Either price drop below $1000 per meter or just stagnation
2014 is drawing near its end. Someone tries hard not to miss the last chance to settle their housing problem before the year is over, and the other, on the contrary, has put the decision off until 2015 in the hope of buying a flat at a lower price. Who will prove to have been right?
It is well known that forecasts are a thankless task. And they are not always realized. None the less, any person who is willing to improve their living conditions worries about how the market is going to behave in the following year and what prices are going to be?
There are quite a number of reasons for concern. The economic instability, the population’s income freeze, a rather high inflation rate – all of these can have only the adverse effect on the market. Besides, the economies of Russia and Ukraine also have been tottering. That is alarming also and gives you something to ponder over.
2014 has already seen quite a lot of agitation. But Minsk housing market withstood. The deal count of the current year decreased by 10% compared with the last year’s similar period. A low level of demand has been observed in the course of the year, supply has been increasing from month to month. Nevertheless, these processes have had almost no influence on prices. Throughout the year they remained stable, with little fluctuation.
How can the situation in the house market possibly be developing in 2015? The forecasts of the market experts and analysts
Nikolai Prostolupov, Estate agency “BelZTN”, Chair of the Belarusian association “Estate”:
2014 has proved to be peculiar for the market. As in any other country with market economy, property prices were bound to be decreasing against the background of the freeze of population’s income and inflation. Besides, the amount of offers was increasing from month to month. Serious imbalance in supply and demand is observed now in the market. However, there was no smart drop in prices against the background of the active processes. In my opinion, it is related to the psychological state of people.
Time and again it has been announced that house building volume in Minsk will be reduced and the residents will be forced to move to the satellite towns. That has influenced the public mood. Sellers were unwilling to lower the prices.
What can be expected in 2015? We follow with agitation the events in Russia. The following year is going to be very difficult for the Russian Federation. The devaluation of the Russian rouble by 50% and the continuing tendency towards the decrease in the oil price has led to the decrease in the income of Russian citizens and the national economy on the whole, and will lead to further decrease. Our economy is directly connected with the Russian market. So the following year won’t be easy for Belarus too.
Therefore one can anticipate devaluation that was expected this year also. But, as the saying goes, what didn’t happen yesterday or this day may still happen tomorrow. In case of the devaluation of the Belarusian ruble which is obvious to happen soon, a considerable property prices reduction will be observed. At the very least, it’ll be by half of the devaluation that will take place. That is, if devaluation by 30% takes place, flat prices will go down by 15%. That is the state of the market and buyers which are not too eager to spent their savings because of the alarming world events.
On the other hand, it should be understood that approximately 80% of bargains in the secondary market are alternative. A buyer has to add $15000-20000 to buy a flat. The money is stored in foreign currency. That’s why for most customers the devaluation of the Belarusian ruble is not too alarming.
Diana Mikhasenko, “Dianest”:
It is remarkable that the offer price has currently started to decrease in the secondary market. Sellers, taught by the experience of the 2011’s devaluation, see the existing situation and understand that their flats will be “frozen”, unless prices are reduced. That indicates that the Belarusian property market is transparent enough. Informational resources provide the necessary information that is easy for the average man to see into.
Following the fall of the Russian ruble the devaluation in Belarus is unavoidable. But I’d like to point out the fact that house prices are mostly determined by the cost and volume of loans (preferential credits in the first place) and by the wage level also, rather than by the worth of the ruble. Despite the existing situation it is planned to increase the credit volume, including preferential credits, for construction loans. That won’t stop price reduction, but will help to avoid a great drop in prices.
During the period of absence of dramatic economic changes (2009 – 2011), the market value per square meter was established at the level of $1300-1400 per m2. That is the price formed by balanced supply and demand together with stable crediting and systematic increase in wages. So, even if the reduction in prices is delayed, the cost won’t become lower than that level. However, price reduction can’t take so much time.
2015 is the Year of the Sheep. According to the Chinese calendar the Sheep is the symbol of softness. Let’s hope for soft changes!
