Large Funds Are Reactivating The Market For Land

22 June 2017 – Expansión

The momentum in the residential housing segment is also being reflected in the demand for land on which to build homes. The funds, which were responsible for the first land acquisitions in Spain in 2013, have strengthened their positions in recent years and become one of the main players in this market, even though for the time being, their commitment focuses on buildable land, with the aim of limiting their exposure and avoiding political and structural risks.

According to a report by the consultancy firm CBRE, the number of operations involving the sale of land by companies rose by 13% last year.

In this sense, traditional players such as Realia, Acciona and Metrovacesa Suelo y Promociones, were joined by a new wave of property developers, owned by large funds, such as Neinor Homes (controlled by Lone Star), Aedas (Castlelake) and Vía Célere and Aelca (both controlled by Värde).

Debuts on the stock market

In order to purchase land, these companies are resorting to alternative formulas besides bank credit, such as joint ventures with corporate contributions or searching for new capital in the market through debuts on the stock market.

In this way, Neinor Homes, which debuted on the stock exchange in March, will be joined over the next few months by Aedas, Vía Célere, Testa – a vehicle in which Santander, BBVA and Merlin all hold stakes – and the new Socimi owned by Renta Corporación and the Dutch fund APG, plus the vehicle being prepared for launch by Sareb.

The search for alternative financial resources to bank credit has led to a decrease in the number of mortgages granted to buy land, which fell from 55,000 in 2006 to 6,700 in 2016. That means that just 39% of the urban land transactions completed last year were financed through mortgages.

In addition to the property developers, the other major landowners include the financial institutions and Sareb. Specifically, the banks owned a portfolio of land worth €31,500 million at the end of 2016, whilst the volume of land owned by Sareb amounted to €4,200 million.

In the case of the banks and Sareb, most of their portfolios comprise assets that are under development, which is unlike the case of the new property developers.


According to forecasts, demand for buildable land will continue to rise over the next few months, above all in those regions where there is greater activity in the construction sector.

According to CBRE’s analysts, over the medium term, the dynamics of the land market are going to depend to a large extent on the speed with which the banks and Sareb are able to manage their asset portfolios.

In terms of prices, the higher demand in certain local markets has led to a recovery due to the scarcity of buildable land and the expectations regarding demand for housing. Nevertheless, at the national level, no significant effect on prices is expected, given that the volume of supply is still relatively large.

Moreover, the report says that the recent regulation of real estate assets on the balance sheet of banks may lead to the release onto the market of a significant volume of products over the coming months, which could soften any price tensions.

Original story: Expansión (by Rebeca Arroyo)

Translation: Carmel Drake

ST: House Prices Will Rise By 3% In 2017

18 January 2017 – Cinco Días

House prices will grow by 3% on average this year, driven by the improvement in the economy and employment, but also by the pseudo boom that is happening in the rental sector, in particular in large cities. That is according to Sociedad de Tasación, one of the largest appraisal companies in the sector.

The year that has just started will continue to be favourable in general terms for a real estate sector that, in the words of the Director General of Sociedad de Tasación, Juan Fernández-Aceytuno, is “recovering its sense of judgement”.

Thus, the volume of transactions will continue to grow, the rate of construction will intensify and more mortgages will be signed (although that figure will always fall below the number of house sales); and all of that means that house prices will end the year 3% higher, on average. Nevertheless, Sociedad de Tasación warns against certain risks and key factors that will determine the extent of this improvement in the real estate sector.

The first is what is happening in the rental market. Fernández-Aceytuno again highlighted the large group of potential buyers, such as young people aged between 25 and 35 years old, who are unable to buy a home because of their low wages and because of the precariousness associated with the majority of the new jobs that are being created. Since those people are not buying, many are choosing to rent, which has caused demand in the rental market to soar, along with rental prices. Sociedad de Tasación believes that if no response is given to this insolvent demand, rental prices will continue to rise and that will, in turn, drive up the prices of homes up for sale.

The Director General recalled that the average yield on rental properties in large cities stands at around 6.1% at the moment, which means that the increase in real estate prices in the major cities will be higher than the 3% forecast for the country as a whole.

Moderate pace

Other decisive factors, in addition to the improvement in employment, will be everything relating to financing. The new accounting standards, which the banks must comply with this year, together with the cost of recent court rulings, such as the judgement regarding floor clauses, and the forecast increase in interest rates may have an impact on the conditions for accessing credit over the medium term, which will determine the behaviour of much of the demand.

