Spain’s Residential Sector: A Fleeting Boom Or A Genuine Bubble?

3 October 2017 – El Confidencial

A fleeting real estate boom or another bubble in the making? Although many in the real estate sector – property developers, banks, experts… –, deny that Spain is committing the errors of the past and are instead convinced that we are witnessing the creation of a new real estate boom, the truth is that some indicators have started to trigger the first alarm bells, in particular, those relating to the evolution of house prices. The increases in house prices are not only generalised, in certain markets, they are very striking.

Such is the case of large cities, like Madrid and Barcelona, where the increases – in new build and second-hand prices – are now well into the double digits. According to data from the appraisal company Tinsa, in just twelve months, house prices have risen by 20.6% in Barcelona and by 15.5% in Madrid. This means that during the summer months, there has been a real boom in prices since, during the second quarter of the year, the YoY rise amounted to just 1.8% and 2.7%, respectively.

“A sustainable increase in prices would range between 4% and 5%. The double-digit figures in certain areas, where there is limited supply or a tourist boom, such as Las Palmas and Ibiza, are sustainable over the long term”, explained Jesús Amador, Real Estate Analyst at Bankinter, speaking recently to El Confidencial.

Both cities are still well below their maximums of 2007 (Barcelona is 28.3% below and Madrid is 37.4%), nevertheless, since their minimums, prices have now appreciated by 44.4% and 24.9%, respectively (…).

Prices in Palma de Mallorca have returned to the peaks of 2007

The most notable finding in the second-hand market is the rise in house prices in Palma de Mallorca, which increased by 7.3% over the summer, making it the country’s first capital city to exceed the price levels of 2007, followed by Lleida (5.3%), according to data from Idealista. Increases in Málaga (5.2%), Girona (4.9%) and Pamplona (3.9%) are also noteworthy (…).

Five indicators of the health of the Spanish real estate market 

1.- Average sales period (liquidity)

In Spain, it takes 9.1 months on average to sell a home. The cities of Madrid and Barcelona are the most liquid markets, with average sales periods of 3.2 and 3.4 months, respectively. Of the five largest capital cities, Valencia and Sevilla have the longest periods, where it takes 8.7 and 6.4 months, respectively, to sell a home.

2.- Financial effort

On average, Spaniards spend 16.6% of their gross household income to pay the first year of a mortgage. The autonomous regions where below-average financial effort is required are La Rioja (13.2%), Murcia (13.3%) and Castilla y León (14.2%).

At the opposite end of the spectrum (…), a much higher percentage of the household income is required to buy a home with financing in the Balearic Islands (21.2), Andalucía (17.6%) and Cataluña (16.7%) (…).

3.- Average mortgage and monthly repayment

The average mortgage in Spain amounted to €113,130 during the second quarter of the year (the most recent data available), compared to €148,037 in 2007, according to data from Spain’s National Institute of Statistics (INE). The average monthly mortgage repayment amounted to €528 in Q2, almost 40% lower than ten years ago (…).

4.- Sales and purchases

The provinces of Málaga, Alicante and the Balearic Islands, which all have a clear tourist component, are those with the highest number of house sales in the last four quarters with respect to the size of their respective housing stocks: 33.3 homes for every 1,000 properties in the province of Málaga; 29.4 in Alicante and 28.8 in the Balearic Islands.

By contrast, the least active markets include Ourense, with barely 6.6 house sales for every 1,000 properties; and the provinces of Zamora and Teruel, with 9.4 and 9.5 homes sold, respectively, for every 1,000 properties.

5.- Permits for new builds

In terms of property developer activity, the provinces of Madrid, Navarra and Vizcaya are still the ones where the highest number of new build permits were registered over the last four quarters, in proportion to the size of the housing stock.

In the Community of Madrid, 5.4 permits were granted in the last year for every 1,000 homes already in existence, whereby exceeding the number granted in Navarra (4.4 permits) and Vizcaya (4.3 permits). The least active areas in this regard include the provinces of Tarragona and Lugo (0.7 permits for every thousand homes in both cases), followed by Valencia, Pontevedra and Zamora, where 1 permit was issued for every 1,000 homes.

