Friday, 26 August 2011

Global house prices continue to fall

Global house prices increased by only 1.8 percent in the year to March, the lowest annual rate of growth recorded since Q4 2009.

Pam Golding Properties reports that Cape Town's Atlantic Seaboard area including City Bowl, remains relatively recession-proof.

According to the Knight Frank Global House Price Index Q1 2011, in regional terms, Asia remains the top performing continent recording 8.4 percent growth over the last 12 months. This is down from 17.8 percent a year earlier.

Liam Bailey, head of residential research at Knight Frank told Property24 that overall, price growth for the countries tracked within the index has remained in positive territory since Q4 2009.

This he says has been largely as a result of the Asian housing market boom, which led in some cases to annual price inflation of between 30 and 40 percent in locations such as Hong Kong and Singapore.

“The anti-inflationary measures taken by Asian governments to cool their overheated housing markets in 2010 and 2011 have started to take effect and this has had a dampening effect on the index’s overall price growth,” says Bailey.

In Q1 2010, Singapore recorded annual price inflation of 24.1% and this fell to 10.5 percent in Q1 2011. House price growth in Hong Kong declined from 32.8 percent to 24.2 percent over the same period, he says.

Other strong performing countries where governments are fighting to pull inflationary pressures under control were India (21.9 percent) and Taiwan (14.3 percent).

The weakest region was North America which saw a fall of 0.4 percent in values in the year to Q1 2011.

House prices in South Africa fell by 1.3 percent in the year to March 2011 as recorded in the index. In March 2010, the average house price was R1 051 997 but by March 2011, this figure had fallen to R1 038 322. In the three months to March 2011, the average house price rose by 1.5 percent, explains Bailey.

Asked where the South African market is headed in the next few months to end of 2011, he says the market presents risks and opportunities.

Globally, sovereign debt concerns in US and Europe could weaken investor confidence. Secondly, interest rates in South Africa may have bottomed out and may start to rise in 2012.

“This could threaten first time buyer demand, which has been solid in recent months and an important driver of market activity.”

On opportunities, Bailey says there is growing evidence that an increasing number of homeowners are selling due to financial pressure and opting to rent. This move could boost supply and may attract more buy-to-let investors to the sales market.

“South Africa’s trade links with China (and other BRICs nations) have strengthened considerably in the past two years.”

This modern double-storey home in Mostertsdrift, Stellenbosch, is on the market exclusively through Pam Golding Properties, priced at R18.5 million. The home is set on 2000sqm, and was built in 2008. It offers six en-suite bedrooms.

According to the Department of Trade of Industry two-way trade between China and South Africa reached R119.7 billion in 2009. This means China surpassed the US as South Africa’s largest trading partner.

Bailey says the strongest performing housing markets have seen a convergence of factors such as high demand, constrained supply, significant wealth generation and benign economic conditions.

“Supply can be controlled but housing markets are also intrinsically linked to confidence.”

Government and monetary policy decisions such as maintaining interest rates at historical lows has helped to keep the momentum going in the western housing markets.

“We expect to see the current slowdown in global housing markets to continue, hitting a low point in Q4 2011 (assuming the Asian markets continue to cool and the government intervention is successful) but with a slow recovery in global house prices taking place in 2012,” adds Bailey.

Absa Home Loans property analyst, Jacques du Toit says the global housing market is very mixed. Some countries are showing growth while others are still under pressure.

“In South Africa, house price growth is very low at this stage largely as a result of the state of consumer finances,” says Du Toit.

He says household debt to disposable income is still relatively high at almost 77 percent. Many consumers are struggling with bad debt making it difficult for them to obtain credit.

Du Toit reckons the property market will continue to reflect economic and consumer finance conditions.

“I expect very low nominal price growth for 2011 with house prices expected to drop in real terms this year,” says Du Toit.

It appears that the global housing market continues to be somewhat in the doldrums and this seems likely to continue for the foreseeable future, says Dr Andrew Golding, chief executive officer of Pam Golding Properties.

Aerial view of Umhlanga coastline: Elwyn Schenk, Pam Golding Properties area principal in Umhlanga, KwaZulu-Natal says this market is resilient. Its wide appeal and strong commercial growth has attracted those moving in from other areas in the Durban surrounds. Home buyers are a mix of end users and investors across all sectors of the market.

“Our housing market started to turn down almost a year before the start of the global economic downturn and we have been in this down cycle for the best part of four years,” says Dr Golding.

He says the residential property market has held up relatively well from a pricing point of view with prices (generally) only between 10 and 20 percent down off the peak at the height of the cycle.

“The market remains subdued but resilient and this status quo is likely to remain for at least the rest of 2011 and possibly well into 2012.”

Dr Golding says they are seeing an increase in sales numbers and activity levels but the upward trend is slow rather than a rapid recovery.

He adds that key to the faster improvement in the residential market will be a relaxation of the current stringent bank lending criteria. – Denise Mhlanga

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