In any case, the good news, according to Socidad de Tasación, is not only that the main indicators in the sector are going to continue to stabilise, but also that they are doing so in a much more balanced way than in the past. In this sense, the firm gave the example that house prices are growing at more moderate rates now than they did during the previous boom, with rises in line with the number of new Social Security members. Moreover, it highlighted that land prices have not soared by more than house prices, which was also common during the early 2000s.

What’s more, property developers have not started to build homes in an uncontrolled way, even despite the expectation that more new homes are going to be sold. A study compiled by the appraisal company shows that the supply of new homes in Madrid and Barcelona is actually scarce, which means that it will run out within 10 months in the capital and within 14 months in Barcelona. Finally, it describes the rate of property construction along the coast as “very reasonable”.

Original story: Cinco Días (Raquel Díaz Guijarro)

Translation: Carmel Drake

S&P Increases Spain’s Rating To BBB+ With “Stable” Outlook

5 October 2015 – Expansión

On Friday, the credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P), one of the world’s three main players in this sector, together with Fitch and Moody’s, announced an increase in its rating for Spain’s long term sovereign debt from BBB to BBB+, with a “stable” outlook. In this way, the agency rewarded Spain for the impact that the structural reforms approved in recent years have had on the economy.

In a statement, S&P said that “the increase in the rating reflects our view of the behaviour of the Spanish economy over the last four years – we consider that it has been strong and balanced, and that it is gradually benefitting the public finances”. The agency has been particularly encouraged by the two employment law reforms that have been approved since 2010 (under the governments of Zapatero and Rajoy), which have, in its opinion, improved the competitiveness of Spain’s exports and its service sector.

“The rating from S&P is a sign of confidence in the future of the Spanish economy and an acknowledgement that the political uncertainties do not carry significant weight”, said the Minister for the Economy, Luis de Guindos, yesterday, after S&P made its statement. In reality, the agency is not quite so optimistic – it says that there is still “considerable uncertainty” over whether the next government to emerge, following the elections on 20 December, will continue or even increase the pace of reforms that are still required to improve the economy and fulfil the growth and deficit targets in the medium term. “It is unclear just what a potential change in government would mean for the Spanish economy’s primary weakness, its unemployment rate”, it said.

S&P does not see much danger in the secessionist challenge and believes that Cataluña will continue to form part of Spain; furthermore, it expects that the tension between the central Government and the regional authorities will gradually dilute. However, it warns that a hypothetical independence would hit the Spanish economy hard, including its GDP per capita, its foreign trade balance and the public finances.

Risks still remain

Nevertheless, there are also some purely macroeconomic factors that could divert the country from its positive path…”We would consider reducing the rating if economic growth does not reach our projections; if the monetary policy does not manage to stop the deflationary pressures from eroding the fiscal performance and growth in Spain; and if, contrary to our expectations, net debt exceeds 100% of GDP”. The agency expects this ratio to decrease as the economy improves, and forecasts that it will peak at 98.4% this year and drop to 98% in 2016.

Similarly, the agency says that it is important to remember that certain exogenous factors have favoured the (recent) economic recovery, such as for example, the price of oil and the euro exchange rate.

For the time being, Standard & Poor’s expects nominal GDP to grow by around 4% over the next three years. Last Wednesday, the agency improved its growth forecast for Spain in 2015 by 2 p.p., from 3% to 3.2%, and by 1 p.p. in 2016, to 2.7%. Its estimation for 2017 is 2.4%. (…).

Original story: Expansión (by Yago González)

Translation: Carmel Drake

The AHE Urges Banks To Sell Their Remaining RE Assets

12 June 2015 – Expansión

The Spanish Mortgage Association (‘Asociación Hipotecaria Española’ or AHE), whose members are all banks, believes that the sector must sell off its real estate portfolio so that it can, progressively, focus its resources on its core banking activity once more. According to the economic report issued by the General Assembly of the AHE, the real estate market is now showing its first signs of revival and recovery, after its “significant adjustment” since 2007.

Meanwhile, the trade association also analyses whether the recovery in mortgage lending is happening in the right way, after some bankers raised concerns. In this regard, the AHE notes that the recovery in terms of mortgages is positive, and so too is the competition between entities, as that is leading to lower prices, which is in turn facilitating access to credit for families. Nevertheless, the association draws attention to the fact that “we cannot highlight enough the importance of properly assessing the risks in order to avoid malfunctions such as those experienced in recent years”.

The risks are particularly high during periods of extraordinary economic stimuli and/or when interest rate curves flatten out.

Original story: Expansión (by M.R.)

Translation: Carmel Drake