Greece‘s housing market remains depressed, its economic crisis seemingly unending, and social unrest rising. The average price of dwellings dropped 4.91% in 2015, worse than its 3.93% price decline in 2014. Quarter-on-quarter, house prices dropped 1.5% in Q4 2015. House prices have been falling in Athens since 2008.
2015 was punctuated by two elections, the imposition of capital controls, negotiations to close another bailout, a referendum, a confidence crisis, bank closures, and preparations for a euro exit.
The Greek economy contracted by 2.3% in 2015, after meagre growth of 0.8% in 2014, and declines of 3.9% in 2013, 6.6% in 2012, 8.9% in 2011, 5.4% in 2010, 4.4% in 2009 and 0.4% in 2008. The economy is projected to shrink by 1.3% this year, according to the IMF.
In Ukraine, there is hope that life will gradually return to normal, after the conflict with Russia officially ended last year. House prices in Kiev fell by just 2.76% in 2015, a sharp improvement from the decline of 37.38% in 2014. House prices rose slightly by 0.04% quarter-on-quarter in Q4 2015. Ukraine’s economy contracted by 9% last year, after declines of 6.8% in 2014 and 0.03% in 2013, according to the IMF. The economy is expected to return to growth this year, with GDP growth of 2%.
Spain continues to surprise on the negative side. Spanish house prices fell by 1.71% in 2015, only a slight improvement from their decline of 1.96% in 2014. On a quarterly basis, house prices dropped 1.2% during the latest quarter. The economy grew by 3.1% last year, its strongest growth since 2007. Economic growth this year is projected to be a modest 2.5%.
Asian housing markets slowing sharply
Seven of the ten Asian markets for which figures are available saw house price increases during 2015, though most were just modest increases. In fact, only China’s house prices rose strongly performance last year. Moreover, only three Asian housing markets were stronger in 2015 than in 2014.
China‘s housing market soared to new highs, after government measures to support the housing market. In Shanghai the price index of second-hand houses rose by 9.12% in 2015, in sharp contrast to a decline of 2.89% the previous year. During the latest quarter, house prices in Shanghai rose by 3.79%.
Demand was strong, with home sales rising by 16.6% in 2015, according to Moody’s Investors Service. However in 2016, nationwide home sales are expected to rise by just under 5%, reflecting China’s slowing economy and developers’ high debt levels.
China’s strong house price rises conceal a massive problem of housing inventory, particularly in third-tier and fourth-tier cities. Currently, unsold homes are estimated at around 13 million. To solve this problem, the Chinese government recently announced a plan to purchase unsold residential properties and convert them into low-cost housing to reduce inventory levels. Moreover, in February 2016, the central bank cut the minimum mortgage down-payment for first-time buyers from 25% to 20%, in an effort to encourage demand. Unsurprisingly, during 2015 housing starts and completions fell by 14% and 6.9%, respectively.
The central bank kept its benchmark one-year lending rate at 4.35% in February 2016, after cutting it by 25 basis points in October 2015. The Chinese economy grew by 6.8% in 2015, the lowest growth in 25 years. Economic growth is expected to slow further to 6.3% this year and to 6% in 2017, according to the IMF.
In the Philippines, the average price of 3-bedroom condominium units in Makati CBD rose by 2.96% in 2015, down from increases of 4.29% in 2014, 9.86% in 2013, and 4.87% in 2012. Housing prices dropped 0.84% q-o-q during Q4 2015.
Makati CBD property prices soared by 24.6% from Q1 2011 to Q4 2014, amidst rapid economic growth. The Philippine economy grew by 6% last year, after GDP growth of 6.1% in 2014, 7.1% in 2013 and 6.7% in 2012. The economy is projected to grow by an average of 6.4% in 2016 and 2017.
South Korea‘s nationwide housing purchase price index rose by a modest 2.25% in 2015, after rising 0.82% in 2014 – the biggest y-o-y rise in since 2006, amidst low interest rates and relaxed mortgage lending rules. House prices increased by 0.7% q-o-q during the latest quarter.
South Korean home sales surged by 18.8% to 1,193,691 units in 2015, the highest level since 2006 when the government started to compile the data. The surge in demand was mainly due to a series of government measures to buoy the housing market, including a lift in reconstruction regulations and an easing of lending criteria.
