Thursday, July 29, 2010

Economics 29/7/10: PTSB house prices

PTSB/ESRI house price index is in for Q2 2010. The core result: house prices were down, again, by 1.7% qoq in Q2 2010 - a lower rate of change on Q1 2010 contraction of 4.8% qoq. Thus, prices are now off-peak by 35% to an average of €201,364.

Dublin prices are down 3.5% qoq in Q2 2010 and are off 44% relative to peak. This gap between nation average and Dublin, assuming (as seems to be reasonable) that capital prices appreciation prior to the current crisis were significantly affected by underlying demand, should be erased over the next 12 months plus. Which means we can expect at some point that Dublin will lead the recovery across the country, while other regions continue to contract toward the 45-50% nationwide average off-peak pricing.

NCB stockbrokers gave a good comparison to fundamentals-determined prices. Per their analysis,
  • Rental yield model implies house prices equilibrium at between €118,000 and €157,000, or a mid-range house price of €137,500;
  • Earnings multiples model implies €170,000;
  • Present value model (although not detailed as to the assumptions built in) implies the range of €158,000 to €236,000 for an mid-range of €197,000
You can see where these valuations are heading, don't you? Take a full range of estimates mid-range point of €177,000 - that would be a decline of 43% off the peak prices. Take the simple average price of all mid-range points to get 46% decline.

Now, recall - these are equilibrium prices. In normal price adjustments, there is a relatively pronounced undershooting in prices - in other words, we can expect prices to fall below equilibrium levels before reverting toward longer term values over time.

The depth of this undershooting and its duration depend on some external factors, such as the ease of getting mortgages approvals, mortgage conditions etc - none of which are currently helping the housing markets. So there is a very strong possibility for prices to hit the floor at around -55-60% off the peak.

Lastly, there is a question to be asked as to the validity of PTSB's data - the country largest mortgages holder might no longer be the country largest mortgages issuer. And the sample size globally has shrunk substantially. In other words, if a desperate homeowner in the distant province sells a house for, say, €120,000 while a dozen of his neighbors are not braving the market, does this really tell us anything about the market clearing price? Not really. Imagine what the said homeowner would have got for his dwelling if 12 more identical dwellings in the neighborhood had a 'For Sale' sign.

So a grain of salt is due - the size of an orange...
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