Many countries have experienced soaring house prices in recent years. To find out why, you need to look at demand and supply.
Low mortgage interest rates and more relaxed lending rules in the last couple of years have stimulated demand. In some countries, such as the UK, demand has been further boosted by governments providing increased help to buyers. In others, various tax breaks are given to house purchasers.
Typically the rise in demand has not been matched by an equivalent rise in supply. Social house building has slowed in many countries and building for private purchase has often be hampered by difficulties in obtaining appropriate land or getting planning permission.
The articles linked below look at the situation in Australia. Here too house prices have been soaring. Over the past 30 years they have grown by 7.25% per year – way above the growth in incomes. As the second article below states:
So expensive are homes becoming that the share of median household income devoted to mortgage payments for Australians aged 35 to 44 has more than doubled in 30 years. Incredibly, it’s happened at a time when mortgage rates have slid to their lowest on record.
But why? Again, to understand this it is necessary to look at demand and supply.
Strong population growth combined with easy availability of mortgage loans, low interest rates and tax breaks for both owner occupiers and property investors have stoked demand, while new building has lagged behind. As far as investors are concerned, any shortfall of rental income over mortgage payments (known as negative gearing) can be offset against tax – and then there is still the capital gain to be made from any increase in the property’s price.
But in some Australian towns and cities, price rises have started to slow down or even fall. This may be due to a fall in demand. For example, in Perth, the ending of the commodity boom has led to a fall in demand for labour in the mining areas; mine workers often live in Perth and fly up to the mining areas for shifts of a week or more. The fall in demand for labour has led to a fall in demand for housing.
House price changes are amplified by speculation. People rush to buy houses when they think house prices will rise, further pushing up prices. Landlords do the same. This speculation fuels the price rises. Speculation also amplifies price falls, with people with houses to sell keen to sell them quickly before prices fall further. Potential purchasers, including property investors, hold back, waiting for prices to fall.
House prices are surging because of low supply – it’s Economics 101 The Guardian, Stephen Koukoulas (27/10/16)
Who’s to blame for rising house prices? We are, actually. Sydney Morning Herald, Peter Martin (27/10/16)
The Price of Australia’s Real Estate Boom The New York Times, A. Odysseus Patrick (17/10/16)
Solutions beyond supply to the housing affordability problem The Conversation, Nicole Gurran (24/10/16)
Residential Property Price Indexes: Eight Capital Cities Australian Bureau of Statistics (20/9/16)
- Identify the specific demand factors that have driven house price rises in Australia.
- How are the price elasticities of demand and supply relevant to explaining house price rises? Use a diagram to illustrate your analysis.
- What determines the rate of increase in house prices?
- Explain what is meant by ‘negative gearing’. How is the tax treatment of negative gearing relevant to the property market?
- What are the arguments for and against giving tax breaks for house purchase?
- Why are rising prices seen as politically desirable by politicians?
- What practical steps could a government (central or local) take to increase the supply of housing? Would such steps always be desirable?
- Does speculation always amplify house price changes? Explain.
- How are house prices related to inequality?
The housing market has long been seen as a crucial element in stimulating the British economy. For this reason various incentives had been introduced to encourage people to buy properties. (Click here for a PowerPoint of the chart.)
One such strategy was the stamp duty holiday. Stamp Duty Land Tax is paid by the purchaser of a property against a purchase price and the cost of it will rise through each price band. The stamp duty holiday meant that first-time buyers were free from the 1% stamp duty on homes that cost under £250,000. However, this holiday is due to end from March 2012, as according to the government, the holiday has been ineffective. Indeed, in the Autumn statement documents, the government said:
‘The government is publishing analysis showing that the stamp duty land tax relief for first-time buyers has been ineffective in increasing the number of first time buyers entering the market.’
The government has said that instead it will focus on other strategies that provide better value for money. Such schemes include a mortgage guarantee scheme and the FirstBuy scheme launched last year, both of which aim to help those struggling to finance the purchase of their first properties.