However, the Korean housing market is expected to slow this year, as the government plans to impose tougher lending rules amidst swelling household debt. Rising interest rates in the U.S. and China’s economic slowdown are also expected to slow Korea’s economic growth. Korea’s economy grew by 2.7% last year, after growth of 3.3% in 2014, 2.9% in 2013, 2.3% in 2012, and 3.7% in 2011. Economic growth is expected at 3.2% this year and 3.6% next year, according to the IMF.
However, from the perspective of a US buyer, the modest increase in house prices was offset by the depreciation of the won. In 2015, the South Korean won lost more than 6% of its value against the US dollar, the steepest decline since 2008. By early-March 2016, the exchange rate stood at KRW1235.94 = USD1.
Asian housing markets with minimal house price rises included Thailand, with house prices rising by 1.98% during 2015, Tokyo, Japan (0.92%), Vietnam (0.86%) and Hong Kong (0.05%). All, except Japan and Hong Kong recorded positive quarter-on-quarter growth in Q4 2015. However, all showed weaker performance in 2015 compared to the previous year.
Some Asian housing markets saw falling prices
House prices fell in three of the ten Asian markets for which figures were available during 2015.
Taiwan‘s nationwide house prices dropped 4.39% in 2015, after an increase of 1.26% in 2014, mainly due to the government’s housing market cooling measures. This was the first annual decline since 2008. House prices dropped 1.73% q-o-q in Q4 2015.
Demand is now falling. In 2015, the value of housing transactions in Taiwan plunged by more than 20% from a year earlier, the weakest demand in almost 14 years. Taiwan’s economy grew by a miniscule 0.75% last year, the lowest growth since 2009, amidst poor exports due to slowing demand from China. The country’s GDP growth is expected to be between 2.1% and 2.7% this year, according to the National Development Council.
Singapore‘s housing market continues to struggle, amidst a slowing economy. House prices fell by 3.06% in 2015, after declines of 3.97% in 2014, 0.37% in 2013, and 1.48% in 2012. House prices fell by 0.49% q-o-q during the latest quarter.
Demand is gradually improving. The number of private residential units sold increased slightly by 1.7% to 7,440 in 2015, according to the Urban Redevelopment Authority. On the other hand, supply continues to fall. The number of uncompleted private residential units launched fell by about 8.3% to 7,056 units in 2015.
Singapore’s economy expanded by 2.2% last year, after growth rates of 2.9% in 2014, 4.4% in 2013, 3.4% in 2012, 6.2% in 2011, and 15.2% in 2010. The economy is expected to grow by 2.9% this year and by 3.2% in 2017, according to the IMF.
In Indonesia, residential prices in the country’s 14 largest cities fell by 0.22% in 2015, in contrast with rises of 0.39% in 2014, 2.93% in 2013, and 2.27% in 2012. House prices increased slightly by 0.2% q-o-q during the latest quarter.
Demand is now picking up. Residential property sales in Indonesia rose by 7% to 8% in 2015 from the previous year, according to the Realestat Indonesia (REI). Property sales are expected to continue increasing by around 10% to 12% this year. In an effort to attract foreign investors, in June 2015 the Indonesian government unveiled a plan to finally allow foreigners to purchase luxury apartments in the country.
Indonesia’s economy grew by 4.7% in 2015, down from 5% in 2014 and the lowest growth since 2002. Economic growth is expected to be 5.2% this year and 5.5% next year.
U.S. housing market remains very strong
The U.S. housing market has actually strengthened, amidst satisfactory economic growth. The S&P/Case-Shiller seasonally-adjusted national home price index rose by 4.65% 2015 (inflation-adjusted), after rises of 3.75% in 2014, 9.09% in 2013, and 4.66% in 2012. House prices increased by 0.74% during the latest quarter.
This was supported by Federal Housing Finance Agency‘s seasonally-adjusted purchase-only U.S. house price index, which rose by 5.29% in 2015 (inflation-adjusted), up from an increase of 3.77% in 2014. The index increased by 0.52% q-o-q during the latest quarter.
