Category Archives: Irish property

8/8/19: Irish New Housing Markets Continue to Underperform

New stats for new dwelling completions in Ireland are out today and the reading press releases on the subject starts sounding like things are getting boomier. Year on year, single dwellings completions are up 15.5% in 2Q 2019, scheme units completions up 2.6%, apartments up 55.6% and all units numbers are up 11.8%. Happy times, as some would say. Alas, sayin ain't doin. And there is a lot of the latter left ahead.

Annualised (seasonally-adjusted) data suggests 2019 full year output will be around 18,000-18,050 units, which is below the unambitious (conservative) target of 25,000. And this adds to the already massive shortage of new completions over the last eleven years. Using data from CSO (2011-present), cumulated shortfall of new dwellings completions through December 2018 was 125,800-153,500 units (depending on target for annual completions set, with the first number representing 25K units per annum target, and the second number referencing target of 25K in 2011, rising to 30K in 2016 and staying at 30K through 2019). By the end of this year, based on annualised estimates, the shortfall will be 132,400-162,250 units. Taking occupancy at 2.1 persons per dwelling, this means some 278,000-341,000 people will be shortchanged out of purchasing or renting accommodation at the start of 2020.

Here is a chart summarising the stats:

Let's put the headline numbers into perspective: at the current 'improved' construction supply levels (using annualised 2019 figure), it will take us between 6.3 and 7.7 years to erase the already accumulated gap in demand. If output of new dwellings continues to grow at 11.8% per annum indefinitely, Irish construction sector will be able to close the cumulative gap between supply and demand by around 2029 in case of the targeted output at 25K units per annum, or worse, by 2031 for the output target of 30K units per annum.

28/5/19: Why some long trend estimates start looking shaky for Ireland’s property markets

There are many ways for analysing the long-term trends in real estate prices. One way is to use dynamics for the periods when price appreciation was consistent with underlying economic growth fundamentals and project price levels forward at the rates, on average, compatible with these periods.

And some exercises in assessing Irish house prices relative to trend are starting to sound like an early alarm bell going off.

In Ireland's case, organic growth-based period of the Celtic Tiger can be traced to, roughly, 1992/1993 through 1998. In terms of real estate prices (housing), this period corresponds to the post-1987 recovery of 1988-1990, followed by a house price 'recession' of 1991-1993 and onto the period of recovery and economic growth-aligned appreciation of 1994-1996. During this period, average price inflation in Irish house prices was 3.94% per annum.

Using the data from 1970 through 2018 based on the time series from the BIS and CSO, we can compare current price indices to those that would have prevailed were the 1988-1996 trend growth to continue through 2018. Chart below shows the results:

Several things worth noting:

  1.  At the end of 2018, Irish house price index stood some 5.7 percent below where it would have been if the longer term trend prevailed from 1997 on.
  2. Taking into the account moderating house price growth of 2016-2018 and projecting house prices forward from 2018 levels onto 2022 shows that by the end of 1Q 2020, Irish house prices can be expected to catch up with the longer-term trend.
  3. The longer-term trend does capture quite well the effect of the massive price bubble of 1998-2007: the trend line hits almost exactly the 2009-2018 index average at 2010-2011. 
  4. The pre-crisis peak levels of house prices can be expected to reach (on-trend) by 2022 implying that the house price bubble of 1998-2007 has, in effect, accelerated house price inflation by roughly 15 years, or 50-62 percent of the 25-30 year mortgage duration, which is consistent with the peak-to-trough decline in Irish house prices (53.3 percent) during the crisis.
  5. The drop in Irish house prices during the crisis overshot the long-term trend by roughly 31 percent - a steep price to pay for massive excesses of the Celtic Garfield era of 2003-2007.
  6. At the start of 2004, Irish house prices were 50 percent above their long term trend line, which is pretty much bang on with my estimate back in 2004 that I published here: as a warning to Irish policymakers - a warning, as we all know well - that was ignored.
  7. Referencing 2018 data, while the price dynamics so far appear to be catching up with the longer run trend, there is an increasing risk of a new price bubble forming, should price inflation continue unabated. For example, at an average rate of house price inflation of 11.34 percent (2014-2018 average), by the end of 2022, Irish house prices can exceed long-term trend by more than 15 percent.
Of course, a warning is due: this exercise is just one of many way to assess longer term sustainability trends in house price dynamics.  

For example, historical average rate of growth in house prices across 24 countries reported by BIS for 1970-2006 period is 2.34 percent per annum. Were we to take this rate of growth from 1998 through 2018 as the longer term trend indicator, Irish house prices would stand 32.7 percent above the long-run trend levels in 2018, implying that 
  • Irish house prices reached long run equilibrium around 1Q 2015, and
  • At the end of 2018, we were close more than 1/4 of the way toward the next bubble peak, in which case, by the end of 2021 we should be half way there.
Numbers are not simple. But numbers are starting to warrant some concerns. 

