Steigende Zinsen In diesen Ländern tragen Hausbesitzer das höchste Risiko

Steigende Zinsen verteuern auch Hypothekendarlehen. Für Hausbesitzer und Häuslebauer kann das zum Problem werden. Der Überblick zeigt, in welchen Ländern das Risiko für Hausbesitzer und Banken am größten ist.
Ein Orignaltext aus dem "Economist"
Foto: Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images

House of cards

Which housing markets are most exposed to the coming interest-rate storm?

The pain of rising mortgage repayments will be harder to bear in some places than in others

Stocks are sinking, a cost-of-living crisis is in full swing and the spectre of global recession looms. But you wouldn’t know it by looking at the rich world’s housing markets, many of which continue to break records. Homes in America and Britain are selling faster than ever. House prices in Canada have soared by 26% since the start of the pandemic. The average property in New Zealand could set you back more than NZ$1m ($640,000), an increase of nearly 46% since 2019.

For more than a decade homeowners benefited from ultra-low interest rates. Now, however, changes are brewing. On May 5th the Bank of England, having forecast that inflation in Britain could exceed 10% later this year, raised its policy rate for the fourth time, to 1%. The day before America’s Federal Reserve had increased its benchmark rate by half a percentage point, and hinted that more tightening would follow. Investors expect the federal funds rate to rise above 3% by early 2023, more than triple its current level. Most other central banks in the rich world, ranging from Canada to Australia, have either started pressing the monetary brakes, or are preparing to do so.

Many economists believe that a 2008-style global property crash is unlikely. Households’ finances have strengthened since the financial crisis, and lending standards are tighter. Scarce housing supply together with robust demand, high levels of net household wealth and strong labour markets should also support property prices. But the rising cost of money could make homeowners’ existing debt burdens difficult to manage by increasing their repayments, while putting off some prospective buyers. If that hit to demand is big enough, prices could start to fall.

Homeowners’ vulnerability to sharp rises in mortgage payments varies by country. In Australia and New Zealand, where prices jumped by more than 20% last year, values have got so out of hand that they may be sensitive to even modest rises in interest rates. In America and Britain, where markets are a little less torrid, interest rates may have to approach 4% for house prices to fall, reckon analysts at Capital Economics, a consultancy.

Alongside price levels, three other factors will help determine whether the housing juggernaut simply slows, or comes crashing to a halt: the extent to which homeowners have mortgages, rather than own their properties outright; the prevalence of variable-rate mortgages, instead of fixed-rate loans; and the amount of debt taken on by households.

Consider first the share of mortgage-holders in an economy. The fewer homeowners who own their properties outright, the greater the impact of a rate rise is likely to be. Denmark, Norway and Sweden have relatively high shares of mortgage-holders (see table). A relaxation of lending standards in response to the covid-19 pandemic turbocharged borrowing. In Sweden tax breaks for homeowners have further fuelled the rush to secure mortgages, while a dysfunctional rental market, characterised by overpriced (and illegal) subletting, has pushed more tenants into home ownership.

All this puts Nordic banks in a tricky position. In Norway and Sweden housing loans make up more than a third of banks’ total assets. In Denmark they account for nearly 50% of lenders’ books. Sharp falls in house prices could trigger losses.

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