House prices continue to rise in all 20 major U.S. cities, according to the Case-Shiller index, with Portland registering the biggest inflation-adjusted increase of 10.65% y-o-y in 2015, followed by San Francisco (9.61%), Denver (9.39%), Seattle (9.16%), Dallas (8.74%), San Diego (6.35%), Miami (6.33%), Detroit (6.28%), Tampa (6.15%), and Phoenix (5.53%). Washington and Chicago saw the lowest growth in house prices at 0.94% and 1.7%, respectively.
Residential construction remains strong. New privately-owned housing units authorized rose by 12% y-o-y to 1,178,138 units in 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Over the same period, the total number of housing starts rose by 11% while completions rose by 9.5%.
Demand is surging. New house sales were up by 15% to about 501,000 units in 2015 from a year earlier, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. There were about 234,000 units for sale by end-2015, more than 10% up from the previous year.
U.S. home builder sentiment stood at 58 in February 2016, down from 61 a month earlier but up from 55 in the same period last year, according to the National Association of Home Builders. A reading of 50 is the midpoint between positive and negative sentiments.
Low mortgage interest rates have been fuelling property demand. The average interest rate for 1-year adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) remained low at 2.53% in 2015. In February 2016, the average interest rate for 5-year adjustable rate mortgages fell to 2.83% while the 15-year FRMs also dropped to 2.96, according to Freddie Mac. The average interest rate for 30-year FRMs fell to 3.66% in February 2016.
In the fourth quarter of 2015, the U.S. economy grew by an annualized rate of 0.7%, after growth rates of 2% in Q3 2015, 3.9% in Q2 2015 and 0.6% in Q1 2015, amidst weakening exports and manufacturing, and slowing consumer spending, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Despite this, the U.S. economy grew by 2.4% last year, matching its pace in 2014. The world’s largest economy is expected to accelerate this year, with 2.8% growth, according to the IMF.
Canada’s housing market stronger
Despite repeated market-cooling measures, house prices in Canada‘s eleven major cities rose by 4.52% in 2015, up from 3.47% the previous year and the biggest annual increase since 2007. During the latest quarter, house prices increased 0.7% q-o-q.
Biggest rises: Vancouver saw the biggest inflation-adjusted house price increases of 11.1% in 2015, followed by Toronto (7.7%), Hamilton (7.1%), and Victoria (7%).
Biggest falls: Calgary recorded the biggest price drop of 4.2% in 2015, followed by Ottawa (-3.6%), Edmonton (-2.6%), Winnipeg (-2.6%), Quebec (-1.4%) and Montreal (-1.2%).
Home sales rose by 8% in January 2016 from the same period last year, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA). Sales were up in about two-thirds of all local markets, led by activity in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, and the Greater Toronto Area. There were about 5.3 months of inventory on a national basis in January 2016, down from 5.4 months the previous month and the lowest level in about 6 years.
The Bank of Canada held its key interest rate unchanged at 0.50% in January 2016, after cutting it twice last year in response to plunging oil prices and worsening economic prospects. The key rate had previously been 1% from September 2010 to December 2014.
Canada’s economy, battered by the oil price decline, grew just 1.2% last year, less than half the 2.5% growth seen in 2014 and the slowest growth since the 2009 recession, amidst lower business investment and domestic demand, according to Statistics Canada. The economy is expected to expand by 1.7% this year and by another 2.4% in 2017, according to the IMF.
Middle East’s housing markets are weakening
All four Middle Eastern housing markets included in our global survey performed worse in 2015 than the previous year. Two countries had rising house prices during 2015, while the other two experienced sharp declines in house prices.
Qatar‘s property market is now softening, though it remained the world’s third strongest housing market in our survey. The nationwide real estate price index rose by 10.61% in 2015, sharply down from a rise of 31.81% in 2014. Property prices fell by 3.6% q-o-q during the latest quarter.
The value of real estate transactions in Qatar reached an all-time high in 2015, boosted by rapid economic and population growth, and a construction boom in preparation for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The economy grew by 4.7% in 2015, after GDP growth of 4% in 2014, 4.6% in 2013, 4.9% in 2012, 13.4% in 2011, 19.6% in 2010, and 12% in 2009, according to the IMF. The economy is expected to expand by 5% this year and 4.2% in 2017.
