Europe's Recession Is Still Dragging Down House Prices In Most Markets

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1 Economic Research: Europe's Recession Is Still Dragging Down House Prices In Most Markets Credit Market Services: Sophie Tahiri, Economist, Paris (33) ; Jean-Michel Six, EMEA Chief Economist, Paris (33) ; Media Contact: Sharon L Beach, London (44) ; Table Of Contents Belgium: Prices Are Cooling, But A Slump Is Unlikely The French Market Is Falling As Consumer Confidence Falters Germany Is Bucking The European Trend Ireland: No Longer In Free Fall, But Recovery Will Be Slow Italy's Home Prices Are Still Stumbling On Economic Uncertainties The Netherlands: Falling Further On Austerity Measures And Economic Woes Portugal: The Market Still Sliding, But Reforms May Signal A Revival Spain: Rebalancing Will Continue U.K.: A Flat Market Masks A Price Gulf Between North And South JANUARY 17,

2 Economic Research: Europe's Recession Is Still Dragging Down House Prices In Most Markets The plight of Europe's homeowners looks set to continue this year as house prices keep falling in most European markets. Yet, the extent of the pain will vary significantly by country. Spain is still suffering a sharp correction. We forecast prices will fall by 7.8% this year, with little relief in sight. Other countries on Europe's "periphery", though, are seeing some light and the end of the tunnel. The free fall in Ireland's housing market, where residential property prices have halved in value since 2007, now appears to be stabilizing. But here, like Spain, swathes of unsold housing stock will delay a recovery. Portugal, meanwhile, despite suffering similar economic woes, did not see a housing bubble, so house price declines now are more limited. Potential reforms in Portugal could help stem the bleeding in house prices as early as next year, in our view (Watch the related CreditMatters TV segments titled "European House Prices : Gloomy Outlook For 2013" and "Nouvelle Baisse Attendue en 2013 Pour Les Prix de l Immobilier en Europe," dated Jan. 17, 2013.). In Europe's "core", the downturns in the Dutch and French housing markets appear to be accelerating. We forecast they'll see nominal price declines of nearly 6% and 5%, respectively, this year, as rising unemployment, decelerating wages, and the prospect of austerity measures frightens off buyers. Only Germany is bucking the European trend, with a moderate 3% rise in residential prices forecast this year and next, on the back of wage increases and comparatively lower unemployment than in other European countries. Still, Germany's rising market could hardly be described as a boom. It follows years of stagnation between 1999 and 2008, when most other markets rose considerably. Overview: We forecast that prices will keep falling in most European residential real estate markets this year amid persisting economic uncertainties. Spain's housing market will likely suffer the heaviest price declines of nearly 8% year on year, followed by the Netherlands (5.9%) and France (5%). The German market, though, should continue to see moderate price rises of 3%. The long-term prospects for most markets are nevertheless more positive, as housing supply shortages and rising populations should underpin prices. Over the next few quarters, we expect that weak economic prospects, risk aversion, and balance-sheet adjustment by eurozone households will continue to depress European residential markets. Beyond the economic crisis, though, the prospects for most markets appear more positive. A shortage of housing supply, coupled with rising populations in The Netherlands, France, and the U.K., to name just three, will underpin prices over the longer run. JANUARY 17,

