Tuesday, December 8, 2015

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.
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