Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Daily Mail and House Prices in Iceland

In light of the Daily Mail's post regarding the surprise winner of Iceland in the house prices competition, I am going to repost the following graph, based on data from the Central Bank of Iceland.

The fundamental reason for the surge in house prices in Iceland is not the economic recovery but the expansion of new mortgages, i.e. debt. Those new mortgages spur the economic growth since the debt creation becomes somebody's income (first the seller's and then who ever gets the money from him as he spends it). In the meanwhile, investment is lagging and furthermore, 60,000 households (40% of the total, year end 2010) are in negative equity on their balance sheet. None of those 60,000 households are thinking of speculating in the property market in at the moment, I presume, since they are busy paying down their debts.

The speculators are more likely to be high net-financial-wealth holders, looking for income and yield on their financial assets. The nominal yield on the rental market is around 7-9%, depending on which part of Reykjavik we're talking about. Unindexed mortgages carry 5-7% interest rates. If you have the net-cash to cover the need for equity, leveraging it up with a mortgage only "makes sense".The money that is spurring the growth of the Icelandic economy is therefore not coming from investment in capital assets and the subsequent production of goods and services, but speculation with properties.

Newly created mortgages are driving the property market in Iceland, as they do in other countries. The resulting income from debt-creation is what is then spurring economic growth, but not investment in real capital. Data including January 2012. Central Bank of Iceland.

The Daily Mail article is here: "UK property market..."

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