Monday, December 03, 2007

November real estate numbers

This is the monthly update on how the Latvian housing bubble is deflating. According to Latio real estate agency, the average apartment price in Riga in November 2007 was 1445 Euros/m2 which is:
  • 3% less than in October 2007;
  • 16% less than in April 2007 (when the prices peaked);
  • 1.6% less than in November 2006 (this is the first month when we have a year-on-year decrease in prices).
Other real estate companies report slightly different numbers: 1433-1495 Euros/m2, but the magnitude of decline compared to April 2007 is the same.

The companies have different opinions on where it is going. Balsts and a few other realtors say that the rental prices are going up, because more people are renting instead of buying. That would make buying and then renting out profitable, thus stopping the fall in prices. Latio monthly report is skeptical about this argument.


herb said...

thanks for posting, it's interesting to read your dispatches. How do people cope with possible devaluation fears, do they hold saving in euro's, I can't see why they wouldn't. Is it allowed or common in Latvia to pay for every day things with other than a local currency.

Edward Hugh said...

Just to say hi, Latvian Abroad, and thanks for keeping this up. Latio monthly is right, imho, to be skeptical of the realtors idea. There is only one way all this is headed at the moment:down.

Domestic consumption is, as we are seeing in Hungary, going to need to take the back seat for a period of time. So exports will have to take the weight of any subsequent expansion after the whole thing grinds to a halt - Estonia looks to be 4 to 5 months away from this point, judging by the rate of decline in retail sales. And I have no idea at all how exports are going to kick start the economy with the comparative price levels we have at present. Enough said I think.

I am now getting back to Latvia, after a rather circuitous tour of the economic state of most of Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

In some ways the Baltics are pioneers, since you are paving the way for the rest. And if we look at Romania and what may happen next in Poland, currency pegs aren't the big problem. The capital flows are the problem, and it's hard to see how anyone could have stopped these. Capital flows and, of course, the non-local-currency denominated loans. Thus, even though there is no peg, devaluation of the forint is unthinkable for them at the moment, although I guess they will come round in time, since the Hungarian banks are currently having to maintain the highest interest rates in the entire EU even as domestic demand collapses.

Personally, rather than chiding the local politicians, I think a big part of the load should be placed squarely on the shoulders of the EU Commission in Brussels, since by not allowing a "opt out" clause for the Euro when it came to EU membership, and by giving everyone the idea that it was very safe to lend to all the EU10 since the ECB was the ultimate guarantor, they are to some great extent responsible for the whole mess. So then your can't, like Jurgen Stark, and Bini Smaghi have tried to do, simply wash your hands of the whole sorry affair, and say, oh dear what a mess, they seem to be in a boom-bust cycle!

People need to try - hard as it is - to understand why all this is happening.

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