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German central bank could intervene over rising house prices

The German Bundesbank is considering taking measures to curb risky lending on mortgages.

German central bank could intervene over rising house prices
A woman signs a sales contract. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Andrea Warnecke

Germany’s chief banking supervisor – the Bundesbank – is considering imposing additional restrictions on banks’ lending abilities in the housing market.

Against a backdrop of ever-increasing house prices and stagnating incomes, property buyers in Germany are taking out mortgages with less and less initial equity, with recent data showing that the loan value now exceeds the property purchase price in nearly 10 percent of sales.

READ ALSO: German property prices rise at highest rate in two decades

This poses the risk that more buyers will eventually become overburdened with debt and that an unstable property bubble could develop.

In a recent interview with the Handelsblatt, the Bundesbank’s board member Joachim Wuermelin said that “the growth is taking place in a market that is becoming increasingly vulnerable because of rising real estate prices.”

“If further excessive risks build-up, we reserve the right to adjust the buffers or use other instruments instead. For example, in order to avoid high-risk loans, it might make more sense to limit the debt component in real estate financing via a cap on the loan-to-value (LTV) ratio,” he said.

Loan-to-value ratios measure how much money is being borrowed compared to the total value of the property. Higher LTV ratios reflect higher rates of borrowing and represent riskier loans for the banks.

READ ALSO: Where in Germany can you still snag a home for under €100k?

According to Wuermeling, the share of residential real estate financing on bank balance sheets has also increased enormously, and now stands at 35 percent of all bank loans. This is also a result of price increases – and the trend is continuing.

Only recently, financial regulator BaFin decided that banks would have to set aside more money as a security buffer for real estate loans in the future because of skyrocketing housing prices. 

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PROPERTY

German North Sea islands see soaring property prices

Property prices in Germany's North Sea islands are soaring, a new report shows. It's leading to local tensions and plans for tougher rules on holiday accommodation.

German North Sea islands see soaring property prices

The North Frisian Islands, with Sylt in the lead, are seeing a huge spike in property prices, according to the latest Coastal Report published by the Von Poll estate agency.

According to the report, average asking prices on the Schleswig-Holstein islands that lie in the North Sea climbed by 17.1 percent to €14,115 per square metre within a year in the first quarter of 2022.

This equates to an average price of around €425,000 for a 30-square-metre apartment, or a whopping €1,411,500 for 100 square metres.

Meanwhile, in Lower Saxony’s East Frisian islands, which include Norderney, Juist and Borkum, there was a price jump of 5.7 percent to €8,206 per square metre. Despite the increase on this group of North Sea islands, properties there are 42 percent cheaper than the North Frisian islands.

“Demand from buyers remains high on the North Sea coast,” said Von Poll Managing Director Daniel Ritter.

The biggest price driver among the islands is Sylt, where it now costs a whopping €18,740 per square metre for an average house, 21.7 percent more than a year earlier. 

People looking to buy on Sylt can now expect to shell out around €560,00 for a 30 square-metre flat and an average of €1,874,000 for an 100 square-metre property.

Thanks to its sandy beaches, the island of Sylt is one of Germany’s best known domestic tourist destinations. Sylt hit the headlines last week because of fears it will become overrun with tourists due to the introduction of the €9 transport ticket. 

READ ALSO: What is Sylt and why is it terrified of Germany’s €9 holidaymakers?

“Sylt is as sought-after as ever,” said Martin Weiß, the Von Poll office manager who is based in Sylt. “However, the supply has been reduced to about a third and that causes prices to spiral upwards.”

The district of Nordfriesland, which includes Sylt, Föhr,  Amrum, as well as Sankt Peter-Ording, was named the most expensive district in Germany by Postbank in its property atlas published at the end of March – with an average price per square metre of €7,977 (2021).

The list of the 10 most expensive districts otherwise includes counties from the Munich area, and from the holiday areas of the Alpine foothills.

Sylt mulls stricter rules for holiday accommodation

The high prices and scarce supply have been leading to social tensions. Many native islanders, who can no longer afford to live on the islands, have already been forced to move to the mainland and commute to the isles for work, according to local reports.

The German Social Association (Sozialverband Deutschland, SoVD) warned back in 2016 of Sylt becoming a place that only rich people can afford to live on.  

Sylt has been described as the “German Hamptons” in reference to the area north of New York City that is frequented by the wealthy and famous. 

However, locals are trying to fight back. The municipality of Sylt, for instance, recently put together an accommodation plan. The report, which was presented last week, concluded that the amount of misused living space in Sylt is already far too high, and that the island is too full. Now stricter rules are being discussed which could mean that people are no longer allowed to launch new holiday homes. 

READ ALSO: How soaring property prices are out of reach for German buyers

According to Von Poll, prospective buyers for real estate on the North Sea islands come from all over Germany, and given the price level, they are increasingly expanding their search radius.

Therefore, the asking prices on the mainland also rose strongly. Property prices spiked by 22.8 percent to €2,544 per square metre and by 22 percent to €2,489 in the East Frisian districts of Wittmund and Aurich.

But this is topped by the North Frisian mainland and the district of Dithmarschen, where prices have risen by an average of 26.2 percent to €2,657 and by 27.6 percent to €2,353 per square metre respectively. Compared to the first quarter of 2021, prices have also risen significantly in Cuxhaven, a seaside town in Lower Saxony. 

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