herald

Tuesday 17 October 2017

Dan White: Property market is a complete mess, and we're paying

Rents are soaring in Dublin. The latest figures from the Private Residential Tenancies Board show that average rents throughout the country rose by 5.8pc in 2014
Rents are soaring in Dublin. The latest figures from the Private Residential Tenancies Board show that average rents throughout the country rose by 5.8pc in 2014

Rents are soaring in Dublin. The latest figures from the Private Residential Tenancies Board show that average rents throughout the country rose by 5.8pc in 2014.

However, the rate of increase was much higher in Dublin with average rents jumping by 9.6pc last year.

The average rent for a house in the capital is now running at €1,301 per month and €1,166 for an apartment.

Meanwhile, house and apartment prices are now falling.

After rising by 24pc in the year to October 2014, average Dublin house and apartment prices have since fallen by 2.5pc with a 0.7pc increase being recorded in February.

While the fall in house prices is at least partly due to the Central Bank's tough new mortgage lending rules, which were first announced last October, the housing market is suffering from much deeper problems.

Until the housing bubble popped in 2007, the vast majority of people relied on a bank mortgage loan to fund most of the purchase price of their home.

That was then and this is now. Despite expensive advertising campaigns designed to convince us of the contrary, the banks are now effectively out of the mortgage market with just €3.8bn worth of new mortgages being lent last year.

While this was up by 54pc on the 2013 figure, it was still down by more than 90pc on the more than €40bn lent in 2006.

The reality is that existing borrowers are repaying much more old mortgage debt than the banks are advancing new loans.

With most people unable to persuade the bank to give them a mortgage, the proportion of households being forced to rent their home is rising.

The increased demand for rental properties has pushed up rents, which are now close to boom-time levels once again in Dublin.

In fact, way over a third of the 35,000 houses and apartments that changed hands last year were cash deals - an extraordinary situation.

Most of these cash buyers were investors tempted by the higher rents put-upon tenants are now being forced to pay.

The extremely low level of transactions in the housing market - at 2014 levels of activity, the average house or apartment could expect to change hands just once every 60 years - is another pointer to serious problems in the housing market.

Even in a market that was just about ticking over one would expect the average house to change hands about once every 20 to 30 years or about 66,000-100,000 annual transactions.

So what can the Government do about fixing this mess? I was afraid that you were going to ask me this problem.

Further complicating matters in the housing market is the virtual absence of new houses and apartments coming on the market, less than 10,000 at the time when most analysts estimate that at least 30,000 new units are needed every year.

Unless you are prepared to move into a ghost estate in Co Leitrim, most would-be buyers can forget about a new home.

So what does this shortage of supply have to do with government? Quite a lot actually.

dysfunctional

When VAT and various development levies are totted up, the taxman pockets more than 40pc of the price of a new house in Ireland. By comparison, the British taxman takes less than 10pc of the cost of a new house in the UK.

This means that, even where a developer has a good site with planning permission and can find a bank willing to lend him the money to develop the site, VAT and other charges often mean that it isn't worth his or her while to do so.

Add it all up and it is clear that we have an utterly dysfunctional housing market.

In this instance "dysfunctional" is commentators' speak for utterly and completely messed up.

So what are the chances of our Government being able to fix this mess?

One should always live in hope but in the meantime, would-be homebuyers and renters will continue to pay the price.

 

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