Thursday, March 15, 2012

Spanish house prices plunging; how long until they are down 68% like Ireland's

A Wall Street Journal article revealed that house prices in Spain have declined more than 20% and possibly more than 30% from their 2007-2008 peak.

By comparison, an Irish Times article discussed a report that showed Irish house prices have fallen by 68% from their 2007-2008 peak.

So the question is "given that both countries had a real estate bubble, how long until the decline in house prices in Spain matches the decline in house prices in Ireland?"

Based on the Wall Street Journal article, it could happen this year as there is a catalyst for closing the price decline gap.

Specifically, the Spanish government has moved from the Japanese model and policies of regulatory forbearance and letting banks hide the extent of their real estate losses to the Swedish model of requiring the banks to clean up their balance sheets.
Spanish house prices tumbled at their fastest pace on record in the fourth quarter, a sign that a long-running property bust will continue to weigh on Spanish households and banks. 
House prices fell on average by 11.2% in the fourth quarter from the same period a year earlier, well below the 7.4% decline in the third quarter, while prices of used homes was down 13.7% in the period, the country's statistics agency INE said Thursday. 
Both readings are by far the worst since INE started recording countrywide prices in 2007, the peak year for Spain's decade-long property boom. Previously, annual price declines had bottomed out at 7.7% in 2009, and analysts say house prices have only rarely fallen year-to-year since at least the 1970s.... 
In previous quarters, price drops were somewhat contained, the result of support efforts by the government and banks, fearful of the effect of a housing collapse. 
Spanish banks hold more than €400 billion ($521.32 billion) worth of loans to the construction and real-estate sector, backed by collateral that loses value as property prices slide further..... 
Raj Badiani, an economist at IHS Global Insight, said government data indicates Spanish house prices are down more than 20% from the 2007-2008 peak, even though other evidence points to a possible drop of more than 30%.
"The continued imbalance between the supply and demand of housing suggests that house prices will continue to fall throughout 2012," Mr. Badiani said. "The outlook remains bleak, with the demand for housing expected to shrink throughout 2012 with debt-laden households struggling to cope with a devastated labor market and limited access to credit." 
Last month, Spain's Finance Minister Luis de Guindos presented a clean-up plan that will force banks to set aside an additional €50 billion this year to cover losses from souring loans, mostly property-related. The plan also seeks to allow a faster correction of the property market this year, so that lower prices trigger some demand in the moribund sector. 
Earlier this week, INE data showed Spain's property sales continued their recent slide in January, with a 26% annual decline.... 
The clean-up plan and other reforms may only have a delayed effect on the euro zone's fourth-largest economy, the Ernst & Young consultancy said in a report. A lack of demand amid an economic contraction that may stretch until 2014 should keep house prices falling for the next three years, Ernst & Young added.

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