EECFA 2021 Winter Construction Forecast – 4th pandemic edition

EECFA’s 2021 Winter Construction Forecast Report was released on 6 December. Full reports can be purchased, and a sample report can be viewed here: www.eecfa.com. EECFA (Eastern European Construction Forecasting Association) conducts research on the construction markets of 8 Eastern-European countries.

We are more optimistic for 2022 in the Southeast European region of EECFA than in the previous forecast round. The drop in 2023 is caused by Bulgaria; the awaited shrinkage is so sizeable there that expansion elsewhere in the region might not counterbalance it. Expansion in the East European region of EECFA is foreseen to be smaller both in 2022 and in 2023 than in the previous forecast round. Growth in Turkey was revised downward.

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The largest Southeast European construction market of EECFA, Romania, is expected to see only moderate growth on the horizon. Serbia, having recorded the biggest expansion of almost 100% in the 2014-2020 period, is foreseen to plateau in the upcoming years. In Eastern Europe, in Turkey we maintain to believe that the recovery could start, but we lowered our growth expectation compared to our previous forecast. After 2 years of no-growth, Russia’s construction market is foreseen to expand gradually until 2023.

Bulgaria. The Bulgarian economy is recovering more slowly than expected, and the likely growth rate is 3.8% in 2021. However, residential construction looks strong thanks to low interest rates on housing loans, making home purchase more affordable. Real estate is also the safest and easiest way for those wanting to invest to avoid negative deposit rates. The pandemic and its lasting follow-up effects played an additionally strong cooling effect on non-residential construction because of a surge in office and industrial construction earlier and with an emptying pipeline. Zero progress on big-league infrastructure projects will take its toll on growth in civil engineering construction in 2021, but it is set to catch up in 2022. Total construction output in Bulgaria is anticipated to grow by 6.5% in 2021 and 16.5% in 2022. The lack of preparation for the new programming period 2021-2027 and the National Recovery and Resilience Plan are to negatively affect total construction output which is expected to drop by 24.9% in 2023.

Croatia. Croatia’s tourism season surpassed all expectations, driving a 16.2 percentage point swing in the country’s GDP growth, from -8.1% in 2020 to +8.1% this year, and a one-notch jump in its Fitch rating, to BBB. The near-term future of Croatia’s construction sector now depends greatly on the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly its effect on tourism. EU and international financial institution crisis-relief funding will, though, soften any blow that the disease delivers. The City of Zagreb’s budget crisis, bureaucratic delays in spending crisis-relief money and much higher construction costs are other negative factors that will affect the growth of construction output, which must be assessed not for the sector as a whole, but segment by segment (e.g., hotels vs. residential).

Romania. The economy is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels, in terms of GDP, by the end of 2021, after growing 7% in real terms. The European Commission forecasts Romania’s GDP growth rate to stay above the EU average in both 2022 (5.1%) and 2023 (5.2%), and, with the help of the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), construction would have a positive ground to grow upon. Total construction output in 2021 is predicted to slightly decline (-0.3%), but to recover and grow in 2022 and 2023. Low interest rates and excess liquidity coalesce into an expanding residential subsector, while non-residential construction continues to be impeded by pandemic-related changes to work habits and various restrictions. On the back of the RRF and the 2014-2020 EU cohesion funds, and despite ongoing difficulties and delays in implementing projects, civil engineering construction continues to have a high potential for growth.

Serbia. After the restrictions in 2020, economic recovery came faster than expected and GDP growth is estimated to reach at least 7.3% in 2021. This strong rebound is supported by accelerated construction activity and increased capital investments, where a high single-digit expansion is projected in 2021 outputs. Construction output is fuelled by civil engineering projects, but also the robust residential and industrial related constructions. Furthermore, budgetary expenditures for investments are planned to reach record levels, with 7.5% of GDP dedicated for this purpose in 2022. All indicators are pointing towards more extensive growth and sustained construction activity at record levels in this forecast horizon.

Slovenia. The Slovenian economy has rebounded stronger than expected after the pandemic. One of the strongest economic growth accelerators was gross fixed capital investment, causing construction output to get back on feet. Total construction output is projected to exceed EUR 4bln sooner than previously predicted – already in 2022 – and reach EUR 4,3bln in 2023. Construction cost growth will probably slow down from a hike in 2021, resulting in a more stable construction environment without supply shocks. This will enable several big civil engineering projects to continue apace, but the main contributor to construction output will be new residential projects. Of course, our forecasts remain contingent on the condition that no further lockdowns hinder the overall economic activity.