Artyom Vainilovich, a market expert:
In spite of the absence of credits and other negative factors the house market has been alive and operating in 2014. To my mind, it will be worse further. The tendency for the reduction in prices is obvious. The current situation in Russia will speed the process.
The number of buyers of Minsk real estate and Belarusian real estate on the whole has decreased in the last two years. It will continue to decrease even more in the current conditions.
Because of the onset of the Russian crisis the Belarusians has already started to earn less. Car-dealers work and gain no profit, the oriented towards Russia dairy and meat processing industries also suffer losses. In the course of time the Russian crisis will affect the other national branches. Less money in the economy of Belarus means less money for the nation and that means less purchase. I think, at least 10-15% of buyers will withdraw from the market.
Nowadays the Belarusians are more concerned about buying a cheaper car in Russia than buying a flat in Minsk. Besides, they calculate (use OnQFinancial’s VA home loan calculator) now how to invest in Moscow real estate more profitably, but not in Minsk real estate. A car will be behind the times and rusty in a couple of years, but Moscow and Russian real estate will be liquid again after a while.
The reduction in the worth of the Russian ruble is half the trouble. More alarming is that the oil price has decreased by 30-40%. The Belarusian economy is linked very closely with the oil trade. That’s why the forecast for the following year is rather pessimistic even on the eve of the holidays.
Nevertheless, it should be understood that flat prices are not a stock exchange where the rates of exchange can fluctuate many times a day. The accommodation prices will be descending for quite a long time. I think that next year a price lower than $1500 per m2 will be observed in the secondary market, or that may happen even by the summer.
One question remains a great mystery for me: whether devaluation will happen in Belarus and what the decision of the President and the National Bank will be on that matter. On the other hand, it obviously will only make all the negative processes worse, including the condition of the housing market.
To sum everything up, the Russian economy will provoke the recession in the economy of Belarus, and that will contribute to the reduction in housing prices. The Russians will withdraw from the Belarussian real estate market. And the Belarusians will stop investing in real estate. These are the three main factors that will actually weight prices down.
Vadim Tachkin, “Viva Kapital”:
It’s most probable that in the following year there still won’t be available credits for building and buying flats. The system of building savings, stated by the National Bank, has not appeared by the end of the year, and it’s not clear why. The banking system is not ready yet for the active reduction in the refinancing rate and the respective reduction in lending rate. There has been no mortgage lending this year too. I suppose that it should not be expected in the first half of 2015 also. Though there have been no available credits this year, there has been no market breakdown because of that.
Our citizens follow the events in the Russian economy to which we are directly linked. The Russian ruble has seriously subsided. The Belarusian ruble is still holding. But it’s clear that it can not be held forever. There the economic factors working against our economy are present. It’s most probable that there will be a decline in the people’s income after the New Year’s Day and the Christmas holidays. All these don’t help the active development of the market in the area of demand.
Practically the market will start from the price for comfortable accommodation that will be promoted primarily in solid frame houses by large construction holding companies. Such accommodation costs a lot and is unlikely to be selling cheaper. But such accommodation actually can’t be cheap.
The market is moving into the outskirts. Nowadays even new projects, begun behind the beltway, start with the price of $1400 per m2. It’s clear that if the developer offers such a price at the very beginning of the construction, than it is well-grounded and can’t be reduced.
That is why it is most probable that the market price will be the same as the one that has been established. Because there are no factors to stir it up. Unless, of course, there will be default. But we have had such an experience. It showed that prices didn’t collapse at all. The market simply was not active.
Andrei Chernyshov, “Tvaja stalitsa”:
The expiring 2014 has been quite calm for the Minsk housing market. There were no jumps in prices and other disturbing events. The price per square meter for standard consumer’s qualities accommodation, primary as well as secondary, has been moving around the same point.
Small accommodation is in favour
Despite the visible stability of the market the reorientation of the demand for less spacious flats is happening. The people’s income doesn’t increase, and in the current year the availability of credits hasn’t reached the level of the second half of the previous year. In this situation every customer does their best to survive. Hence the increased demand for less spacious flats appears – everything is oriented on the minimization of the bargain cost. Despite the current – not small at all – interest rate of about 30% per year, there has been observed an increase in the number of customers who decided to buy accommodation with the help of loans.