According to the Land Registry, property prices have fallen by over 1% over the past year, so fewer properties will face the stamp duty land tax, but this data does little to instill confidence in the housing market being the stimulus that the economy needs. By stimulating the housing market, construction jobs should be created and this in turn should create a much needed multiplier effect helping to boost other sectors within the economy. The following articles consider this latest development.
Stamp duty rush boosts January valuations Mortgage Strategy, Tessa Norman (11/2/12)
New deals for buyers as stamp duty holiday ends BBC News, Susannah Streeter (11/2/12)
Autumn Statement: Stamp duty concession to end BBC News (29/11/11)
First-time buyers boost mortgage market activity FT Adviser, Michael Trudeau (9/2/12)
When shared ownership turns sour Guardian, Rupert Jones (10/2/12)
- Why does the housing market play such a crucial role in the economy?
- What is the multiplier effect? How will new jobs in the construction industry help other sectors in the economy?
- Why has the stamp duty holiday been ‘ineffective’ in stimulating the housing market?
- How have the other schemes introduced by the government created incentives in the housing market?
- Why have January valuations improved? Use a demand and supply diagram to illustrate your explanation.
In January 2011, Chinese growth accelerated to 9.8% as industrial production and retails sales picked up. As the second largest economy, this very high growth is hardly surprising, but it has caused concern for another key macroeconomic variable: inflation. Figures show that inflation climbed to 5.2% in March from a year before and the billionaire investor George Soros has said it is ‘somewhat out of control’. High property and food prices have contributed to high and rising inflation and this has led to the government implementing tightening measures within the economy.
In March, growth in property prices did finally begin to slow, according to the survey by the National Bureau of Statistics. Prices of new built homes had risen in 49 out of 70 Chinese cities in March from the previous months, but this was down from 56 cities in February. A property tax has also been implemented in cities like Shanghai and the minimum down payment required for second-home buyers has risen in a bid to prevent speculative buying. Bank reserve requirements have also been increased for the fourth time, after an increase in the interest rate at the beginning of April. The required reserve ratio for China’s biggest banks has now risen to 20.5%.
The situation in China is not the only country causing concern. Inflation in emerging markets is a growing concern, especially for the richer nations. The Singaporean finance minister, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, said:
“When inflation goes up in emerging markets, it’s not just an emerging market problem, it’s a global inflation and possibly interest rate problem … We have learned from painful experience in the past few years that nothing is isolated and that risk in one region rapidly gets transmitted to the rest of the world.”
He has said that inflation in emerging markets needs addressing to ensure that it does not begin to threaten the economic recovery of other leading economies. The following articles consider the latest Chinese developments.
New home price growth dips amid government tightening BBC News (18/4/11)
China growth may cool in boost for Wen’s inflation campaign Bloomberg Business (14/4/11)
China steps up inflation fight with bank reserves hike Independent, Nikhil Kumar (18/4/11)
China raises bank reserves again Reuters (17/4/11)
China’s economy ‘is just too hot’ says Peter Hoflich BBC News (18/4/10)
Top G20 economies face scrutiny over imbalances AFP, Paul Handley (16/4/11)
Inflation in China poses big threat to global trade Global Business, David Barboza (17/4/11)
Chinese inflation to slow to 4% by year-end: IMF AFP (17/4/11)
Chinese economic growth slows but inflation soars Guardian, Tania Branigan (15/4/11)
- What type of inflation is the Chinese economy experiencing? Explain your answer using a diagram.
- To what extent will the minimum payment on second homes and the property tax help reduce the growth in Chinese property prices?
- Why is there concern about high inflation in emerging markets and the impact it might have on other countries?
- How could the inflation in China hurt the economic recovery of countries such as the UK?
- How will the increase in the banks’ reserve requirements help inflation?
- Is high Chinese growth and high inflation the relationship you would expect to occur between these macroeconomic objectives? Explain your answer.