Dutch house sales back up to pre-crisis levels
The housing market in the Netherlands has just had the best quarter in sales since mid-2008. Sales have risen steadily for the last three quarters of 2013, with a total number of 117.000 homes being sold last year.
Figures from the Dutch Association of Real Estate Brokers (NVM) shows that among their brokers, sales in 2013 were up 2,2 per cent from 2012.
House sales in the Netherlands
The first quarter of 2013 saw a sharp decline thanks to new, tighter mortgage rules introduced on January 1, described by NVM as the "nadir" for last year, yet there was still a 7 per cent increase when compared to the first quarter of 2012.
House prices have continued to rise since then, with the fourth quarter by far the strongest this year. While the fourth quarter of a year is usually stronger than the third, the increase in this quarter was substantial: 20 per cent. Given the third quarter was already quite strong, the NVM sees this increase as significant.
The strongest sales were of terraced houses and apartments: 22,2 and 22,4 per cent respectively. Detached houses also rose by around 20 per cent, while corner houses and the traditional Dutch "two under the one roof" semi-detached houses also rose, but not as much.
In the fourth quarter, the average price of properties sold rose remarkably strongly, up by 1,5 per cent from the previous quarter. The average prices for a house in the Netherlands was around 207.000 euros.
Mortgages in the Netherlands
Changes to the way Dutch banks issue mortgages may also boost sales. One of the consequences of the crisis was that Dutch regulator Autoriteit Financiële Markten (AFM) announced they would fine banks that had been offering mortgages too easily.
As per banking custom, a rule of thumb with mortgage is that they should not be more than four times a person’s gross income.
Before the crisis, banks were not especially strict in following with guideline, while after the crisis, exceptions to it are few, due to the ruling of the AFM.
Over the last few months, however, banks are looking more at an applicant’s personal situation than the strictures of the AFM. It has become easier for flexworkers and freelancers to get a mortgage, which may have contributed to the increase in sales, given that nearly 30 per cent of the Dutch workforce are freelancers or flexworkers.
Housing market rebound
NVM attributes the rebound to low interest rates and higher consumer confidence, a result, they speculated, of the current relative political calm.
Comparing current sales figures, however, with those from around the turn of the millennium (110.000) or just before the start of the crisis (150.000), it is clear, says the NVM, that this may be only be the beginning of a tentative recovery.
Yet, the growth is slow but sure, they say, and the last quarter of 2013 is a hopeful sign for anyone wanting to buy a house in the Netherlands in 2014.