3 Table 1 European Nominal Housing Prices (% Change Year On Year) e 2013f 2014f Belgium France (4.2) (1.1) (5.0) (5.0) Germany Ireland (19.0) (11.1) (15.7) (9.0) (0.9) 0.0 Italy (3.4) (1.4) (2.8) (4.0) (1.6) 0.5 Netherlands (5.1) (1.0) (3.3) (8.0) (5.9) (2.0) Portugal (0.6) 1.6 (0.8) (2.9) (1.1) 0.5 Spain (6.6) (3.3) (7.1) (9.5) (7.8) (6.0) United Kingdom (0.5) 1.5 (0.9) 0.5 e--estimate. F--Forecast. Sources: S&P, OECD. Belgium: Prices Are Cooling, But A Slump Is Unlikely Belgium's housing market should dampen in the short term as a result of the uncertain economic outlook, in our view. But we expect a rebound as early as 2014 (see table 2), not least because home prices and household debt are still moderate compared with other countries, and demand for housing is high. Recent trends. Although the market is cooling in terms of sales, price inflation is only slowing, reflecting downward price rigidity. Total transactions dropped by 7.3% to 29,756 units in June 2012 from a year earlier (see chart 1), and fell even further by 8.6% in the Flemish region alone. Yet, nominal house prices increased by 2% over the first three-quarters of 2012, according to latest OECD estimates. The weak economic environment, including wavering consumption, rising unemployment, and decelerating wages, is dragging on the housing market. Financing conditions also remain subdued. Although interest rates are falling, buyers still appear to be finding it difficult to gain access to lending: mortgage credit growth decreased by 3.2% year on year in October (see chart 1). Nevertheless, the Belgian market continues to look relatively expensive in relation to incomes. The price-to-income ratio (the affordability ratio) is still climbing, with house prices rising faster than incomes (see chart 1). Future trends. Confidence among potential home buyers is likely to remain low this year. The Belgian economy should experience another year of modest economic growth in 2013 (GDP up 0.4%) as domestic demand remains weak while foreign demand recovers only gradually. Furthermore, we expect the unemployment rate to reach 7.9% in Nevertheless, we see a mixture of factors that militate against a genuine housing market slump in Belgium over the coming quarters. Above all, household debt is still moderate compared with other European countries, at 54.7% of GDP in June 2012 versus 65.3% in the eurozone. What's more, interest rates remain historically low at 3.47% in October 2012 (see chart 1). Over a longer time horizon, limited housing supply compared to demand should continue to support the market. JANUARY 17,

4 Table 2 Belgium Housing Market Statistics (%) e 2013f 2014f Nominal house prices (change year on year) Real GDP (2.8) (0.2) CPI inflation (%) Unemployment rate Sources: S&P, Eurostat, Banque Nationale de Belgique, OECD, Statistics Belgium. Chart 1 Sources: OECD, Banque Nationale de Belgique, Statistics Belgium, ECB. JANUARY 17,

5 The French Market Is Falling As Consumer Confidence Falters Home prices in France look set to decline this year as a weaker labor market and an increase in income taxes will likely keep consumer demand and the economy at a standstill. We currently forecast a 5% year-on-year decline in nominal house prices both for 2013 and 2014 (see table 3). Recent trends. Sales transactions are slowing more than prices. Nominal house prices fell by 1.1% year on year in the third quarter of 2012, and by 2.7% in real terms. Yet, prices have remained rigid, especially in the Paris region where they only declined by 0.2% in the fourth quarter of Meanwhile, total transactions are falling more sharply. New housing sold plunged by 23.7% to 20,530 units in September 2012 from 27,335 units in September 2011 (see chart 2). The housing shortage is likely to worsen in the coming years, as residential permits decreased again by 15.3% to 38,453 in November As in neighboring Belgium, the weak economic environment, including rising unemployment and decelerating wages, explain the housing market slowdown, and financing conditions are also subdued. Even though interest rates are reaching historical lows--at 3.8% in August 2012 (see chart 1), access to lending remains difficult because credit standards are tightening. The affordability ratio suggests the French housing market is still expensive in relation to incomes, with an overvaluation of 34% in March 2012 relative to its long-term average (see chart 2). However, we believe this ratio is only one indication and that other factors explain this, such as the balance between supply and demand and the lack of alternative long-term investment opportunities for individual investors. Future trends. We think weak business confidence, fragile household consumption as a result of a weaker labor market, and increases in income taxes will keep the economy at a standstill and the housing market depressed in Looking at this year and next, with the unemployment rate expected to reach 10.7% in 2013, confidence among potential buyers is likely to remain low. We consider our forecast of house price declines of 5% each year represents a still relatively benign correction after a long period of continued increases between 2000 and 2007 (10% per year on average). Indeed, we believe that soft sales transactions will more directly reflect the weak overall economic environment. Over the longer view, though, the shortage of housing supply and buoyant demographic trends should continue to support the market. Table 3 French Housing Market Statistics (%) e 2013f 2014f Nominal house prices (year-on-year change) (4.2) (1.1) (5.0) (5.0) Real GDP (3.1) CPI inflation Unemployment rate e--estimate. F--Forecast. Sources: S&P, Eurostat, OECD, INSEE. JANUARY 17,

