February 2006 news review

The annual review of the Spanish property market’s performance in the previous year, plus a summary of forecasts for the year to come is done (see below ‘2005 review and forecasts for 2006’). As you would expect, the Spanish government and other vested interest groups make all the right noises about gentle price increases and ‘soft landings’, though there is one refreshingly contrarious report out recently that forecasts sharply declining prices over the next 2 to 3 years. Nevertheless, the ‘expert’ consensus continues to be one of an orderly decline in Spanish property inflation. This was certainly the prevailing view in a real estate conference I spoke at recently, in which one of Spain’s leading economists – a very clever and convincing man – produced slide after slide of hard data to show that Spanish property is reasonably priced given present employment levels and interest rates. But for what it’s worth I think that prices are already falling, and will continue to fall, for some types of property in some places – most obviously where they have gone made with the cement mixers. As we all know, when it comes to property, it’s always ‘location, location, location’ and this rule applies just as much when it comes to property bubbles.

Talking of bubbles, you’ve been giving me some good arguments both for and against a bubble, general, local or otherwise, in the comments you have been sending in. Well worth a read for anyone thinking of buying or selling property in Spain.

Bubble survey results to date: Is there a bubble in the Spanish property market? Answers broken down by nationalities.

BRITISH
Yes: 66%
No: 34%
IRISH
Yes: 62%
No: 38%
SPANISH
Yes: 90%
No: 10%
TOTAL
Yes: 71%
No: 29%

MARK STUCKLIN

IN DEPTH

2005 Spanish Property market review and forecasts for 2006
Every year Spanish Property Insight produces a roundup of the previous year’s performance figures for the Spanish property market, and a summary of forecasts for the coming year.

SPANISH PROPERTY MARKET NEWS

Spanish tax authorities to blitz real estate fraud
Luis Pedroche, Director of Spain’s Inland Revenue (national agency responsible for tax collection and known as the Agencia Tributaria in Spain) has announced that a full third of the agency’s resources will be dedicated to preventing and controlling real estate fraud in 2006. A failure to declare or pay property-related taxes is one of the biggest sources of tax evasion in Spain. This could have a significant impact on foreign buyers.

During a breakfast organised by the Association of Economic Journalists (APIE), Pedroche announced the creation of special fraud units dedicated to identifying all types of real estate fraud, such as falling to declare the full amount of a property transaction in the deeds of sale.

“Greater fiscal control of the real estate sector is justified by the economic size of the sector, by its social impact, and because of the prevalence of money laundering opportunities and tax evasion”, explained Pedroche.

Average Spanish mortgage rises to 144,352 Euros
Figures from the National Institute of Statistics show that the average mortgage loan value rose to 144,352 Euros in November 2005, 15% higher than November 2004. Average property prices rose to 130,761 Euros, up 15.9% on a year before.

Markets expect ECB to raise base rates to 2.5%
The ECB left Euro-zone base (repo) rates unchanged in February, but most analysts expect them to raise rates from 2.25% to 2.5% this Thursday 2nd March. The ECB has made it clear that it sees a risk of inflation and excessive credit growth, principally of mortgages. In February Jean Claude Tritchet – President of the ECB – dropped heavy hints of an imminent increase, citing inflationary worries (Euro-zone inflation hit 2.4% in January, above the target rate of 2%), and “abnormal” conditions in certain property markets such as Spain’s. According to Trichet, the bank’s priority is to “prevent the real estate bubble from inflating any further”.

For its part Euribor – the rate used to calculate interest payments for most mortgages in Spain – rose in January to 2.833%, the highest level in 3 years. Euribor in February appears to have risen to 2.914%, though this still remains to be confirmed by the Bank of Spain.

Euribor rates over the last few years can be seen in the Euribor resource section

‘Madrileños’ head for new coasts
According to the Spanish daily ‘El Mundo’ residents of Madrid – some of the biggest buyers of Spanish coastal property – have started to abandon old favourites like the Costa del Sol and Costa Blanca in favour of ’emerging’ coastlines in Cantabria, Huelva, Almeria and Murcia. If true, this will put downward pressure on prices in the old areas and upward pressure on prices in the ’emerging’ areas.

