More SA properties are being sold for less than their previous purchase price

 ·7 Mar 2017

The number of homes being resold at values below their previous purchase price has climbed in recent months, according to new FNB data.

At any given time, there exists a certain amount of residential price deflation in the market – where a home is resold at a value lower than that which the seller purchased it for.

FNB noted that in a country such as South Africa, with its significant general economy-wide inflation levels, the percentage of homes experiencing price deflation over the period between purchase and resale is normally in the minority.

However, it is not insignificant, and can fluctuate noticeably over the course of the property/economic cycle, the lender said.

The bank pointed out that it uses deeds data property transfers registered by individuals below the value of R10 million to obtain a residential-dominated data sample.

Given that most homes are resold a good number of years following their original purchase, the large majority (87.7%) of total properties as at January 2017, sold at above their previous purchase price, FNB said.

  • 73.6% at 110% or more than previous purchase price
  • 8.6% at 105%-109% of previous purchase price
  • 5.5% at 100%-104% of previous purchase price.

By comparison, 12.3% of the properties were sold for prices below previous purchase price in January 2017, 2.9% at 0%-5% below previous purchase price, and 9.4% at more than 5% below previous purchase price.

“As a result of a reasonably solid period in the Housing Market in recent years, up until at least early-2016, this 12.3% estimate for homes selling below prior purchase price is still a relatively “moderate” percentage by historic standards,” said household and property sector strategist at FNB Home Loans, John Loos.

By comparison, shortly following the recession and interest rate peak of 2008/9, the estimated percentage of such resale price deflation peaked at 23.5% of homes sold in September 2009, with 20.6% selling at more than 5% below previous purchase price.

Further back, shortly after that short sharp interest rate spike of mid-1998, where Prime rate peaked at 25.5%, the percentage of homes resold at prices lower than prior purchase price also surged to peak at 26.8% of total sales (20.1% being at more than 5% below purchase price).

On the other hand, in the extreme boom times in the few years prior to 2008, the percentage of properties resold at deflated prices dropped to as low as 2.3% of total sales by June 2006, Loos said.

But what are the recent trends?

The estimated percentage of homes sold at prices below previous purchase price has risen mildly in recent months, a development that should not come as any surprise given that our FNB Average House Price has recently shown slowing year-on-year inflation to as low as 0.9% in January and 0.8% in February, the analyst said.

“In such times of slowing average house price inflation, one should expect to see some increase in the percentage of homes whose resale prices have deflated, and indeed this has been the case.”

From a low of 9.8% of properties selling below the original purchase price in August 2016, the percentage has risen mildly to 12.3% of total properties sold in January 2017.

This is the lagged impact of those earlier 200 basis points’ worth of interest rate hikes from early-2014 to early-2016, along with a broad economic growth stagnation from 2012 to 2016.

These figures serve to dispel the myth that property values “can only go up”. At any given time, a portion of them don’t, Loos said.

Read: South Africa’s buy-to-let market is mediocre: analyst

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