Original story: El Confidencial (by E. Sanz)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Valencia’s New Home Stock Has Fallen By 35% Since 2009

5 December 2016 – Levante EMV

According to a report by the Spanish Confederation of Construction Product Manufacturer Associations, the stock of new homes has decreased by 35% in the Community of Valencia since the collapse of the construction sector in 2009. The market has digested 26,926 properties in Valencia’s three provinces, leaving 92,782 unsold. The sales figures are very uneven, but the sector is now recovering on the Costa Blanca and in Alicante capital and the city of Valencia. In Valencia capital, there are just three hundred new unsold homes left, with some analysts estimating that as few as one hundred homes have yet to be sold; and the first developments to be promoted by Sareb, investment funds, financial institutions, cooperatives and overseas funds have already started.

The situation for Valencia’s construction companies is still complicated, to the extent that the President of the Association of Valencian Property Developers (APCV), José Luis Miguel, acknowledged yesterday that “anyone who owns land should hold onto it. A good decision would be to do nothing”, said José Luis Miguel, as he presented a study about the situation in the sector.

The property developers have commissioned a study to obtain a detailed understanding of how the sector is performing following the crisis, at a time when the “rules of the game have changed to allow the entry of new competitors, such as investment funds and financial institutions”. The author of the study pointed out that the sector is still at “historical lows”, despite the first signs of recovery being seen along the coast in Alicante and Valencia capital. “We are at the beginning of the (upwards) curve, but it is clear that the recovery is now being felt in certain areas”.

José Manuel Luis added that the volume of sales in the second-hand market are similar to those recorded in 2006 and 2007, but at that time they accounted for just 38% of all transactions, whereas now they account for 88%, compared with 12% involving new homes.

Weakness in demand

The head of the study underlined that the sector still perceives a weakness in terms of demand due to the difficulties involved in obtaining financing and because the banks are requesting deposits of 20% before they are prepared to grant mortgages. In any case, the greatest problem is that 40% of Valencians admit that they are unable to afford extraordinary expenses of €650 per month, which means that they are not able to buy. The only option for these people is to rent.

Nevertheless, the property developers are reluctant to commit themselves to building homes for rent because that requires the freezing of assets for a long time and the repayment period for such operations is twenty-five years.

José Luis Miguel lamented the situation in the sector and the disappearance of 90% of the property developers that existed before the crisis. “Many property developers were small and the crisis did away with them. The association used to have four hundred members and there are now only forty left”, he said.

Original story: Levante EMV

Translation: Carmel Drake

Fotocasa: House Price Rises Led By Madrid & Barcelona

18 January 2016 – Expansión

(…). The two-speed housing sector in Spain is becoming ever more marked: whilst house sales and prices are increasing significantly in Barcelona and Madrid, as well as in certain areas along the coast, the provinces where demand is lowest are continuing their slow trend towards stabilisation.

But the residential sector is so fragmented that even within the two major cities, there are sub-markets where house sales and prices are growing by more than in others. House prices are now increasing in nine out of the 10 districts in Barcelona and in 13 out of the 21 districts in Madrid, according to Housing in 2015, a report compiled by the real estate portal Fotocasa.es, which will be published on Wednesday and to which Expansión has had access.

“The changing trend in terms of second-hand house prices is clear in the city of Madrid”, says the report. The average price of homes for sale rose by 2.2% in the capital, after having fallen by 4.9% in 2014. It is worth remembering that actual sales prices, the amount that is reflected in the deeds, have increased by even more, given that buyers now have less margin to obtain discounts than they used to, when prices were generally on the decrease.

Whilst in 2014, house prices decreased in every district in the capital, last year they recorded increases of up to 13.7% in the Centre, followed by Salamanca (9.3%), Chamberí (8.6%), Tetuán (7.6%), Fuencarral (6.7%) and Arganzuela (6.4%). This results in the report’s first conclusion: well-established, well-located areas, where there is more demand, in other words, prime areas, are recovering more quickly than the rest. In general, such areas include central, well-connected areas, with significant volumes of commercial activity, which are fashionable for certain profiles of buyer.