6 Chart 2 Sources: OECD, INSEE, ECB, Ministère de l'ecologie du Développement et de l'aménagement du Territoire. Germany Is Bucking The European Trend While home prices in most other European markets are falling or stagnating, German residential property prices are rising. After growing modestly between 2010 and 2011, housing prices gained momentum in 2012, rising by an estimated 8.6% year on year. We forecast this uptrend will continue, with a year-on-year rise in nominal prices of 3% this year and again next year on the back of positive economic fundamentals such as a resilient labor market (see table 4). Yet in our view, Germany's current housing price increases at this stage still represent a normalization rather than a cause for concern. Unlike most other European property markets, it has largely been stagnant in terms of nominal JANUARY 17,

7 house price growth, and declined when adjusted for inflation between 1999 and 2008, at a time when property rose considerably in most other parts of Europe. Recent trends. Residential house prices rose by 12.5% year on year in the second quarter of 2012 and by 10.1% in the third. Housing construction has also recorded a marked increase. Total dwelling permits rose by 8.1% to 20,824 units in September from one year ago (see chart 3). This follows a substantial drop in housing construction permits between 1994 and 2010, in part caused by policy changes such as the abolition of owner-purchase subsidies ("Fördergebietsgesetz") that had led to a post-reunification exuberance and oversupply. In 2010, completions were 73.8% down to just 180,000 from 700,000 in the peak year Now, however, growth in mortgage lending is on the rise, owing to low financing costs and good income prospects. Still, loans for housing purchase gained only 1.7% in October, which is still quite low compared with credit growth in the 1990s (see chart 3). Household mortgage debt is stabilizing after largely declining since 2000 and bottoming out at 37.2% in second-quarter Future trends. We think various fundamentals support a further rise in the residential market. Wages in Germany have increased more strongly in recent years following the weak growth recorded between 1999 and Income expectations have also remained high since mid-2011, and the labor market situation is likely to continue to improve. We forecast the unemployment rate will fall slightly to 5.3% in 2013 and to 5.2% in The affordability index, measured as price to income, also finds the German housing market undervalued by 16%. The ratio is well below the long-term average for the index (chart 3). A historically low interest rate is also making the German housing market all the more affordable (see chart 3). Nevertheless, we note that the Bundesbank has expressed concerns that the current uptrend could generate a real estate bubble and has suggested it might clamp down on housing loans should house price inflation accelerate over the coming few years, a development that we think remains rather unlikely. Over the longer term, housing demand in Germany is likely to be dampened by unfavorable demographics, as household formation is only rising modestly--at 138,000 in 2011 and 113,000 in 2010, according to Destatis. Table 4 German Housing Market Statistics (%) e 2013f 2014f Nominal house prices Real GDP (5.1) CPI inflation Unemployment rate e--estimate. f--forecast. Sources: S&P, Eurostat, OECD, Deutsche Bundesbank JANUARY 17,

8 Chart 3 Sources: OECD, Bundesbank, ECB, Eurostat. Ireland: No Longer In Free Fall, But Recovery Will Be Slow The sharp correction the Irish housing market experienced in recent years appears to be abating. We forecast house prices will decline by just 0.9% this year, after an estimated 9% fall in 2012 (see table 5). But even if prices are no longer in free fall, we think a recovery is still a long way off. Tight credit supply, low demand, and excess capacity suggest that prices in Ireland may have further downside. JANUARY 17,

