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Archive for October 25th, 2011

This morning has seen the publication of the seventh CSO residential property price indices for Ireland. The inaugural series was published by the CSO on 13th May 2011 and covered the period from January 2005 to March 2011. This morning’s release covers the month of September 2011. Here’s the summary showing the index at its peak, November 2009 (the NAMA valuation date), September 2010 (12 months ago), December 2010 (end of year, start of this year) and September 2011.

Now that the Permanent TSB/ESRI has abandoned its quarterly house price index, the CSO’s isIreland’s premier index for mortgage-based transactions. It analyses mortgage transactions at eight financial institutions : Allied Irish Banks, Bank of Ireland, ICS Building Society (part of the Bank ofIrelandgroup), the Educational Building Society, Permanent TSB, Belgian-owned KBC, Danish-owned National Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society. The index is hedonic in the sense it firstly groups transactions on a like-for-like basis (location, property type, floor area, number of bedrooms, new or old and first-time buyer or not) and then assigns weightings to each group dependent on their value to the total value of all transactions. The index is an average of three-month rolling transactions.

As for the key questions:

How much does property now cost in Ireland? The CSO deliberately doesn’t produce average prices. The former PTSB/ESRI index did, and claimed the average price of a property nationally hit the peak in February 2007 at €313,998, inDublin in April 2007 at €431,016 and outsideDublin in January 2007 at €267,987. If, and it is a big “if”, you were to take PTSB/ESRI figures as sound and comparable to the CSO series, then these would be the average prices today:

Nationally, €175,165 (peak €313,998)

In Dublin, €208,618 (peak €431,016)

Outside Dublin, €159,793 (peak €267,987)

I don’t think the CSO would be happy with this approach but it seems to me that the PTSB/ESRI series as represented by its historical indices closely correlates with the performance of the CSO indices.

What’s surprising about the latest release? Although the monthly decrease of 1.5% is elevated, we have had similar declines in recent months. What is astonishing is thatDublin apartment prices declined by 4.8% in just one month, following the 6% monthly drop last month.Dublin apartments are now down 59.2% from peak.

Are prices still falling? Yes, and the 1.5% monthly drop in September 2011 was similar to the 1.6% decline in August 2011.

How far off the peak are we? Nationally 44.2%% (also 44.2% in real terms as inflation has hardly changed since 2007). Interestingly, as revealed here,Northern Ireland is some 45% from peak in nominal terms and 52% off peak in real terms. Are forbearance by mortgage lenders, a draconian bankruptcy regime and NAMA’s (in)actions distorting the market? Or are cash transactions which are not captured by the CSO index so significant today that if they were captured, the decline in the Republic would be even greater?

How much further will prices drop? Indeed, will prices continue to drop at all? Who knows, I would say the general consensus is that prices will continue to drop. This is what I believe to be a comprehensive list of forecasts and projections for Irish residential property [house price projections in Ireland are contentious for obvious reasons and the following is understood to be a comprehensive list of projections but please drop me a line if you think there are any omissions].

What does this morning’s news mean for NAMA? The CSO index is used to calculate the NWL Index shown at the top of this page which aims to provide a composite reflection of price movements in NAMA’s key markets since 30th November 2009, the NAMA valuation date. Residential prices are now down 22.5% from November, 2009.  The latest results from the CSO bring the index to 833 (20.0%) meaning that NAMA will need see a blended average increase of 20.0% in its various property markets to break even at a gross profit level.

The CSO index is a monthly residential property price index. Irelanddoes not yet have a publicly available register of actual sale prices, but legislation to give effect to such a register is presently before the Oireachtas – read the latest on the House Price Register here. There are three other residential price surveys, based on advertised asking prices or agent valuations – for the latest see here. Lastly the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government produces an index based on mortgage transactions, six months after the period end and not hedonically analysed.

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