Housing: Price Decreases Slow As Sales Increase

17 April 2015 – Cinco Días

The most prestigious research studies in the country continue to improve their forecasts for expected growth in Spain this year and next; and one of the (key) factors influencing this increase in optimism is, without doubt, the performance of the housing sector. This week was the turn of BBVA Research, whose report not only predicted that the rise in GDP this year could exceed 2.7%, it also forecast “an improvement in the basis for housing investment, which continues to reinforce a change in the cycle, both in terms of supply and demand”.

Moreover, the study concludes that residential investment has increased once again during the first quarter of this year, although these increases have been “moderate and starting from historically low levels”.

The General Council of Notaries and Tinsa also published their own statistics this week. The notaries recorded a total of 26,562 house sales during the month of February, representing a slight decrease of 1.9% compared with the same month last year, although that increases to 2.6% for the seasonality-adjusted figures. Despite reductions in January and February, the notaries argue that the trend over the last few months continues to reflect the stabilisation of sales.

“This decrease may be explained by the end of the base effect following the normalisation of the figures after tax breaks for housing were phased out”, says the report. Also, if we analyse the volume of transactions by type of property, we can see that sales of newly built homes dropped significantly, by 34.4%, whereas sales of used homes (which account for more than 70% of all transactions) increased at a rate of 3.4% p.a.

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In terms of prices, INE’s recently published statistics showed that behaviour varies substantially between new and used housing. The average price of house sales in February amounted to €1,192 per square metre, representing a decrease of 3.1% compared with the same month last year. However, whilst the price of second-hand homes barely changed during that period, falling by just 0.1%, the price of new builds experienced an average decrease of 5.8%, compared with twelve months earlier.

Moreover, the notaries calculate that house prices in Spain have decreased by 36.8%, on average, since the start of the crisis, back in 2007.

This figure does not agree exactly with the calculations performed by one of the largest property surveyors in the market, Tinsa, but it is very similar.

According to data published this week by Tinsa (see graph above), which is based on valuations obtained from its network of more than 1,200 surveyors across the country, average house prices experienced a year-on-year decrease of 2.8% in March, compared with a 3.6% drop in the previous month. According to Tinsa’s data, house prices have experienced a cumulative decrease of 41.4% from the peak figures recorded in December 2007.

Overall, the statistics show that the cumulative depreciation in house prices (since 2007) amounts to around 40%, although in areas such as the Mediterranean Coast, the aggregate adjustment amounts to 48.7%.

This fact, which means that in some regions houses today are worth half their pre-crisis values, is what continues to explain that many of the transactions recorded each month are completed without mortgages.

Specifically, in February, only 42.3% of house purchases were financed using a mortgage, which means that more than half were either paid for in cash or were financed using another type of loan that did not require a mortgage guarantee.

The notaries’ statistics also provide information about the average mortgage amount for the purchase of a home, which stood at 75.6% in February. And since more houses are being sold, it is logical to say that the granting of loans for the construction of new developments is also recovering, albeit slowly; the number of loans granted increased by 45.8% in February to take the total number of financed transactions to 335.

Original story: Cinco Días (by Raquel Díaz Guijarro)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Second-hand Housing Is More Appealing To Buyers

23 February 2015 – El País

62% of the homes purchased in Spain last year were second-hand.

The second-hand segment is winning by a landslide in the race to sell more homes in the Spanish real estate sector. Overall, sales increased in 2014 for the first time in four years – breaking the trend observed since 2010 – and they did so thanks to the used home segment.

62.7% (200,065) of the 318,928 homes sold in 2014 were second-hand and just 37.2% (118,863) were new builds, according to the statistics of the Association of Registrars. According to INE, sales of second-hand homes increased by 18.4%. By contrast, sales of new builds plummeted, falling by 16.9%.

All indicators suggest that second-hand homes will continue to dominate transactions throughout 2015. Thus, the gap between new and used housing will become increasingly larger. Why? The main factor tipping the balance is price; second-home homes are more affordable for the long-suffering buyer. Used homes are between 5% and 15% cheaper, according to Manueal Gandarias, Director of the Research Unit at pisos.com. In euros, “the difference between an average used home and an average new build in Spain amounts to approximately €400 per square metre”, according to calculations by the appraisal firm Tinsa.

Second-hand properties ended the year with an average price of €1,347 per square metre, whereas new builds stood at €1,624/m2, according to data published by the General Council of Notaries. Moreover, second hand properties are available for as little as “just over €1,021. This undoubtedly encourages future buyers”, says Chus de Miguel, Commercial Director at Casaktua.com.

Furthermore, the prices of used homes offer more room for negotiation when they are in private hands, especially for overvalued homes acquired during the bonanza years.

Another point in favour of second-hand properties is that they are taxed at a lower rate. Brand new properties are subject to a 10% VAT charge, whereas Property Transfer Tax (Impuesto de Transmisiones Patrimoniales or ITP) is levied on those that are already inhabited and it varies from 6% to 10%. Moreover, aside from a few exceptions, used homes are located in better areas, since new homes are often scarce in city centres, unless they are refurbished homes. “A high percentage of used homes are located in more established, central areas that have more services”, says Chus de Miguel.

Although new builds have a very important advantage: “the greater ease of financing offered by the developers and banks that own these homes”, says Jesús Duque, Vice President of Alfa Inmobiliaria. Loans are normally granted to the developer in the case of new builds, which may be subrogated to the potential buyer. And financial institutions offer more credit facilities to place their own products, be they new or used. The individual vendor is disadvantaged in this sense.

In terms of the state of the property, new homes are ready to move into and live in, whereas used homes may require the buyer to invest in a face-lift or comprehensive renovation. “Our clients prefer to buy a house in a good building, update it or renovate it to their taste and pay 20% less than they would pay for a new build”, says Fernando Sánchez, agent at Re/Max Urbe. And he continues “problems should not arise if the property has a favourable Technical Building Inspection (report), is energy efficient and has good insulation”.

Regardless of tastes, is it worth paying more for a brand new home? “If we are talking about the same area and similar characteristics in terms of a property, I do not think it is worth paying 10% or 20% more for a new home”, says Duque.

Before signing any agreements, experts advise that (potential buyers) perform a simulation of the annual costs that will result from the purchase. As well as of the monthly costs. One should appreciate that “new builds typically charge higher community fees (to cover the cost of swimming pools, gardens, sports facilities…) and that it is possible to find second-hand homes where the central heating and water costs are included”, say sources at Fotocasa.es.

The fact that the second-hand segment is driving the reactivation of the real estate market is also explained by the fact that there is more supply. And “because the new builds sold by banks are also classified as second-hand”, say experts at Idealista.com. Much of the stock held by banks is classified as ‘used’ even though it is actually brand new, because they are homes that they have absorbed from developers in exchange for the payment of debt.

And whilst the second-hand market is growing, the new build segment is contracting; it is plummeting because hardly any new homes have been constructed in Spain in recent years. It is true that the construction of new homes is now increasing, albeit at a very slow rate. By 2016, the panorama will have changed. Bankinter estimates that, after years of significant decreases, driven by low demand and developer paralysis, sales of new builds will return to a level close to 100,000 units by 2016 (with total sales amounting to 450,000).

Original story: El País (by Sandra López Letón)

Translation: Carmel Drake