9 Recent trends. Testifying to these signs of stabilization, nominal house prices in the third quarter of 2012 fell by only 0.4% quarter on quarter, after 4.7% in third-quarter This follows a sharp correction in residential property prices in Ireland of 50.2% since In another positive sign, the Property Services Regulatory Authority indicates that transactions began to rise again in 2012 after falling consistently year on year over most of In the third quarter of 2012, transactions were 28% higher than a year earlier, but were still low at about 5,000 per quarter. Ireland has a housing stock of about 2 million units, according to the Central Statistics Office. An annual turnover rate of 1% is still indicative of a market that continues to be distressed. Limited new construction is also helping to slow house price declines. We believe that only 8,000 units are likely to have been completed in 2012, which is down 25% year on year. This follows a 28% decline in 2011 when 10,480 units in total were completed. This is well below the 2006 peak of 90,000 units, and below the potential demand of 20,000 units. With supply thus falling short of potential demand, this suggests the overhang of unoccupied properties should slowly erode. This surplus is currently estimated at about 100,000 units, according to the director of the National Institute of Regional and Spatial Analysis. Lending for house purchases fell by 2.5% in October from the previous year (see chart 4). Outstanding housing loans have been falling continuously since 2008, but in October 2012 the decline decelerated. Residential mortgage lending has dropped from 70% of GDP in the last quarter of 2009 to just 49% of GDP by the end of the second quarter The lower mortgage lending has been due, in part, to further tightening of credit standards and a decline in loan demand. Future trends. The price-to-income and price-to-rent ratios indicate prices could continue on a stabilizing path, as both ratios have returned to their long-term average (see chart 4). Given the significant supply overhangs, though, prices won't rise to any great degree until supply and demand are balanced out. Besides, demand for housing is likely to remain weak because emigration is weighing on population growth. Added to this, tight credit conditions and weak economic growth, alongside high unemployment, also signify that activity in the housing market will remain depressed. About 47% of all outstanding mortgages (corresponding to 31% of mortgaged properties) were in negative equity by the end of 2010, according to the Central Bank of Ireland. This will prevent a swift normalization in housing market activity because it will limit the number of transactions. Table 5 Irish Housing Market Statistics (%) e 2013f 2014f Nominal house prices (year-on-year change) (19.0) (11.1) (15.7) (9.0) (0.9) 0.0 Real GDP (5.5) (0.8) CPI inflation (1.7) (1.6) Unemployment rate e--estimate. f--forecast. Sources: S&P, Eurostat, OECD, Central Statistics Office JANUARY 17,

10 Chart 4 Sources: OECD, ECB, Eurostat, Property Services Regulatory Authority, Central Statistics Office. Italy's Home Prices Are Still Stumbling On Economic Uncertainties We expect the Italian housing market to stay depressed this year, weighed down by the uncertain prospects for economic growth and by high unemployment. We forecast nominal house prices will fall by 1.6% this year, after an expected 4% fall in 2012 (see table 6). Recent trends. House sales fell steeply last year to about 466,644 units, according to Nomisma (see chart 5), which is only half that of 2006, when transactions peaked. This has been accompanied by a fall in prices since 2008, due to contracting JANUARY 17,