Barcelona is leading the way

The same trend is happening in Barcelona, where last year, the most notable price rises were seen in the districts of Gracia (with an increase of 10%), Ciutat Vella (8.5%), Eixample (8.4%), Sant-Montjuïc (8.2%), Horta-Guinardó (6.9%) y Sarrià-Sant Gervasi (6.8%).

According to Beatriz Toribio, Head of Research at Fotocasa.es, “prices are going to continue increasing in the prime areas of the two regional capitals in 2016, but we do not expect to see two-digit increases. (…).

In terms of second-hand homes, average prices in Madrid capital amount to €2,695/m2, whilst in Barcelona the equivalent amounts to €3,179. In other words, it is 22% cheaper to buy a home in the Spanish capital than in the Catalan capital. Or, to put it another way, homes are 28% more expensive in Barcelona than in Madrid.

There are two reasons for this. On the one hand, the Catalan capital has a higher population density than Madrid, which affects supply and demand, given that the concentration is greater; moreover, barely any construction takes place there. The second reason is that prices are recovering more sharply in Barcelona.

The most expensive districts in the country are Sarrià-Sant Gervasi (where homes go for €4,575/m2, on average), thanks mainly to significant interest from overseas investors and Salamanca in Madrid (€4,274/m2). (…).

Original story: Expansión (by Juanma Lamet)

Translation: Carmel Drake

INE: House Sales Rise For 9th Consecutive Month

9 July 2015 – El Mundo

House sales are continuing to rise.

In May, for the ninth consecutive month, the number of transactions increased by 6% with respect to the same period in 2014, driven by the second-hand market, according to the National Institute of Statistics (Instituto Nacional de Estadística or INE). In total, 29,457 transactions were closed during the fifth month of the year.

With the recovery in May (which was three points lower than the variation in April (9.4%)), house sales recorded their ninth consecutive inter-annual increase, thanks exclusively to a 34.7% increase in the sale of second-hand homes, to 23,130 transactions. By contrast, the sale of new homes decreased by 40.4% with respect to May 2014, to 6,327 transactions. During the first five months of the year, house sales have accumulated an increase of 8.5%, with a 37.3% decrease in the sale of new homes and a 42.6% increase in the sale of second-hand homes.

If we look at the monthly data (May versus April), house sales rose by 8.1%; the lowest increase during that month for five years. Most of the homes sold, specifically 89.9%, were “free” (unsubsidised) homes. Sales of that type increased by 5.6% in inter-annual terms, to 26,455 transactions; during the same period, sales of “social housing” (subsidised) homes amounted to 3,002 – an increase of 9.7% with respect to May 2014.

Navarra experienced the largest increase

The largest increase in the number of house sales per 100,000 inhabitants was recorded in Valencia (116) and Navarra (98). In absolute terms, Andalucía led the house sale ranking, with 6,162 transactions, followed by Valencia (4,533), Cataluña (4,388) and Madrid (3,810).

In relative terms, by autonomous regions, the inter-annual rate of house sales increased the most in: Navarra (32.9%), País Vacco (19.3%) and Galicia (18.5%); whilst the largest decreases were recorded in the Canary Islands (-14%) and Castilla-La Mancha (-10.9%).

Original story: El Mundo

Translation: Carmel Drake

‘La Zagaleta’ Tripled Its Profits In 2014 To €10M

15 June 2015 – Expansión

La Zagaleta is regarded as the most luxurious residential development in Europe / The complex in Marbella, which has 235 homes, tripled its profits in 2014 to €10 million.

In just 900 hectares of land nestled in a Mediterranean forest a few kilometres from Marbella, and guarded by the highest level of security, the residential development of La Zagaleta hides a real estate oasis to which only a few wealthy individuals can aspire.

The Chairman of the company, Oswald Grübel, estimates that the 235 mansions that comprise the residential development are worth €1,800 million at market prices, although that figure increases to €3,000 million if we include the golf courses and other facilities at the site, which is linked together by a 60km-long internal road.

Considered the most luxurious and exclusive urban development in Europe, La Zagaleta is located in the middle of the Golden Triangle – between Marbella, Benahavía and Estepona – the area where the real estate recovery has started in Spain, driven by the pull of international investors.