8/8/17: Irish Taxpayers Face a New Nama Bill

Ireland has spent tens of billions to prop up schemes, like Nama and IBRC. These organisations pursued developers with a sole purpose: to bring them down, irrespective of the optimal return strategy from the taxpayers perspective and regardless of optimal recovery strategies for asset recovery. We know as much because we have plenty of evidence - that runs contrary to Nama and IBRC relentless push for secrecy on their assets sales - that value has been destroyed during their workout and asset sales phases. We know as much, because leaders of Nama have gone on the record claiming that developers are, effectively speculators, 'good for nothing else, but attending Galway races', and add no value to construction projects.

Now, having demolished experienced developers and their professional teams, having dumped land and development sites into the hands of vulture investors, who have no expertise nor incentives to develop these sites, the State has unrolled a massive subsidy scheme to aid vultures in developing the sites they bought on the State-sponsored firesales.

As an aside, this June, Nama officially acknowledged the fact that majority of its sales of land resulted in no subsequent development. What Nama did not say is that the 'developers' hoarding land are the vulture funds that bought that land from Nama, just as Nama continued to insist that its operations are helping the construction and development markets.

Why? Because Nama was set up with an explicit mandate to 'help the economy recover' and to drive 'markets to restart functioning again', and to aid social housing crisis (remember when in 2012 - five years ago - Nama decided to 'get serious' about social housing?). And Nama has achieved its objectives so spectacularly, Ireland is now in the grips of a housing crisis, a rental market crisis and a cost-of-living crisis.

Read and weep:
Irish taxpayers are now paying the third round of costs of the very same crisis: first round of payments went to Nama et al, second to the banks, and now to the 'developers' who were hand-picked by Nama and IBRC to do the job they failed to do, for which Nama was created in the first place.

Oh, and because you will ask me when the fourth round of payments by taxpayers will come due, why, it is already in works. That round of payments will cover emergency housing provision for people bankrupted by the banks and Nama-supported vultures. That too is on taxpayers shoulders, folks...

8/12/15: Irish Rents: A Longer Term View

Much has been written about the plight of renters in Ireland. Much of it is correct - there have been some atrocious rises in rents, primarily private rents, in recent years. Year on year, in the last 3 months (though October 2015), private rents rose 10.35% against local authority rents falling 1.11% and mortgage interest declining 8.88%. A year ago - over 3mo through October 2014, private rents inflation was running at 8.95% against local authorities rents rising 1.06% and mortgage interest falling 10.26%.

Which makes for a depressing reading for the renters. Actual rents paid by tenants were up 8.83% in 3mo period through October 2015 and they rose 7.93% y/y in the 3mo period through October 2014. So inflation rate in rents is going up.

However, rents inflation has to be taken over the longer period of time. And here, things are not as clear cut as in the short run. Comparable CSO data goes only back to January 2003. So we have no reliable benchmark for earlier periods, albeit some bootstrapped comparatives are possible. As the result, let’s consider 1Q 2003 as the starting point for inflation - with a host of caveats attached.

Setting 1Q 2003 average level of price indices at 100, inflation in overall Housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels category that includes rents, mortgages and other housing costs stood at 55.94% in October 2015. Actual rentals paid by tenants over the same period of time were up 26.93%. Private rents rose over 1Q 2003 to October 2015 by 18.62% while local authority rents rose 73.36% and mortgages rose 24.33%.

In other words, cumulated inflation since 1Q 2003 was higher in Local authority rents and mortgage interest than in private rents. Chart below illustrates:

Pretty much the same picture emerges if we take the entire 2003 average (not just 1Q 2003) as a benchmark. In fact, compared to 2003 levels, mortgage interest inflation is just above actual rents paid and is still higher than private rents inflation.

Setting levels aside, let’s take a look at inflation rates (y/y changes in indices). Historical average y/y inflation in Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas & Other fuels category is 4.50% against historical mortgages interest costs inflation of 5.29%, historical private rents inflation of 1.56%, historical local authorities rents inflation of 4.56% and historical inflation in actual rentals paid by tenants of 2.00%.

Once again, timing is everything: given low level of transactions in the purchasing markets for property over the current crisis, majority of mortgage payees today have lived through the period of pre-crisis spike in mortgage costs. Their current savings (reduced cost of mortgages interest) are simply lagged off-sets to this high cost reality of the past. On the other hand, renters faced far lower volatility in rents than mortgagees in mortgage interest. Their current pain is a delayed cost uplift on past moderation in inflation.

Which is, of course, not to say there is less pain because of this or that Irish rental markets are somehow functioning well in terms of pricing. Just to point out that timing of comparatives is important and that one should be careful pitching the (real) pain of Irish renters against the allegedly easy-times for other participants in the markets.