11 household disposable incomes and strained credit supply conditions. As consumer confidence deteriorates, mortgage credit growth is also weakening. In October 2012, total housing loans in Italy increased by only 0.2% from a year earlier (see chart 5). The average interest rate for outstanding housing loans is trending downward, and was 3.8% in October (see chart 5). Yet, the effect of interest rate reduction is likely to be relatively limited, even though most Italian housing loans are at variable rates. The mortgage market in Italy is smaller than in other European countries. Outstanding mortgages were 23.4% of GDP in third-quarter 2012, which is significantly lower than the eurozone average of 40% of GDP. The length and cost of the loan recovery process make Italian banks cautious. Most households rely on personal savings for home purchases. Future trends. We expect sluggish income growth will continue to weigh on Italy's housing market this year. Up to now, the financial situation of households remains balanced overall thanks to their relatively modest debt and because debt service is being kept down by low interest rates. Yet, the recent introduction of the new property tax IMU ("Imposta Municipale Unica") poses an additional risk, in our view, as it could result in an increase in the number of houses for sale and push prices down. Nevertheless, we think the Italian housing market could see a progressive recovery as early as 2014, assuming that sovereign yields don't rise. Both price-to-rent and price-to-income ratios are trending close to their long-run average (see chart 5), so there is no evidence of an overvaluation of houses, in our view, that would justify further correction. Table 6 Italian Housing Market Statistics (%) e 2013f 2014f Nominal house prices (year-on-year change) (3.4) (1.4) (2.8) (4.0) (1.6) 0.5 Real GDP (5.5) (2.4) (0.7) 0.8 CPI inflation Unemployment rate e--estimated. F--Forecast. Sources: S&P, Eurostat, OECD, Nomisma. JANUARY 17,

12 Chart 5 Sources: Nomisma, ECB, OECD. The Netherlands: Falling Further On Austerity Measures And Economic Woes The downturn in the Dutch housing market appears to be accelerating and we don't envisage the situation will improve quickly. As long as the mismatch between demand and supply remains, we think prices will continue to fall and sales numbers will be limited. We expect nominal prices to have fallen by 8% in 2012 and forecast that they will stay on the decline this year and next by 5.9% and 2.0%, respectively (see table 7). Nominal prices have dropped by 16% from their peak of five years ago. In real terms, this decline amounts to 20%, with prices falling to 2000 levels. JANUARY 17,

13 Recent trends. The falling number of sales transactions illustrates the market's malaise. In the third-quarter 2012, home sales totaled 22,978--down 25.3% on the same period a year ago (see chart 6). The number of houses for sale remained stable, underlying our view that no recovery is in sight. The ongoing mismatch between demand and supply is further depressing prices. Buyers are unwilling to pay the current asking price and waiting for prices to decline further, while vendors are under little pressure to sell, especially as they may be left with debt overhang. Households also remain cautious because economic uncertainty and austerity measures are cutting their purchasing power. This is limiting their borrowing capacity, although interest rates on mortgages remain stable at about 4.1% (see chart 6). Uncertainty about fiscal policy is adding to buyers' lack of confidence. They fear mortgage interest relief could be further curtailed in the future. Future trends. Looking ahead, specific housing market regulations contained in the policy measures adopted by the new coalition government will have an additional downward effect on prices, as they will considerably raise the monthly cost of servicing a mortgage. As of Jan. 1, 2013, new mortgage holders have been obliged to pay off their mortgages on an annuity basis to be eligible for mortgage interest relief, while mortgages taken out before this date are not subject to compulsory redemption and can be paid off within 30 years via a savings deposit mortgage. Nevertheless, the legal viability of these measures is in doubt, fueling uncertainty for buyers. Moreover, we expect economic growth in the Netherlands to remain anemic in 2013, and unemployment to rise as high as 7.0%. Both the decline in purchasing power and rise in unemployment will keep households very cautious. In the longer term, though, we believe prices should bottom out. Supply shortage is worsening because construction output has been below the pre-financial crisis rate for some years. Table 7 Dutch Housing Market Statistics e 2013f 2014f Nominal house prices (year-on-year change) (5.1) (1.0) (3.3) (8.0) (5.9) (2.0) Real GDP, % change (3.5) (0.4) CPI inflation (%) Unemployment rate e--estimate. F--Forecast. Sources: S&P, Eurostat, Kadaster, OECD, CBS Statistics Netherlands. JANUARY 17,