Israel‘s housing market remains robust. The nationwide average price of owner-occupied dwellings rose by 5.17% during 2015, after increases of 7.41% in 2014, 5.38% in 2013, and 4.12% in 2012. House prices increased 0.56% q-o-q in Q4 2015.
Demand is surging. New dwelling sales soared by more than 40% y-o-y to 32,366 units in 2015, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). The number of new dwellings for sale increased 4% to 327,618 units over the same period. Likewise, residential building permits also rose by 4.7% to 9,649 units in the first eleven months of 2015 from the same period last year.
Israel’s economy is grew by just 2.3% in 2015, its slowest pace in six years, due to falling exports and the July-August conflict with Palestinian militants in Gaza, according to the Bank of Israel. The Bank of Israel kept its benchmark interest rate at a record low of 0.1 in March 2016, in an effort to boost economic growth while maintaining price and financial stability.
Dubai‘s residential property prices plunged by 14.09% in 2015, in sharp contrast with the rise of 12.98% in 2014, and the biggest y-o-y drop since 2010. House prices fell by 1.14% during the latest quarter.
Dubai’s property market has been one of the world’s most volatile. Dubai saw one of the world’s worst housing crashes from Q3 2008 to Q3 2011 with house prices plunging by 53%. The market started to recover in 2012, with double-digit house price increases from Q2 2012 to Q4 2014. However, the property market started slow in the second half of 2014, amidst housing oversupply, subdued demand and slower economic activity.
Despite this, the total number real estate transactions rose by 8% to 63,719 in 2015 from the previous year, according to Dubai Land Department. The value of real estate transactions reached US$72.7 billion in 2015. Around 48,000 units are expected to be delivered into the market from 2016 to 2018, according to CBRE.
House prices in Dubai are expected to fall further this year, amidst weaker investor sentiment and weak economic growth.
The UAE’s economy grew by just 3% in 2015, after GDP growth of 4.6% in 2014, 4.3% in 2013, 7.2% in 2012 and 4.9% in 2011, according to the IMF. UAE’s economic growth is expected to slow further to 2.6% this year, due to collapsing oil prices, a worsening Chinese economy and looming regional public spending cuts.
Egypt is now the second worst performer in our global house price survey with the nationwide real estate index plunging by 14.22% in 2015. This is in sharp contrast with the rise of 1.14% in 2014. House prices fell by 6.73% q-o-q in Q4 2015.
In an effort to buoy the property market, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi recently ratified Law 17/2015, removing the last remaining restrictions on foreign ownership of land and property in Egypt, and introduced rules allowing the government, the biggest landowner in Egypt, to contribute land to the private sector as part of public-private partnership schemes against a share of the revenue.
Egypt’s economy expanded by 4.2% last year, up from 2.2% in 2014 and the highest growth in 5 years, on the back of a more stable political environment, large donations from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) allies and improving business sentiment, according to the IMF. Economic growth is projected to slow to 3.8% this year, according to the World Bank, amidst foreign currency shortages and a weakening tourism sector following the downing of a Russian plane in October 2015.
New Zealand’s housing market softening
New Zealand‘s housing market is slowing, amidst weakening economic growth. The nationwide median house prices rose by 3.24% in 2015, after rising 4.6% in 2014, 8.02% in 2013, and 8.54% in 2012. House prices actually fell by 3.52% q-o-q during Q4 2015.
Total dwellings sold were up 4.3% y-o-y to 5,048 units in January 2016, according to the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ). All ten regions recorded increases in sales volumes, with Hawke’s Bay registering the biggest y-o-y rise of about 36% in January 2016, followed by Northland (31%), and Waikato/Bay of Plenty (27%). New dwelling consents were 27,132 units in 2015, up by 9.8% from a year earlier, according to Statistics New Zealand. Likewise, the number of residential building permits rose by 10.5% to 10,524 over the same period.
New Zealand’s economy was estimated to have expanded by a modest 2.2% in 2015, after growing by 3.3% in 2014, 2.5% in 2013, 2.9% in 2012, 1.3% in 2011 and 2% in 2010. The economy is expected to grow by 2.4% annually in 2016 and 2017, according to the IMF.
The Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) kept its official cash rate (OCR) at 2.5% in January 2016, after cutting it four times last year, in an effort to boost economic growth amidst low inflation.
