Housing market activity in most European countries will continue to expand this year amid still very favorable lending conditions and the ongoing economic recovery. We nevertheless expect house prices will rise more slowly than last year in most markets as inflation edges up, potentially putting interest and mortgage lending rates on a gradually upward trajectory. The European Central Bank's (ECB's) announcement on Jan. 19 that it will continue its asset purchases (quantitative easing or QE) to at least the end of this year, should keep sovereign bond yields and mortgage interest rates low, thereby continuing to spur improvements in eurozone housing markets. Over the longer term, however, there are risks that the U.K.'s split from the EU, as well as the threat of increased protectionism in the U.S., could hit European growth, with a knock-on effect on housing markets.
We believe that uncertainties over the terms of the U.K. departure from the EU and the squeeze of accelerating inflation on households' spending power will translate into gradually slowing economic growth that will then spill over to the U.K. housing market. We expect house price increases in the U.K. to soften to 2% this year, from 7.5% in 2016. However, favorable financing conditions and persistent supply shortages should prevent house price inflation from entering negative territory.
- We forecast house prices will continue to rise in most European markets this year amid still very favorable lending conditions and the ongoing economic recovery, including rising employment.
- We nevertheless expect the markets will see slower gains, owing to rising inflation and external pressures on growth.
- We expect the strongest house price gains this year will be in Ireland (7%), Germany (6%), and the Netherlands (5%).
- Italy's housing market will likely be the weakest performer (zero growth) due to uncertainties about the economic and political outlook.