Monday, January 21, 2013

Property market here offers 'best value in Europe' -

By Brendan Keenan

Thursday January 17 2013

IRISH houses now offer some of the best value in Europe, according to the latest calculations from the 'Economist'.

The research finds that house prices, having fallen 50pc since 2007, are now 5pc below their long-term historical value when measured against disposable income per person.

The "house-price indicator" also compares the long-term ratio of prices against average rents. On this basis, prices are 1pc below the norm.

The indicator caused controversy during the housing boom, when it found a much bigger over-valuation in Irish house prices than estimates from the OECD and IMF.


In the event, prices have fallen even further than the indicator suggested as rents tumbled and disposable income was hit by rising taxes.

Now, Irish prices seem more realistic than those in many EU countries. The biggest over-valuation among those surveyed was in France, where prices were a third higher than past relationships to disposable income would suggest.

More worrying is the 21pc over-valuation found in Spain, where banks and public finances are under pressure. This was despite a 24pc fall in prices since 2007 and a 9pc drop over the past 12 months.

The 'Economist' sees this posing more of a threat than the French figures. "Spain's bust reflects a massive oversupply of housing built in the construction boom and an unemployment rate that rose to 26.6pc in November," it says.

A shortage of houses in the UK may counter its 12pc theoretical over-valuation and prevent prices falling further from the 11pc decline seen since 2007, it says.

"It does not suffer from the glut of empty homes that has created ghost towns in Ireland and Spain. And, according to the Bank of England's latest credit-conditions survey, lenders are more willing to make mortgage finance available than at any time since the financial crisis."

The cheapest houses in the EU compared with past trends going back to 1975 are in Germany, where they are 17pc under-valued, having risen 9pc since 2007.

But this is small compared with the 36pc under-valuation in Japan.

The hottest market is in Canada, which had a major price bust in the 1980s. Its 34pc over-valuation just edges out that of the Netherlands. A 20pc price fall in the US leaves houses 20pc under-valued, the report finds.

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