14 Chart 6 Sources: Eurostat, Kadaster, OECD, ECB, CBS Netherlands. Portugal: The Market Still Sliding, But Reforms May Signal A Revival The Portuguese housing market is continuing its gradual slide as a result of the country's dire economic situation, which is weakening demand. But we estimate that nominal price declines will remain limited to just over 1% this year, after an estimated 2.9% fall in 2012 and a less than 1% year-on-year decline in 2011 (see table 8). Recent trends. Prices dropped in nominal terms by 2.6% in September 2012 on the previous year. Activity in Portugal's residential construction sector has also been weak, as shown by a 26% year-on-year decline in permits issued for residential JANUARY 17,

15 buildings in August (see chart 7). This followed reduced public investment and falling demand from households for new housing, as well as a 50% decline in investment in new housing between 2000 and Mortgage growth also remains sluggish, even though interest rates fell to historic lows of 3.44% in October 2012 (see chart 7). In the same month, total housing loans in Portugal dropped by 2.8% to billion from a year earlier (chart 7). This is because credit standards adopted by banks are more restrictive, owing to their high funding costs and balance-sheet constraints as well as a continued deterioration of the outlook for economic activity. Defaults, although trending upward, are relatively contained at 2% in September 2012 (see chart 7). This is because declining mortgage rates have kept nonperforming loans on housing credit relatively stable. Future trends. Deteriorating labor market conditions, lower confidence, adjustment of permanent incomes, and increasingly tight access to credit will continue to weigh on the housing market in the short term, in our view. What's more, household indebtedness is very high, both in historical terms and in comparison with other eurozone countries. We therefore expect that households will keep deleveraging. Nevertheless, we believe Portugal's property price declines will stay relatively limited. Unlike Spain or Ireland, Portugal didn't experience a house price bubble. Prices increased very slowly, leading to virtually no real rise in house prices. What's more, the housing stock has been increasing at a fairly slow pace in the wake of Portugal's sluggish economic performance and decades of rent controls. In the longer view, we think that policies that Portugal intends to implement in the context of financial support from the IMF, will help revive the market. These include reforms of the rental market, administrative procedures for renovation, and property taxation. Table 8 Portuguese Housing Market Statistics e 2013f 2014f Nominal house prices (year-on-year change) (0.6) 1.6 (0.8) (2.9) (1.1) 0.5 Real GDP (2.9) 1.4 (1.6) (3.1) (0.8) 1.5 CPI inflation (0.9) Unemployment rate e--estimate. f--forecast. Source: S&P, Eurostat, BIS/private sector. JANUARY 17,

16 Chart 7 Sources: Banco de Portugal, ECB, OECD. Spain: Rebalancing Will Continue We see no signs of improvement in Spain's housing market given the heavy weight of unsold housing stock. What's more the recent liquidity injection in Spanish banks is likely to accelerate balance-sheet clean-ups and disposal of real estate foreclosed assets, and so contribute to a further decline in housing prices this year. We currently forecast nominal house prices in Spain will fall by 7.8% this year and by another 6% in 2014, having already lost an expected 9.5% year on year in 2012 (see table 9). JANUARY 17,

