy was finally broken.

This higher cost of labour has a direct impact on house prices. According to the experts consulted, a 40% increase in construction costs results in a 20% rise in house prices. And, if the price of land represents around 35% of the total cost of the construction, then construction costs now account for around 50%. “Why do you think that prices are rising so quickly in Madrid and Barcelona? The price of land is soaring and now this unexpected enemy has arrived on the scene”, said the same developer.

In the Spanish capital, prices are out of control in certain areas, with price rises of up to 20%. “…”. “Within a given development, a home that used to cost €400,000 is now being sold for almost €500,000. The increases are not only due to the fact that there is a lot of demand and limited supply, but also because if the properties aren’t sold at those prices, then the project is not profitable. Some of the listed property developers have already warned that they will not be capable of building as many homes as they had planned. We will see in a few months time whether they are going to be able to fulfil their sales forecasts”, add sources from a construction company.

Although property developers have recognised this problem publicly for months, they are also convinced that it has gotten worse over the last nine months (…).

Destruction of the production fabric

The lack of skilled labour is evident. Plumbers, framers, electricians, bricklayers, etc…And like in any market, scarcity causes increases. Many of those who used to earn their living building homes at the height of the boom have changed jobs or left the country and have no intention of returning.

The figures speak for themselves. In 2008, the year the bubble burst, 600,000 new homes were completed in Spain. Now, that number barely reaches 50,000 units. Moreover, that decrease in activity has led to the disappearance of more than 12,600 companies linked to the sector since 2012, around 6,800 construction companies and 5,700 real estate firms, according to data from PwC.

That destruction of business fabric has resulted in an enormous number of unemployed people. Whilst a decade ago, the number of wage earners linked to the construction sector amount to 2 million people, in 2017 the number barely exceeded 800,000. In other words, almost 60% of the workers have disappeared (…).

“The main problem is that people who worked in the sector before and who have now found work now elsewhere do not want to return because of the fear of another crisis…”.

The problem goes far beyond the increase in prices that the property developers end up passing onto end buyers. The severe labour shortage, together with the lack of financing, puts in danger the sector’s estimates in terms of their forecasts for the construction of homes necessary for a healthy real estate market. And no solution for that problem is likely to be found in the short term (…).

Original story: El Confidencial (by E. Sanz)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Ministry of Development: Urban Land Prices Fell by 2.6% in Q1 2018

15 June 2018 – Eje Prime

Land is getting cheaper in Spain. The price per square metre of urban land decreased by 2.6% during the first quarter of the year, to €163.1/m2. Nevertheless, land prices rose by 6.6% with respect to December, according to data from the Ministry of Development.

The Land Price Statistics prepared by the public body also indicate that the volume of land sold between January and March 2018 amounted to 7.8 million m2, with a value of €770.6 million.

With respect to the same period a year earlier, the volume of urban land transferred was 36.7% higher and its value had risen by 12.9%. The total number of transactions undertaken during the first three months of the year was 4,867, up by 10.6% compared to a year earlier, when 4,401 plots were sold, and down by 16.7% compared to the number of operations completed between October and December 2017.

Original story: Eje Prime

Translation: Carmel Drake

Ministry of Development: House Sales Totaled €74bn in 2017

29 May 2018 – Idealista

The housing market in Spain is moving increasingly higher volumes of money, boosted by the improvement in the economy and the increase in prices in the real estate sector.

According to data from the Ministry of Development, last year, private home sales amounted to €73.849 billion, a figure that exceeds the amount recorded a year earlier by 21%, and which represents the highest volume since 2010 (when sales worth more than €80.6 billion were recorded). In fact, the number doubles the figure recorded in 2013, the ‘annus horribilis’ for the sector, when less than €38.1 billion was registered.

Those almost €74 billion were transacted through the completion of more than 532,000 real estate operations, a data that far exceeds the 458,000 sales registered in 2016 and the 300,500 in 2013.

