Even though Sweden’s property bubble is not the longest running (that accolade goes to Australia at 55 years), it is probably the world’s biggest with prices up roughly 6-fold since starting its meteoric rise in 1995.
Of course, as we noted last month when the SEB's housing price indicator, which measures the difference between those who believe prices will rise and those who expect them to drop, took its first substantial tumble, the era of the steadily inflating housing bubble in Stockholm may finally have come to an end.
Now, it seems that the "hard data" is aligning with the "soft data" as Swedish home prices across the Nordic country posted their first decline since the spring of 2012, down 0.2% year-over-year and 2.9% sequentially. Per Bloomberg:
The property market in the largest Nordic economy is rapidly cooling after years of price increases that were driven largely by housing shortages and ultra-low interest rates. Supply is now outstripping demand and stricter mortgage rules, as well as growing apprehension among households, are driving prices lower. The drop is being led by high-end apartments in Stockholm.
According to Maklarstatistik’s number, nationwide apartment prices fell a monthly 3 percent in November, adding to October’s 1 percent drop. House prices fell 1 percent in the month, after being unchanged in October. Apartment prices in greater Stockholm fell 3 percent in the month and were down 4 percent from a year earlier, the first such decline in almost six years.
Worse yet, the slump in Stockholm specifically is even more dramatic with apartment prices down 4.2% sequentially, the steepest since October 2008, and 6.0% year-over-year, the biggest June 2009.
Not surprisingly, the sudden pricing collapse has sparked a bit of a panic supply boost as sellers attempt to beat the bursting of the bubble. Of course, we're sure this strategy will work out perfectly, as it always does, because nothing helps correct an over-supplied market like a massive flood of even more supply.
Greater supply “has resulted in buyers having more to choose from and taking longer before buying,” Hans Flink, head of sales and business development at Maklarstatistik, said in a statement. “The sellers are therefore starting to adjust their prices to the tougher competition, which is pushing prices down somewhat.”
Luckily, Bloomberg was able to find at least one economist who dug up some "rather encouraging" signs amongst the wreckage...
But there may be glimmers of hope. Andreas Wallstrom, an economist at Nordea Bank AB in Stockholm, said data for the last few weeks from property-listings website Booli “are rather encouraging,” as they indicate that prices have leveled out since mid-November and up until the first week of December. Average prices per square meter have even increased somewhat in both Stockholm and in the country as a whole in that period, he said.
“Our tentative call for December is that home prices will stay unchanged compared to November,” Wallstrom said. “In all, we forecast relatively stable home prices from here. To see a sustained downturn in prices, it will likely require a change in households’ housing costs. As long as mortgage rates remain low, which we expect, it is difficult to see a marked decline.”
Of course, we remember some Bear Stearns analysts who saw similarly "rather encouraging" signs in the U.S. housing market back in 2008...