2003 boom time for most EU property growth, reveals RCIS

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors has revealed that more European countries experienced double-digit house price inflation last year than in the previous year. The booming markets in Spain and the UK were joined by France and Ireland.

However, none are expected to keep up such rates of house price increase in 2004.

But at the other end of the scale, more European countries&#39 housing markets stagnated in 2003, with previously static Germany and Austria joined by the Netherlands and Denmark.

But perhaps the most surprising find is the fact that despite rocketing consumer debt in several countries, national economic slowdowns, and prophecies of doom from some eminent economists, none of the 14 countries studied showed signs of an impending housing market crash.

These are just some of the findings of the in-depth analysis of 14 European housing markets found in the European Housing Review 2004, commissioned and published by RICS this week.

The review, written by leading residential housing market economist, Professor Michael Ball, provides an overview of the trends and issues currently dominating a combined housing market of 350m people, as well as providing invaluable guidance for potential investors in residential property.

Professor Michael Ball highlights the market and social trends working behind the economic data, such as how diverse housing markets are discouraging people from moving freely to work and live in other countries within Europe; the fact that second homes now account for up to 10% of some markets; and why several countries, such as Denmark, Holland and the UK, are so heavily mortgaged.

Milan Khatri, chief economist at RICS, says: “This report shows that mortgage market structures alone do not explain differences in housing market trends. Differences in economic growth, house building, institutional and cultural factors all affect consumer behaviour.

“The current housing boom in many countries has been exaggerated by poor housing supply, particularly in urban areas, as markets have been prevented from operating freely because of constraining planning systems.”