Archive for November, 2009

 

November 28th, 2009

I recently read an interesting interview with Mikel Echavarren, head of Irea, a Spanish real estate consultancy, talking about the state of the real estate sector in Spain. As an experienced professional in touch with many different companies in the sector it is worth listening to what he has to say. Here is a selection of comments from his Q&A with Idealista News, the news section of the property portal Idealista.

Do you think there are any good investment opportunities in Spanish real estate today?
I think so but they are risky. In three years we’ll probably be kicking ourselves for not advising investors to invest now. There aren’t many opportunities in commercial real estate because there isn’t much product and rents haven’t yet adjusted. In residential, on the other hand, the correction has been very strong and fast. The ideal profile now is an opportunistic investor buying properties off banks by taking on the existing debt, a type of real estate venture capital.

So you think there are opportunities in a residential sector because the adjustment has already taken place?
There are hundreds of thousands of possible transactions, but not many genuine opportunities. What there is not is any financing, so anyone who wants to take advantage of this market has to take the debt with the asset, but there are still very few people prepared to do that today.

Has the price of housing and land touched bottom?
House prices touched bottom some time ago, they have already fallen all they had to fall. And the price of land has fallen faster than house prices although it could even fall a bit more. We have been saying at the top of our lungs that the price statistics published by the government are worthless, and damaging to the sector because they give international analysts the impression we are a country of idiots. In the US and the UK prices have fallen around 20% from the peak whilst here we have only fallen by 8%. We work with close to 28 property companies that have been restructured, and you see that valuations are down 30% in 2 years, and then banks buy those assets with discounts of 10-15% off valuations.

Do you think there is any residential property that will never sell?
What there is is a stock of land that will never be sold, at least not in 10 years. There are areas of Spain where the town plans look like they were designed for an invasion of extraterrestrials, parts of Almeria, Murcia and Alicante. There is an overdose of land that will lie in the warehouses of banks for many years. On the other hand, the stock of finished property will be absorbed sooner.

Is there any real demand for housing at the moment?
Yes, quite a few homes are being sold. We would have to place it at more than 200,000 homes a year. What is not selling is off-plan, as there you take the risk of the developer or builder going bankrupt. It’s a good time to buy newly built homes with Euribor at 1.24%. They won’t be any cheaper next year. And when prices start to rise they will do so at a rate of 10% per year.

How does one get the Spanish property sector to recover?
The residential sector is already recovering, just not the developers, who won’t see the light at the end of the tunnel for three years; it is very bleak for them. Clients of ours tell us they have sold a lot this summer, and some banks tell us that they have had more mortgage requests this summer than in all 2009. Furthermore, we believe that developers have dropped their prices to the minimum. There is mortgage financing available, not much, but there wasn’t any at all in 2008, and now there is. Mortgage costs are low, and it appears that the future is not going to get any worse. The recovery is underway, although this won’t show up in the official statistics until the first half of 2010. As soon as there is a general perception that things are getting better, house prices will stop falling and start rising.

Story from Idealista News

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November 27th, 2009

The Spanish house price index figures for October 2009 have just been released. See the graph and the table below for an up to date overview of the real estate market trend in Spain.

Spanish House Price Index - October 2009

Residential Spanish property prices fell by 7.4% over 12 months to the end of October. Nationally, prices are not falling as fast as they were, which may mean the market has touched bottom. It certainly looks that way from the graph above.

This seems especially true for inland property. Prices are down 5.8% compared to a year ago, which is a better performance than we see in some Northern European markets. It’s certainly the smalles price drop in a year, and the lowest fall of all the regions analysed. Of course it’s still early days, but inland property prices may actually start to rise slightly again in the first quarter of 2010.

The graph and table data represent the year-on-year evolution of Spanish property values. For example, if the value for August 2009 would be -3.9, then this means that average property prices in August 2009 are 3.9% lower than they were a year earlier, in August 2008.

The graph and table on this page contain up to date information for the past 13 months. For more information, please look at earlier monthly reports, or the historical overview since January 2001.

The graph and table data are based on actual property valuations, as established by one of Spain’s larget independent property valuation companies, Tinsa S.A. They are not based on asking prices or registered selling prices, nor on the statistics as provided by the Spanish Ministry of Housing, and are therefore considered to be the most acurate and reliable source for this kind of information.

