Today, which happens to be the four year anniversary of the bank guarantee, also happens to be a fantastic day for transparency in Ireland as finally we have real residential property prices and transactions. Not asking prices, not just mortgage transactions, but real prices for real property. This blogpost examines what the information tells us and how we can use it.
1. Its use. Most people will seek the transaction data for their immediate locality to see what property comparable to theirs might be worth or what a prospective property to purchase might be worth. There will also be natural curiosity as to what a property fetched, particularly compared with asking prices. So alongside the data on the property register, you might be interested in the history of asking prices which you can find on a website like Collapso.net. No doubt in coming days some website, probably DAFT.ie will link the transaction price with the original listing so that you can get a better idea of the specification. Some recent buyers might conclude that they overpaid for their property and they might have some robust questioning – at the very least! – for their valuer. Because the data only goes back 33 months, it will be some time before there are sufficient multiple sales of the same property to create a true index and even then there might be deterioration or improvement between two dates, but with some clever matching with estate agent details, we might see an index emerging more quickly.
2. Effect on prices. I would expect the register to have a negative effect on prices generally, because we generally have what would be characterised as a buyers’ market with mortgage credit restrictions, a general oversupply of property and a shaky outlook for the economy, not to mention the imminent introduction of a property tax and water charges. In some areas and for some property there might exceptionally be a sellers’ market, but across the board I would expect prices to decline to below the lowest recent transaction level and for there to be a 5-10% decline in October 2012 alone and a 10%-plus decline in the next three months. After that, who knows, the concensus amongst economists and ratings agencies seems to be that a 60% decline from peak is in prospect and that would indicate a further 20% decline from today as measured by the CSO. But who knows – ultimately property will reach a price where buyers and sellers strike deals. And you should take forecasts from whatever quarter – including from on here – with a pinch of salt and remember that forecasts are for the market generally and individual properties with individual buyers, sellers and circumstances may deviate from “the market”
3. Effect on sales transactions. I would expect the register to have a positive effect on generating transactions because both buyer and seller can see what comparables actually fetch in the market, and although each property will be different as will the buyer and seller and the circumstances of the sale and purchase, the gap between both sides should be narrowed to allow realistic bargains to be struck more quickly. In that sense, the register should boost a recovery in transaction volumes.
4. Trends from the data published today. There were 53,000 residential property transactions in the past 33 months, so the market has not been exactly moribund in the sense of volumes being transacted. Unfortunately the data only goes back to January 2010 so unless the same property has been sold more than once in the past 33 months then it is difficult to establish price pattern. Overall the volumes of sales declined in 2011 by 13% compared with 2010 but volumes nationally look set to increase by 6% in 2012 if you assume the 2012 data published relates to nine months and then gross that up to 12 months. The value of transactions on the other hand declined by 27% in 2011 compared to 2010 and it looks as if there will be a 5% decline in 2012. The first table below shows the volume of transactions by county by year, the second shows the values.
5. Errors. The data has errors, and with 53,000 individual records, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Some addresses lack sufficient detail to identify the property. Some amounts are wrong with a house on an estate in Limerick showing a sale price of €125m! These should be corrected in due course and I know that moves are afoot to better specify some addresses.
6. Cash and the accuracy of the CSO index. It would appear that by comparing the transactions for the first six months of 2012 with the number of mortgage approvals as reported by the Irish Bank Federation, that around 40% of the market by volume is cash. Are properties sold to cash buyers showing greater declines than the CSO mortgage-only transaction index? Difficult to know, because the register doesn’t tell us if a transaction was cash- or mortgage-based. The view on here is that there shouldn’t be a huge difference between the two, otherwise valuers acting for mortgage companies would block mortgages on property where the agreed sale price was significantly higher than cash-only transactions would suggest.
All in all, it is a great day for transparency and we should thank the IMF for frogmarching this Government into finally delivering the price register, though it should be said that government parties of all hues have failed in this regard over the last four decades. Three cheers for Ajai!