The second-hand segment was the star of the sector (second-hand homes account for more than 80% of operations), whilst Madrid was the region that accounted for the greatest volume of house transactions (by sales value), followed by Cataluña

Original story: Idealista 

Translation: Carmel Drake

Lucas Fox: Luxury House Prices Rose by 18% in Q1

23 April 2018 – Eje Prime

Luxury homes in Spain are becoming increasingly more expensive. The luxury residential market saw the value of prime homes increase by 18% during the first quarter of this year. The average price paid during the 3 months to March for these kinds of properties amounted to €924,000, significantly more than the €780,000 recorded by this exclusive branch of the segment during the same period last year, according to data from Lucas Fox.

The strong performance of the Spanish economy in recent times is once again stimulating demand from domestic and overseas investors to purchase homes in the country, above all along the coast and in the major cities.

According to the report from the real estate agency specialising in luxury homes, Marbella and Sitges are the most prime area of this market, and they are monopolising business along the coastlines on which they are located, the Costa del Sol and Costa Brava, respectively.

In the case of Marbella, the city accounted for 67% of the sales that were completed in the region, whilst on the most southerly coast of Cataluña, Sitges accounted for half of all the business on the Costa Brava. “We saw a tremendous rate of growth in sales in Girona and its coastline during the first quarter of 2018”, said Tom Maidment, Director of Lucas Fox Prime.

Foreign investors account for 13% of the prime market  

“International buyers of second homes have been more active, with a notable increase in the number of British buyers”, explained Maidment. In this regard, the director added that “confidence in the market and in the Spanish economy has been consolidated and concerns over Catalan independence have disappeared”.

In total, in 2017, 13% of the purchases undertaken in the luxury residential sector in Spain were made by overseas investors, who acquired 61,000 homes, almost as many as the 65,000 properties bought by foreigners in 2007.

By nationality, the British were the most active buyers, accounting for 15% of the sales made by foreigners, followed by the French, 8.6%; and the Germans, which accounted for 7.8% of the acquisitions of this type of luxury real estate by foreigners.

In the case of Lucas Fox, 77% of the operations that the agency closed during the first quarter of the year related to international clients, most of whom came from the United Kingdom, but also from neighbouring France, the Scandinavian countries and the USA.

Original story: Eje Prime 

Translation: Carmel Drake

BNP Paribas: Logistics Leasing Rose by 48% in Cataluña in Q1

20 April 2018 – Eje Prime

The leasing of logistics space in Cataluña rebounded by 48% during the first quarter of 2018 with respect to the same period a year earlier, to amount to 185,890 m2, according to a report compiled by the Research Department at BNP Paribas Real Estate. The leasing figure is 40% higher than the quarterly average for the last three years, during a period of consolidation in the Catalan logistics market.

A large proportion of the surface area leased during the first quarter of the year saw the pre-rental of warehouses under construction and turnkey projects. In this sense, operations involving surface areas ranging from 7,000 m2 to 50,000 m2 stood out in particular.

Rental prices continued to rise and prime rents increased by 3%, to reach €6.5/m2/month. The good pace of logistics leasing indicates that the upward trend will continue over the next few quarters. In terms of average rents in the local, regional and national logistics corridors, the same behaviour is being observed in terms of rising prices and a decrease in shortages, with growth of 5% in annual terms, to reach €4.7/m2/month.

On the other hand, the availability rate of logistics space in Cataluña continued to fall to reach 2.8%, at the same time as construction activity was increasing due to demand for rental properties. The development of turnkey projects means that the available surface area has not been affected, remaining at very low levels.

Original story: Eje Prime 

Translation: Carmel Drake

Irea: “Mistakes Are Still Being Made But We Are A Long Way From A Bubble”

22 February 2018 – El Economista

The real estate sector is booming and the euphoria that is being experienced, especially in the residential segment, is leading to a genuine war in the purchase of land. That is according to Mikel Echavarren (pictured below), CEO of Irea, who says that the first mistakes are starting to be made.

The Director, who has participated in significant operations in the sector, such as Bain’s purchase of Habitat, and who has acted as a financial advisor to Blackstone in its acquisition of Banco Popular, believes that the next alliances will be harder to forge, but, even so, expects to see greater consolidation in the sector.

