House prices in the Saudi capital Riyadh seem to have bottomed out after the government took steps to ease the effect of strict mortgage caps introduced about two years ago.
According to the property broker JLL, both house and villa prices remained relatively stable compared with the previous quarter, as the government eased strict rules capping loan-to-value ratios on mortgages.
JLL said it expected house prices in the kingdom’s largest city to rally after about two years of falls following government moves to ease the rules introduced in November 2014, which meant buyers needed a 30 per cent down payment in a market where most people cannot afford their own home. Currently, just 30 per cent of Saudis own their own homes compared with a global average of 70 per cent.
Earlier this year, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (Sama) increased the maximum loan-to-value ratio for mortgages from 70 per cent to 85 per cent for real estate finance companies.
Although these companies represent a small portion in comparison to local banks, JLL predicted that the move would make housing more affordable and help to strengthen demand.
“This move should help re-energise the market and help reverse the recent slowdown in sales,” said Jamil Ghaznawi, the national director and country head of JLL KSA. “In the residential market, sales prices have bottomed out as prices stabilise for the first time since the introduction of the mortgage regulations.”
However, JLL said that average villa prices were still 6 per cent lower than they had been a year earlier, while apartment prices were 4 per cent lower than the first quarter last year.
According to the ministry of justice, although the number of house sales in the city continued to fall during the first three months of the year, the volume of sales only declined by 6 per cent compared with the previous year, the lowest fall in the number of transactions since the introduction of the mortgage regulations.
On Monday the Saudi government announced plans to restructure the country’s housing ministry in an attempt to enable more Saudi citizens to buy homes. In a television interview to discuss the country’s ambitious National Transformation Plan, the deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman said the move was part of an overall plan to boost the country’s economy during an era of cheap oil. The prince did not give further details of how the ministry was to be restructured, or how many more Saudis would be able to buy homes as a result of the changes.
According to local property agents, there is a shortfall of about 400,000 “affordable” homes across the country, that is, housing accessible to households earning between 6,000 and 20,000 Saudi riyals (Dh19,588) a month, or 62 per cent of the population.
They said that hardly any parts of the country’s two biggest cities, Riyadh and Jeddah, had homes that fell into this category and the situation was likely to worsen as the population continues to grow.
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