House search in Europe will remain intense, says ECB

According to the European Central Bank (ECB), demand for property is to remain at high levels in the coming months based on the fact that 4.5 percent of families are looking to buy in the near future.


"The decision of families to buy a house depends on many factors, including their stability in employment and financial situation, their income and assets, their expectations regarding the general level of house prices and mortgage loan conditions", states a report from Christine Lagarde head of the BCE.


The report continued to state that “the intention to buy a house varies depending on the income of the families”. The data shows that this intention is much higher among families with high incomes – around 6.5 percent -, while for households with lower incomes, the result is lower than the average, being below 4 percent.


“Families with higher incomes are much more likely to express their intention to buy a house and, therefore, they tend to be more supportive of the demand for houses”, points out the ECB's economic bulletin. Furthermore, “expected income dynamics also play an important role in decisions to invest in a house: respondents who intend to buy a home in the next 12 months tend to have considerably higher income growth expectations than those who do not plan to do so".


Household savings – which are at their highest levels in Portugal – also influence the decision to buy a house. According to the ECB's findings, savings accumulated by citizens during the pandemic “may continue to drive demand for homes in the short term”, as around 44 percent of families committed to saving say they have “the desire to save enough money to make a big purchase in the future (such as a house or a car)”.


High demand


There are still other reasons to suggest that the demand for homeowners will continue to rise for the foreseeable future. In addition to household savings, the ECB also emphasises that the housing segment has become increasingly attractive to invest in. There are also still positive expectations that mortgage loans will continue to present favourable and inviting conditions for families – with interest rates at historic lows.


While demand will help to inflate house prices, the ECB warns that the forecast for the evolution of house prices has been “much higher than the expected growth in household incomes”.


The International Monetary Fund recently highlighted that “house prices have grown faster than wages in more than half of the 35 countries” that make up the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). When it comes to Portugal, house prices have risen faster than household incomes leading to potential problems for low income families looking to access the housing market.