Grübel, a former CEO of the Swiss bank UBS, took over the reins in 2013, after the Chairman and founder, Enrique Pérez Flores, decided to stand down from his role, at the age of 90. Last year, the company reported record sales of €40 million and tripled its net profit to €10 million. One of the drivers (behind these results) was the sale of several plots of land to a US fund, whose identity has not been disclosed for confidentiality reasons.

An agreement has been made with that fund to manage its assets, i.e. to build villas (on the acquired plots) and then sell them. The contract provides for the construction of the first two (villas) through a joint venture, on which work will begin this year; and then to build several more (villas) over the next five years, although that figure may increase.

According to Jacobo Cestino, CEO of La Zagaleta, in 2006, a strategic decision was taken for the firm to develop the land, in order to generate higher margins and so it reserved all of the available land. “Homes may end up forming part of the stock for a year and a half. That is a risk we run, but the reality is that we have sold properties that have not even been completed”. Thus, this year, the company will invest €15 million in three new mansions, whose market price will be around €40 million.

Cestino also revealed that the company is considering corporate operations, “because our aim is to grow and export our brand. We are analysing operations to form partnerships overseas on a daily basis. We expect to finalise at least one purchase between now and the end of the year”.

In La Zagaleta, around 150,000 m2 of land is occupied, although the buildability ratio is reduced to 15%. Thus, there is still 200,000 m2 available, divided into 185 plots. In terms of rotation, Cestino indicates that “there is still quite a lot”. In recent years, there have been 8 or 9 re-sales per year on average.

Original story: Expansión (by Lidia Velasco)

Translation: Carmel Drake

INE: House Sales Increased By 15.7% In December

10 February 2015 – Expansión

Sales of second hand homes drove overall house sales to increase by 2.2% in 2014, with respect to the previous year, to reach 319,389 transactions, resulting in a return to positive growth after three years of decline.

House sales rose by 2.2% in 2014 after three years of decline, thanks to a boost from second hand properties, according to the provisional data published today by the National Institute of Statistics (Instituto Nacional de Estadística or INE) regarding the Statistics on the Transfer of Property Rights (Estadística de Transmisiones de Derechoes de la Propiedad or ETDP).

The second hand market was the driver behind this annual growth, the first positive trend since 2010, when house sales grew by just over 6%. That year represented a respite for the real estate market, which had been hit hard by the economic downturn.

The increase in the sale of second hand homes was notable last year with a rise of 18.4%, to reach 199,943 transactions. By contrast, the number of new homes sold decreased by 16.9%, to amount to 119,446.

25,998 houses were sold in total in December, an increase of 15.7% on the same month last year – the fourth consecutive monthly increase – and 3.2% more than in November.

After three years of decline, house sales have returned to positive territory in the context of a strong price correction. In fact, since their peak in 2007, house prices in Spain have decreased by more than 40%.

During the crisis, the worst years for house sales were 2008 and 2009, when the number of transactions plummeted by 28.8% and 25.1%, respectively. Double-digit decreases were also recorded in 2011 and 2012 (-18.1% and -11.5%, respectively), however, the decline eased in 2013 to 1.9% as the tax relief for house purchases ended.

89.7% of homes sold last year were unsubsidised (free housing) and 10.3% were subsidised (protected). In total, sales of unsubsidised homes increased by 3.2% in 2014, whilst sales of subsidised homes decreased by 6.2%, a smaller decline than in previous periods.

Andalucía leads the ranking

By autonomous region, Andalucía recorded the highest number of house sales last year (64,349 transactions were closed there), followed by Cataluña (47,113), Valencia (46,678) and Madrid (44,231).

The autonomous regions that recorded the fewest number of transactions were La Rioja (2,263), Cantabria (3,917) and Navarra (4,403).

In relative terms, the number of house sales rose in eleven autonomous communities in 2014 and decreased in six. The regions that experienced the highest increases in terms of the number of transactions were the Balearic Islands (+18.5%) and Navarra (+13.9%), whilst the ones with the largest decreases were La Rioja (-25.1%) and Castilla-La Mancha (-12.6%).

Original story: Expansión (by )

Translation: Carmel Drake