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NOTARIES: Spanish housing market growth cools in July

spanish home sales and prices july 2017

There were 45,710 home sales witnessed by notaries in July (including VPO Government-subsidised housing), up 2.6% in a year (+2.9% seasonally adjusted), according to the latest figures from the Association of Spanish Notaries. The chart above shows how sales (left) and house prices (right) have changed since 2007.

The Spanish housing market has been growing by double digits for most months this year, according to the notaries, so growth of just 2.6% is noteworthy for being the lowest level recorded all year. Is it a one-off or a first sign that demand is losing steam? Time will tell.

Anyway, I’ve finally come to the conclusion you can’t read too much into the monthly housing market figures published by the notaries because they are so volatile, and from what I can tell, are significantly revised in the months after first release.

I’ve checked the same figures published by the notaries for July last year, when they reported 39,841 home sales that month. Those figures must have been heavily revised since then, as if not July sales would be up 14.7%, not 2.6% as reported by the notaries.

Months ago I gave up copying data from the pdf reports published by the notaries and putting them in a spreadsheet, because the figures seemed to change for months after first publication. The notaries make little effort to make their data user-friendly, and why fiddle about with figures if they change for months afterwards?

For what they are worth, their figures reveal that the average price of homes sold in July was 1,333 €/m2, down 0.5% compared to same time last year.

New residential mortgage lending was up 6.7% to 20,730 loans, so the percentage of transactions involving mortgage financing is creeping up towards 50%, though more than half of sales still involve a cash buyer. The average new mortgage loan was down 10.8% to €127,382

The next chart shows the evolution of the average loan-to-value (LTV) since the start of 2007 (green line, left scale) and the percentage of buyers using mortgage financing (blue line, right scale).

spanish mortgage lending ltv and percentage of buyers using financing

The chart illustrates how the Spanish property bubble was inflated by easy credit, with LTVs close to 90% and more than 60% of transactions based on borrowed money. These days LTVs are around 35% on average, and less than 50% of buyers use mortgage financing. So mortgage lending, though growing, is still a long way from being capable of inflating a bubble, especially when you take into account the high costs of taking out a mortgage in Spain. You have to put your own money at risk to buy a property in Spain today.

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