Q: How is the fabric of the real estate business evolving?

A: The residential development sector is giving rise to eye-catching activities in the market, such as stock market debuts and corporate acquisitions. On the one hand, we have the upper part of the sector, with large companies and on the other hand, we have the vast majority of real estate companies, which are lifting up their heads, maximising everything they can with the few resources they have. They have more money now than they did in 2013 and they have resolved almost all of their debt problems (…). They are all taking their first steps with something that did not exist before the crisis: money from funds for specific projects. And that is causing companies to revive and, as always happens, the markets that are recovering first are the Costa del Sol, Madrid, Barcelona, Málaga, Sevilla and Bilbao. But there are still some markets that have not recovered at all.

Q: Do you need to be big to survive in this sector?

A: Being big in the residential sector means that you can access the land purchases that the majority of companies don’t have the capacity to afford. It does not mean you have to be listed, but being large allows you to access faster and cheaper financing, and with that, you can rotate your portfolio much more. Meanwhile, smaller property developers have to hand over developments that they started three years ago to be able to afford to invest in land now (…).

Q: So, whoever can afford to buy land is guaranteed success?

Yes. Whoever has funds today to buy land in good locations is going to emerge victorious. That is one of the reasons why being large makes sense. Land is a scarce asset and since no new plots are coming onto the market due to the active or passive inoperativeness of the Administration, and because there is no capacity to finance the development of new land, prices are going to soar. Developable land prices have decreased by a lot (since their pre-crisis peaks), by between 60% and 80%, and I am certain that they will rise by between 200% and 300% (…).

Q: This situation means that the greatest fights are now over the purchase of land…

A: Yes, punches are already being thrown in this fight and we are entering a time in which mistakes are being made because people are buying land that is too expensive. But given that they are making those mistakes with their own funds, we are not facing a bubble scenario (…).

Q: With Neinor Homes, Aedas and Metrovacesa now listed, do you think we are going to see a boom in the number of property developers going public?

A: Going public is a consequence of the fact that there are funds behind the real estate companies that are looking to obtain returns. Nowadays, there are so many players wanting to invest in property developers in Spain, because, in theory, their performance is going to be very highly correlated with the recovery of the Spanish economy, that with few listed firms and so much capital, the value of them is increasing and it does not make sense for a property developer’s share price to exceed the value of its assets. I think that in two years time, we will see half a dozen companies listed on the stock market, but no more. There are not going to be that many because it is hard for a property developer to be strong, and to have good and geographically diversified plots. There have been some clear examples that are not going to be replicated, such as in the case of Vía Célere, which is a really good company that was sold because it did not have anyone to take over, but it is hard for many more operations like that to arise. Funds that already participate in a property developer do so because they are sure that they are going to go public. But we can expect to see acquisitions, purchases that seem like mergers (…).

Q: One of the major social problems in this country is the difficulty that young people face when affording to buy their first home. Moreover, they are now also struggling in the rental market…

A: It is a big problem and it reflects a structural change, not a circumstantial change. There is a huge proportion of the population who cannot and will never be able to buy a home in their lifetime, and then there is a percentage of people who do not want to buy a home, who prefer to travel or buy a good car, or simply have more flexibility (…). What is happening is that there is an unstoppable process to expel people from their homes who traditionally lived in rental properties in the centre of cities. That has happened in all of the major cities in Europe and it is going to happen here too. The centre is reserved for people with more money and for tourist rentals (…).

Q: In your view, which operations and businesses do you think still offer good opportunities for investors in Spain?

A: Large investors still have the possibility of creating residential development platforms with good managers and to debut them on the stock market or sell them to another party. I also see options in the sector for alternative financing. If everyone wants to buy land and the banks don’t want to finance land purchases, then there is a niche to lend (expensively) to whoever wants to buy. I also see opportunities in the market for land purchases; for example buying land to develop it or to carry out the final management procedures and then sell it on (…).

Original story: El Economista (by Alba Brualla)

Translation: Carmel Drake