Brazil’s housing market depressed; Mexico remains strong
Brazil‘s housing market is weakening, amidst the ongoing economic and political crisis. In Sao Paulo, house prices fell by 7.37% in 2015, in stark contrast with the rises of 0.83% in 2014, 7.59% in 2013, 9.38% in 2012, 19.18% in 2011, 17.11% in 2010, and 16.56% in 2009. Quarter-on-quarter, house prices dropped 2.72% in Q4 2015.
Brazil’s economy is in deep recession, and its currency is plummeting. Worse, the country’s political crisis sees no letup with President Dilma Rousseff fighting efforts to impeach her amidst the massive Petrobras corruption scandal. Consumer and investor confidence continue to decline. Recently, Brazil’s sovereign rating was cut to junk by Moody’s Investors Service, in line with the other two major rating companies.
The economy contracted by about 3% last year, after growing by 0.15% in 2014, 2.7% in 2013, 1.8% in 2012, 3.9% in 2011 and 7.6% in 2010, according to the IMF. This year, Brazil is headed for its worst economic performance since 1990, with an expected decline of 3.45%, according to the Banco Central do Brasil.
By end-December 2015, the Brazilian Real (BRL) had lost about 25% of its value against the U.S. dollar to reach an average monthly exchange rate of BRL4.0388 = USD1 as compared to BR3.0455= USD1 in the past 9 months. However by early-March 2016, the real recovered by almost 7% to reach an exchange rate of BRL3.7551 =USD1, following the arrest of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on suspicion of corruption, worsening the political crisis that threatens to topple the present administration.
House prices in Sao Paulo soared by 113% (inflation-adjusted) from 2007 to 2013, while Rio De Janeiro’s rose by 144%, as interest rates were progressively cut from 26% to 7.25% between 2003 and 2012.
However starting in the first half 2013, the central bank raised the benchmark interest rate nine times to 11% in April 2014, causing a sharp economic slowdown. After holding the key interest rate steady for almost seven months, the central bank decided to raise it again by 25 basis points in October 2014, and by 50 basis points in December 2014. In 2015, the central bank again raised the key rate five times to 14.25%, the highest level for almost six years.
Mexico‘s housing market continues to grow stronger, buoyed by strong demand in resort communities and a sustainable economic growth. The nationwide house price index rose by 4.36% in 2015, up from meager growth of 0.84% in 2014 and 0.39% in 2013 and a y-o-y decline of 1.15% in 2012. However on a quarterly basis, house prices dropped 1.72% in Q4 2015.
Foreign homebuyers are boosting the property market. American and Canadian buyers are returning to Mexico, after a several-year slump, thanks to low oil prices and the strong US dollar, pushing home values up. In 2015, Mexico’s peso slumped against the US dollar by about 16.8%, the biggest annual decline sine 2008. In January 2016, the peso depreciated further by around 6.6%. By end-February 2015, the exchange rate stood at MXN18.2059 = USD1, down from MXN15.0847 = USD1 a year ago.
The Mexican economy was estimated to have grown by 2.4% last year, after 2.1% in 2014, 1.4% in 2013, 4% in both 2011 and 2012, and 5.1% in 2011. Mexico is now considered as one of Latin America’s star performers, with a projected average annual GDP growth rate of 3.7% in 2016 to 2019.
South Africa’s housing market slowing
South Africa‘s price index for medium-sized apartments rose slightly by 0.99% during 2015, down from an increase of 2.21% the previous year. House prices increased 2.18% q-o-q in Q4 2015.
South Africa’s economy grew by about 1.3% last year, its slowest growth since the country emerged from a recession 2009, based on government estimates. The economy is expected to slow further, with real GDP growth estimated at 0.9% this year, amidst severe drought and declining exports.
Despite the sluggish economic growth, the South African Reserve Bank (SARB), the country’s central bank, hiked its benchmark repurchase rate by 50 basis points to 6.75% in January 2016, in an effort to stop the rand from depreciating further and to contain inflationary pressures. In the second half of 2015, the rand lost about 26% of its value, partly caused by a weak economy and the sudden reshuffling of the finance ministry. Currently, the exchange rate stands at ZAR15.6108 = USD1. The rand is expected to remain under pressure this year.
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