Spanish property ownership costs rising in 2006
Estimates from the College of Property Administrators in Madrid reveal that property running costs in Madrid are expected to be 200 Euros per month higher on average than in 2005, and higher in general throughout Spain. Gas prices are expected to be 4.26% higher, electricity prices 4.48% higher and water rates 3.5% higher than last year, to which we can also add a 10.9% increase in local rates (Madrid), higher household insurance costs and higher community costs. Figures from the National Institute of Statistics show that most types of costs related to owning and maintaining property in Spain (with the exception of some taxes) rose by between 4% and 5% over the last 12 months.

Spanish investors turn to Coast of Death after Prestige disaster
The Spanish daily ‘El Periódico de Catalunya’ reports of an investment-lead real estate boom on the Coast of Death (Costa de la Muerte), on Galicia’s northwest coast around Finisterre. This coastline was devastated by oil spills from the tanker ‘Prestige’ that sank just off the coast of Galicia in November 2002. However the disaster and cleanup operation, now complete, created an extra exposure to the area’s beauty that is now turning into real estate investments, including golf course developments.

Spanish Government buying beachfront estates to protect natural environment
The Minister for the environment – Cristina Narbona – has announced that her department has “reserved” 50 costal properties (fincas) to preserve them from building speculators and help protect the environment. She explained that one of her department’s policies is to “buy beachfront properties and protect them from urban development”.

Spanish Housing stock is 3 times EU average per 1,000 people
According to figures from the European Mortgage Federation and the Spanish Mortgage Association, the number of newly built residential properties per 1,000 people is 11.7 in Spain compared to an EU average of around 4 per 1,000 of population (range goes from 2 to 6 properties per 1,000 of population). Spain also has more properties – 500 per 1,000 people – than the EU average of 434.

Costa del Sol property speculators turn to renting
The Spanish daily ‘Sur’ reports that many of the people who speculated with property on the Costa del Sol are now trying to rent out the properties that they have been unable to sell.

Number of housing starts to remain the same in 2006
The consultancy DBK forecasts 705,000 housing starts in Spain during 2006, almost the same number as in 2005 (725,000 according to the Bank of Spain). If the forecast proves correct this will be the first time annual housing starts have not increased in Spain since 1998. This still means that Spain is building almost a third of all housing starts in the EU.

With respect to finished properties the company forecasts that 645,000 new properties will be completed in 2006, 5% more than the 615,000 completed in 2005.

Financial burden of property purchase for Spaniards households on the rise
A recent report by Metrovacesa – one of Spain’s biggest builders – reveals that the average financial burden on household income for first time buyers in Spain reached between 39.5% and 46% of household income in 2005. This is the highest rate in the lat 12 years, but still below the levels reached in 1990 and 1991, when 69% of household income went on financing the property purchase of first time buyers. At the present level, average Spanish property prices are now 8.46 times average Spanish incomes.

Spanish rental prices up by 4.2% over 12 months
Figures from Spain’s National Institute of Statistics show that Spanish property rental prices increased by 4.2% over the last 12 months, exactly the same as consumer price inflation. This means that, in real terms, Spanish property rental prices have not increased at all over 12 months.

Spanish mortgage defaults rising, but still subdued
According to the Spanish Mortgage Association (AHE) the rate of mortgage defaults in Spain rose from 0.394% in June 2005 to 0.401% in September. Nevertheless the default rate remains exceptionally low by historical standards.

Property prices in Paris down 22% in 2 months
A new study from the French real estate company Laforêt Immobilier (which has more than 600 offices around France) reveals that real estate prices in Paris fell from 5,900 Euros/m2 in October 2005, to 4,847 Euros/m2 by December 2005, a 22% fall in 2 months. After the fall Parisian property prices were almost exactly the same as they had been a year before.

© Mark Stucklin (Spanish Property Insight)

 

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About Mark Stücklin

Mark Stücklin is a Barcelona-based property market analyst and consultant, and author of the 'Spanish Property Doctor' column in the Sunday Times (2005 - 2008). He can be reached by email on ms@spanishpropertyinsight.com.