17 Recent trends. The rapid increase in unemployment, alongside severe fiscal consolidation, and tight financial market conditions are fueling the plunge in the residential housing market. Nominal prices plunged by 9.6% in the third quarter of 2012 from a year earlier. Prices have fallen 26% from their peak in March The number of transactions also dropped to 245,000 for the first three-quarters of 2012, down by 14.8% from the previous year (see chart 8). The Spanish market is still saddled with excess supply, with the number of unsold homes on the market estimated at between 700,000 and 1 million in 2012, according to the IMF Financial Sector Assessment Program. Housing starts last year dropped to 70,000 from a peak of about 760,000 units in 2006, suggesting that the adjustment process is now under way. Despite lower interest rates, mortgage credit growth continues to contract, and was down 2.6% in October from the previous year (see chart 8). Amid Spain's precarious labor market conditions, household debt ratios are declining. Yet, the deleveraging process is slow, at 81.5% of GDP in June 2012 versus 87.4% of GDP in June In September 2012, as the unemployment rate reached 25.8%, doubtful loans rose to 3.2% of total housing loans. This ratio appears still low compared with the country's total nonperforming-loan ratio of 10.7%, which is in part driven by doubtful loans in commercial real estate. Few Spanish households are defaulting on their mortgages. The house price-to-income ratio in third-quarter 2012 is still 25% above its long-term average (see chart 8). Future trends. We believe it will likely take up to four more years for supply and demand in to balance out in Spain's housing market. The price-to-income and price-to-rent ratios lead us to expect a further 20% drop in housing prices. Yet, given serial correlation, there could be some degree of overshooting in house prices before they return to their long-term equilibrium, in our view. Table 9 Spanish Housing Market Statistics e 2013f 2014f Nominal house prices (year-on-year change) (6.6) (3.3) (7.1) (9.5) (7.8) (6.0) Real GDP, % change (3.7) (0.3) 0.4 (1.4) (1.3) 0.7 CPI inflation (%) (0.2) Unemployment rate e--estimate. F--Forecast. Sources: S&P, Eurostat, Banco de Espana, OECD. JANUARY 17,

18 Chart 8 OECD, Banco de Espana, ECB, INE. U.K.: A Flat Market Masks A Price Gulf Between North And South We anticipate that the U.K. housing market will stay broadly flat over the next two years, although prices in the south are holding up better than in the north of the country. While we expect nominal home prices to have risen by 1.5% in 2012, we forecast slight declines this year and next (see table 10). Recent trends. This development follows a strong 13% fall in prices in early 2008, due to credit tightening, followed by a small recovery in 2009 and another fall in Prices continue to be weak, at least nationally. Developments in the third JANUARY 17,

19 quarter of 2012 illustrated this: while real U.K. house prices rose 1.9%, if adjusted for inflation they actually fell by 1.3%. Yet, nationwide statistics mask a diverging picture across the country. London has seen positive house price growth over the past year, but prices have dropped slightly in the south and have fallen significantly in the midlands and the north. Transactions have about halved since 2007 as first-time buyers struggle with tighter mortgage-lending rules. Although sales numbers were up by 6.6% year on year in October 2012, this was still from quite low level (see chart 9). Meanwhile, the number of new homebuilds being initiated dropped by 14% to 74,730 units in the first three-quarters of This is well below the 233,000 new homes that housing experts say the U.K. needs annually to meet demand created by the predicted expansion in the number of households. This suggests that the gap between housing needs and housing supply is widening. Tighter lending conditions and declining demand has led to a mere 1% volume growth in mortgage approvals (or negative 1.4% in current prices) in October 2012 from one year ago (see chart 9). Home mortgage lending declined to 69% of GDP in the second quarter of 2012, from 74% in Added to this, the ratio of house prices relative to incomes is well above the long-term average (see chart 9). Future trends. We believe the market will stay generally flat over the next two years, owing to a lack of buyer interest matched by an unwillingness to sell at current prices. Still, we don't expect that prices will experience a major correction because the housing shortage should continue to prop up prices. Furthermore, extended low interest rates in addition to the increased availability of secured credit driven by the Funding for Lending Scheme, will also bring support to the market. Table 10 U.K. Housing Market Statistics e 2013f 2014f Nominal house prices (year-on-year change) (0.5) 1.5 (0.9) 0.5 Real GDP, % change (4.0) (0.3) CPI inflation (%) Unemployment rate e--estimate. f--forecast. Sources: S&P, Eurostat, OECD, Department for Communities and Local Government. JANUARY 17,

20 Chart 9 Sources; HM Revenue & Customs, BoE, OECD. JANUARY 17,

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