What is going to happen to prices?
Now there are no preconditions for price surge. The amount of differed demand is still great in the primary market, as well as in the secondary. That helps to maintain the price balance despite high supply prices.
If the existing economic situation is maintained, price stability is expected to be maintained also, with insignificant variations of +\- 5-10%. The appearance of available credits for people in need may have a great effect on the situation. In that case the primary market will be more active and prices will rise, following the rise in demand. To what extent the market activity will rise depends only on the level of credit availability. And, of course, when the prices in the primary market are rising, the secondary accommodation prices can’t stay on the same level.
Flats within the city – will there be enough for everyone?
Contrary to the widespread opinion that there will be decrease in building volume within Minsk’s limits, no deficiency is observed in the housing market. Developers enter the market with new projects of varying types of quality and price brackets. That’s why a deficiency of housing supply should not be expected in the near future.
Why are people moving beyond MKAD?
A lot of customers, while looking for accommodation, have refocused their attention on the outskirts instead of the city limits. There are a number of reasons for such decisions: they are available prices, closeness to the city provided there are convenient means of transport, and, as a rule, a well-developed infrastructure. Besides, people are attracted to the outskirts by recreation zones. The demand for accommodation on the outskirts will remain steadily high.
The primary market vs. the secondary market
Further intensification of the competition between the primary and the secondary market is expected. This is explained by the necessity of finding more economical variants of buying accommodation. The primary market is attractive because of its prices. Besides, more and more customers pay attention to convenience and quality and want to buy a new flat in a new modern area. In some cases they are even willing to pay more.
Artyom Sakharevich, “Realt.by” portal:
I’d have singled out the 4 factors that will define the market situation in the following year: the situation in Russia and Ukraine as they are the main product markets for us; the rate of the devaluation of the ruble; the pre-election year; the availability of loans for broad masses.
The decreased Minsk house building volume will be forming an informational background that may influence prices mediately. The real effect of the new town planning policy will be felt in the market in 1,5 – 2 years when the supply deficit will be clear.
Three scenarios can be supposed according to how the situation will be developing on each point:
The Russian ruble becomes weaker compared with the dollar. Export-oriented businesses suffer losses because of the difference in exchange rates, their competitive ability diminishes. If smooth devaluation proves to be too slow, the National Bank will have to undertake a single course correction, and we may expect the repetition of the situation of the end of 2008 – the beginning of 2009.
Accommodation prices may drop greatly, but unlikely more than 15%. Basically, flat sellers are ready for such development of events – they won’t be the 2009’s effect of suddenness and the market will be able to recover quicker. The approaching election minimizes the possibility of this scenario. If a single devaluation is carried out it will cancel all the economic achievements of the previous years – that means that that will be the last thing to do for the government.
In this case stability is controlled reduction in accommodation prices at the rate of 0,5-1,0% per month. If the countries-companions solve the problems connected with the fluctuation of their exchange courses, then the situation will continue to develop similarly to the 2014’s by keeping to the National Bank’s plan and taking no tough steps.
The smooth devaluation will influence the people’s income. By the summer it will decrease by 8-9% in terms of dollars (along with maintaining the existing pace). Those who need to sell quickly will lower their prices, the others will wait for the customer. Even if the existing interest rates are maintained they will become more and more attractive as prices will be going down, and that may stir up demand in the second half of the year.
It is probable if an active electoral campaign takes place. Looking back to the experience of the previous pre-election years the possibility of a considerable increase in the population’s income (especially in the second half of the year) is high. The effect of wellbeing stimulates customers’ self-reliance. During such a period they make accommodation bargains more actively.
A powerful stimulus for demand activation will be interest rates reduction, even if it’ll be only by 3-5%. If preferential credits for people in need of housing improvement are brought back in 2015 (and Head of the National Bank doesn’t deny this option), that will certainly influence the prices of flats in new buildings, and then in the secondary market.
Text by: Elena Maslovskaya