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November 26th, 2009

The market for new homes is on the road to a mild recovery, claims the G-14 group of Spain’s leading developers. Sales of newly built homes will continue “consolidating in the coming months” said Pedro Pérez, head of the G-14. Let’s hope this is not just wishful thinking by developers desperate for the market to start mopping up the glut of properties they created.

There is some basis for the developer’s optimism in the latest sales figures from the National Institute of Statistics. Sales of newly built properties increased by 7.6% from August to September, though on an annualised basis sales were down 20%.

“It’s been comforting to see sales rise for the 5th consecutive month, something that means we can say that the sector is recovering since it touched bottom in April,” Pérez told the Spanish press.

Sales are bouncing back thanks to lower prices and more selective mortgage lending by banks, argue the developers.

The recovery in sales will continue in the months ahead, says Pérez, in part because developers will make “every effort possible” to make prices more attractive.

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November 25th, 2009

Euribor (12 months), the interest rate normally used to calculate mortgage payments in Spain, fell 1.4% in October to a record low of 1.243%. It has now fallen for 13 consecutive months, and is 76% lower than it was a year ago.

Monthly repayments on a typical annually-resetting mortgage (150,000 euros, 25 years) will drop by around 300 euros a month, or 4,000 euros a year, to 640 euros/month. Significantly lower monthly mortgage repayments have given many borrowers financial breathing space they did not have when Euribor stood at 5.26% in October last year. Estate agents report this is taking some pressure of the property market, by reducing the number of forced sellers. Many more borrowers can now afford to take their homes of the market in the hope of selling when the market recovers.

The average value of new residential mortgages signed in August fell 19% to 11,753 euros compared to the same time last year. The number of new mortgages signed by 6.6% to 52,482. Fewer, cheaper mortgages put downward pressure on property prices. The average interest rate on new mortgages in August was 4.3%. Interest rates from banks (4.15%) were better than savings banks or cajas (4.46%).

Many analysts expect Euribor to continue falling until the early part of 2010, further reducing the cost of money to Spanish mortgage borrowers.

Story by Mark Stucklin

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November 6th, 2009

The government of Andalucia, or Junta, announced yesterday a subsidy of 1 billion Euros to help liquidate the region’s property glut estimated at around 70,000 newly-built homes.

Like the ‘cash-for-clunkers’ programme used to subsidise car sales, public money will now be showered on house-hunters in Andalucia. But second home buyers can stay in their seats as the scheme only applies to local residents buying main homes. Even so, it could benefit foreigners living in Andalucia, and help lift the market out of its slump, which might lift prices for all types of property.

How it works
The way it works is developers participating in the scheme have to offer their property for sale at mortgage cost, wiping out their margins and giving a discount of 20%. Participating banks, for their part, will loan 100% interest only for the first 3 years. Starting in the fourth year the Junta will offer loans to subsidise mortgage payments for up to 5 years and a maximum of 15,000 Euros. As a result, buyers will save as much as 40% over 8 years, according to calculations by the Junta.

More conditions: The offer stands until the end of 2010, the properties must be newly- built, and the mortgage no greater than 245,000 Euros, the price limit for social housing. Mortgages must be 100% LTV, up to 30 years, charging an interest rate of Euribor +1%

Read the fine print, though, and the Junta isn’t being so generous. In year 9 mortgage lenders have to reimburse the subsidy to the Junta and add it onto the outstanding mortgage, so the borrower pays in the end. Nevertheless, thanks to inflation, buyers will probably have to pay back less, in real terms, than they borrow. Many people expect inflation to take off in the next few years.

Criticisms
You could argue that it is morally questionable for the government to be spending 1 billion Euros subsidising home buyers when there are so many other more needy causes. And isn’t this is just a wheeze to get buyers to pay inflated prices for homes today whilst transferring the burden of payment onto tax payers in the future? Wouldn’t it be cheaper, and cause less economic distortion, just to drop prices today to a level that people can afford without crucifying themselves on a 30 year mortgage subsidised by the government?

Story by: Mark Stucklin

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