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World's top real estate challenges
Matt Woolsey, Forbes.com | December 03, 2008
The sun isn't shining for homeowners in Malaga, on the Costa del Sol.
Foreign buyers have stopped purchasing homes site unseen. Vacation home-seeking Spaniards, heeding the government's warnings about a recession, have also pulled back.
That leaves 54,000 vacant and unsold new properties throughout Malaga province, according to the Spanish Ministry of Housing. That's 34,000 more than in all of boom-bust capital Phoenix, Ariz., based on Trulia.com figures pulled from Arizona's multiple listing services, despite Phoenix's 200,000 person larger population base.
What's more, 93% of Spanish mortgages are of variable rate, according to the European Mortgage Federation, thus pegging them to the growing Euribor rate. In 2003, that dipped to 1.94%; it's now 4.27%.
It's a similar story across the pond. In Florida, year-over-year prices are down 20% in Orlando, 17% in Miami and 20% in Tampa, according to the National Association of Realtors.
As the real estate industry limps into 2009, such barometers are expected to remain bleak. To illustrate, Forbes.com assembled a series of snapshots of global real estate markets.
In some places, like the Baltic states, recent overbuilding is leading to softening. In Dubai, the slowdown stems from concerns about a declining oil market and in Spain and Florida, massive mortgage bubbles are driving down prices and upping defaults.
Of course, spots under sunny skies and sandy beaches aren't the only ones suffering. Since the U.K. property market's apex in March 2008, prices are down 13.4%, according to Knight Frank, a London-based real estate firm. Its head of residential research, Liam Bailey expects that in 2009, "U.K. residential prices will fall 30% from their peak, taking values back to September 2003 levels."
This is also happening in the U.S. and Ireland. Both countries' housing markets have lost more than 10% of their value in the last 12 months. Across both, prices have fallen to 2005 levels, according to Zillow.com, a U.S. data firm, and the Economic and Social Research Institute, an Irish research group.
Many economists believe the bottom has yet to arrive. For that, they are looking to the 2003 level, which is the technical point at which price booms began around the world.
But even that can't be trusted.
"The problem with this technical approach to finding the bottom of the housing market is that it ignores both demand and supply-side realities," says Anthony Sanders, finance professor at Arizona State University. "The technical bottom of 2003 prices ignores the fact that the composition of the housing market has fundamentally changed."
In markets not overwhelmed with new housing inventory, macroeconomic concerns loom large. The credit crisis, combined with the price of oil falling below $60, less than half of what it was six months ago, has shuttered 60% of Gulf construction projects, according to Sakana Holistic Housing Solutions, a Bahrain lender.
Those global credit issues had many of the participants at November's NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate's capital markets conference in New York looking at 2009 as a year of few transactions. Even those with cash on hand, like opportunity funds looking to pick up distressed assets, are unlikely to buy up properties--a needed element to correct current overblown inventory--because existing mortgage products are being offered at considerable discounts.
"Nobody is going to buy buildings when they can buy first mortgages or second mortgages with 19 or 15% returns," says D. Kenneth Patton, professor at NYU's Schack Institute.
When transactions for buildings instead of mortgages return to favor, look for deals to take place in the U.S. This is because many investors see the American market as a good long-term play.
"Foreign investors have always targeted the major U.S. cities as being one of the best places to invest," says Richard Kessler, chief operating officer of Benenson Capital Partners, a New York real estate fund. "I think when they come back into the market, they'll come back into those marketplaces; the New Yorks, L.A.'s and San Frans."
Until that point, however, expect another painful year around the globe.
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