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Netherlands market is latest to recover

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Residential property is seen reflected in the waters of a canal at Op Buuren, a housing development in Maarsen, Netherlands

Residential property is seen reflected in the waters of a canal at Op Buuren, a housing development in Maarsen, Netherlands

Bloomberg

Residential property is seen reflected in the waters of a canal at Op Buuren, a housing development in Maarsen, Netherlands

Dutch architect Rien de Ruiter describes himself as a survivor after the housing-market bust that cost half of his colleagues their jobs.

"The situation was disastrous. I've been in this business for 35 years and I had never seen a crisis like this," de Ruiter, who designs housing projects in cities including Rotterdam and Amsterdam, said.

"Only since this summer have I seen the number of orders picking up."

Along with Spain and Ireland, the Netherlands was hit with a housing collapse in the depths of the euro region's crisis that sent economic growth tumbling.

The recession crippled the nation's major banks and left the country with record unemployment and mounting consumer debt.

Recent data show that stabilization is taking hold. While prices remain about 20pc below their 2008 peak, they've shown annual increases in every one of the past six months.

The 2.2pc year-on-year price increase in October, published on Friday, is adding to the picture seen by de Ruiter's firm, Klunder Architecten, as it pursues new construction projects and transforms office space into housing.

"Confidence in the housing market has increased substantially this year," said Philip Bokeloh, an economist at ABN Amro Bank in Amsterdam.

"The interest rate is very low, and of course also the economy is recovering."

The Dutch economy grew 0.2pc in the third quarter after expansion of 0.6pc in the previous three months.

It exited a recession in the first quarter of 2013 after a slump largely caused by the housing market. Gross domestic product will rise by aabout 0.9pc this year and 1.4pc in 2015, according to forecasts from the European Commission.

A measure of confidence in the housing market has risen for the past 22 months to a record, according to the Dutch Home Owners Association and Delft University.

Their index has jumped from 51 in December 2012 to 103 last month, the highest since the series started in 2004.

Property activity is also strengthening.

There were 116,550 houses sold in the Netherlands in the first 10 months of the year. That is an almost 40pc increase on the same period a year earlier, according to statistics office.

There are one-time factors that may be driving the increase. In addition to low interest rates, buyers are taking advantage of government incentives before they end next year, according to Bokeloh.

A fund that let homebuyers borrow cheaply from municipalities is almost exhausted and will not be renewed, while a measure allowing buyers or home owners to receive a tax-free gift of as much as 100,000 euros ($125,400) to finance a new house or to pay down an existing home loan will come to an end this year.

In addition, Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem and Housing Minister Stef Blok have announced lower loan-to-income limits on the size of mortgages.

"The big difference between now and before the crisis is that we have to work twice as hard for half the amount," architect de Ruiter said.

"During the crisis years we made losses, at least we're able to break even now." (Bloomberg)

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