End of the crisis in the housing markets ? An international survey
The article examines recent developments in international housing markets and makes an assessment of the current situation. The first section demonstrates that the last upward movement in house prices in advanced economies, that started during the mid-1990s, differed from previous upward phases because of its strength, duration and degree of synchronisation across countries. Low interest rates, financial innovation, relaxed credit conditions and demographic factors stimulated housing demand and led to higher prices and investment. The strongest increases were recorded in the UK, Spain, Ireland and France. Starting around the mid-2000s, housing markets increasingly displayed signs of overheating and the American subprime crisis of 2006 triggered a downward correction in the US housing market. Housing markets elsewhere displayed a similar pattern around the same period. Nevertheless, developments were less synchronised during this downturn than during the upturn, as the fall in house prices seems to be over in some countries while the correction continues in other countries. The degree of over- or undervaluation of recent house prices can be calculated on the basis of some frequently used measures. Taking into account fundamental factors like disposable income, population growth and the very low interest rate level, it appears that current prices in most countries are more or less in line with fundamentals. These simple measures have their limitations, and consequently one should be cautious when interpreting the results. Additionally, several common risk factors (normalisation of interest rates, lower potential growth after the economic crisis, fiscal consolidation) and some country-specific risk factors might hinder a further recovery of housing markets. The recent crisis clearly demonstrated the need for stricter rules and control of the financial sector. Various initiatives have already been taken, and international institutions have also formulated recommendations for housing policy reform and the functioning of residential property and mortgage markets. Subsequently, the European government debt crisis that started in 2010 stimulated initiatives to strengthen economic governance in the European Union. In the new surveillance framework, macroeconomic risks will be monitored more closely and more broadly, and this will include the use of indicators related to the housing sector.
Volume (Year): (2011)
Issue (Month): I (June)
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