HOME SALES IN MARCH: Big plunge gives us a taste of things to come

spanish property market home sales march 2020 coronavirus covid-19 crisis
Barcelona home sales inscribed in March were down 13%

The latest home sales figures from the National Institute of Statistics (INE), and the Association of Spanish Notaries, both show a plunge in home sales reflecting the mayhem caused by the coronavirus crisis. It’s a taste of things to come.

The two sources relate to sales in slightly different periods, but it doesn’t change the overall picture.

The figures from the notaries relate to sales witnessed by them in March, whilst the figures from the INE relate to sales inscribed in the Land Register in March (by Land Registrars), but which took place in the proceeding one to three months. The notaries’ figures are more timely, but the INE’s figures provide more detail, like a regional breakdown.

Spanish home sales according to the notaries – March 2020

Home sales witnessed by Spanish notaries were down an annualised 37.5% in March to 32,332 transactions, as illustrated in the following chart.

spanish property market march 2020 coronavirus crisis covid-19

The coronavirus pandemic took Spain by surprise in mid-March. School closure and lockdown started on the 16th of March, when it became almost impossible to visit a notary to complete a property transaction. So these figures show what happened with half a month of lockdown, and some unease in the market leading up to the lockdown.

But the 12-month moving rolling sales number shows that the Spanish property market was already running out of steam before the disease struck (next chart). 

spanish property market march 2020 coronavirus crisis covid-19

Spanish home sales according to the INE – March 2020

Figures from the INE, based on sales registered by the Association of Spanish Land Registrars, show inscriptions in the Land Registry down 18% to 34,806, including subsidised housing, known as VPO. Excluding VPO the free market was down 17% to 31,750.

spanish property market march 2020 coronavirus crisis covid-19

The decline was partly because business was suspended for half the month, and partly due to a declining trend in sales in the preceding months. Just like the notaries’ figures, the 12-month rolling sales figure reveals a clear downward trend before Covid-19 came to town.

spanish property market march 2020 coronavirus crisis covid-19

The damage was quite evenly spread between new home sales and resales.

spanish property market march 2020 coronavirus crisis covid-19

Spanish home sales by selected region – March 2020

The regional picture looking at areas of interest to foreign buyers shows nowhere is escaping the bloodbath. The the smallest drop in Murcia, home of the Costa Calida, and a bunch of golf resorts, many of them once belonging to a developer called Polaris World. The biggest decline was in Malaga province, home to the Costa del Sol and lots of new developments pitched at foreign buyers who won’t be back in the market for at least a few months, at least whilst travel restrictions remain in place.

spanish property market march 2020 coronavirus crisis covid-19

These latest figures show how the Spanish residential property market was already looking a bit sickly before the arrival of Covid-19 from China, with home-made headwinds like political hostility, high-transaction costs, and a lack of transparency already dragging the market down. Maybe this makes Spain more vulnerable to a threat like Covid-19, in the same way that some groups of people are more vulnerable to the disease because of age or underlying health problems. It might make it harder to recover from the shock of the disease and lockdown when recovery time comes, which it will. But for now, expect sales figures in the next month or two to be even worse as a result of the lockdown, and it will take many months to see how the market deals with the economic crisis to come.

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Thoughts on “HOME SALES IN MARCH: Big plunge gives us a taste of things to come

  • SurveySpain says:

    Don’t forget that for the 2nd part of 2019, doubts about Brexit were dominating the UK buyer market and increasingly giving non-UK buyers concerns. Then IT happened and the doubt was gone. Flush of optimism in January, quickly extinguished by CV-19.

  • SurveySpain says:

    Also, as I’ve said before, many, many sales are of off-plan property, which don’t go to the Notary or Registrar until the First Occupation Licence is granted. There will be a bounce as these come through, which will appear to show a rising market, when in fact these deals were done many months or even years before. All assuming that buyers haven’t had second thoughts and try to renege on the deal!

    • That’s an unsafe assumption to make if I ever seen one! I am quite certain many buyers will not complete in their transaction. After all many can no longer afford to do so, many will have lost the desire to relocate to somewhere new due to a heightened sense of insecurity and / or a desire for variety, adventure etc having been curtailed. Factor in dropping prices and it makes it a no brainer not to complete in many instances. I believe we were going to see higher numbers of buyers walking away from their off plan purchase ore CV 19, post the numbers will surely swell greatly.

  • Undoubtedly, the market will be negatively affected to some greater degree. However, the $64.000 question is by how much. None of us have crystal balls and these have been unprecedented times, even compared to 2008. Although not ‘science’ , I see quite a few Brits on social media, still expressing a real desire to move to Spain before the Brexit deadline at the end of the year. Whether this translates to sales is anyone’s guess. Brits have traditionally been ‘top of the list’ of foreign purchasers, especially in the costas, so any murmurings of positivity should be welcomed.

    • Speaking with agents there are just as many Brits looking to return home pre brexit, backed up by such individuals have listed their properties on the market.

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