Russia. The construction industry in Russia is going through the second year of the pandemic relatively successfully, and the previously expected stagnation in 2021 is likely to turn into a 3.2% growth by the end of the year. This unexpectedly good result was enabled by segments with traditionally active government participation: residential and civil engineering which were supported by large funds. The non-residential subsector also contributed to the growth of the construction market in 2021, mainly due to the massive completion of objects whose construction was previously postponed from 2020. But because all these factors are temporary, construction market growth in 2022 and 2023 will lessen and is prognosticated to post +1.9% and +1.2% per year, respectively, as a part of the potential for the positive dynamics was already exhausted in 2021.

Turkey. The Turkish economy started to regain senses from the pandemic blow in Q3 2020, which continued with high GDP growth in Q2 2021. Although Turkey removed most COVID-19 related restrictions on 1 June 2020 with the elevated number of vaccinations, now, like across Europe, the fourth wave of the pandemic has started (yet with relatively fewer new cases). The estimated economic growth rate by end 2021 is about 10%, but the primary concern in recent months has been high inflation caused by the national currency’s devaluation. Building starts expanded greatly, but completions registered a small drop in the first 9 months of 2021. The government requires interest rates (also for mortgages) to be kept at less than half of the rate of rise in building construction cost. Keeping real incomes positive during high inflation times is important for demand for commodities like housing and other real estates. Turkey’s total construction output is prognosticated to be positive in the forecast horizon with an average growth of 2.6% up to 2023.

Ukraine. For the construction sector in Ukraine, 2021 marks the year of completion of the construction regulation reform launched back in 2019. In mid-September, the newly created State Inspectorate for Architecture and Urban Planning began to work as a full-fledged new body with its own structure, powers, and new work principles. Ukraine’s construction market in H2 2021 has showed a good recovery in investment activity and the resumption of construction. The residential subsector remains the driver of the construction sector due to stable demand from the population. The main constraint in the development of the construction market in 2021 has been increased construction costs despite the active implementation of residential projects against the backdrop of the revival of mortgage lending, increased demand from the manufacturing sector, as well as high volumes of financing.

Q3 2021 Permit-Completion in EECFA area

Latest update: 19 November (with Q3 2021 data in all countries but Ukraine)

We have an all new Permit-Completion visualization of the 8 EECFA (Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Turkey, Ukraine) + 1 Euroconstruct countries (Hungary).

Open the full visualization with the link below and come back here for hints:

EECFA Permit-Completion Quarterly – 19 November 2021

Continue reading Q3 2021 Permit-Completion in EECFA area

Press Release on EBI Construction Activity Report Hungary Q3 2021

After a significant expansion in Q2, the value of started construction works in the Hungarian construction industry marked a major drop between July and September. Yet overall, the Activity Start indicator remained high for Q3 due to the exceptionally good Q2.

Based on the projects listed in iBuild construction project information and company database, a total of more than HUF 2 billion worth of construction works started in the sector. The Activity Start indicator of EBI Construction Activity Report for the first 9 months of the year exceeded not only 2020, but also 2019, the former by 24% and the latter by 4%.

EBI Construction Activity Report Hungary analyses the construction industry on a quarterly basis, including the volume of newly started construction works, and the value of projects completed in each quarter in aggregate and by segment as well. Prepared by Buildecon, Eltinga (creation of indicators and development of algorithms for aggregation) and iBuild (project research and project database), it can be purchased at ebi@ibuild.info.

Smaller-scale building construction activity in July-September 2021

Similarly to the construction industry as a whole, building construction registered a weaker Q3. The Activity Start indicator of EBI Construction Activity Report was below the level of the first two quarters, but construction works in the sector started in a higher value than in the corresponding period of 2020. Thanks to the successful H1, in the first 9 months of the year the value of the Activity Start indicator was close to HUF 1,500 billion, marking a 24% increase like-for-like and also significantly higher than in the same period of previous years.

Multi-unit and non-residential also recorded a feeble Q3. However, in the latter, the value of started construction works in January-September exceeded the one in 2020 (by 31%) and the one in 2019 (by 36%) thanks to the high Activity Start of Q2 2021.

In Q3 2021 projects entering construction phase included the renovation of the new North Buda Unified Hospitals. In addition to the construction of several office buildings and industrial warehouses which will be described in detail later, the construction of Hotel Aria Residences and of the Szekszárd Knowledge Center also started.

In the multi-unit housing segment, after the weak Q2, Q3 saw an even lower Activity Start. The value of launched construction works in the first 9 months was only 14% more than in the same period of the already poor 2020, and well below the level of previous years.

Frailing civil engineering in Q3 2021

Civil engineering also posted a reduction in Q3 2021. The Q3 2021 EBI Construction Activity Report has found that following an outstanding Q2, a rather low value of construction works started in the subsector. This was also true to road, railway, as well as non-road and non-railway segments. In the first 9 months, the Activity Start indicator of Civil Engineering exceeded the like-for-like indicator of 2020 (+15%), but it was much lower than in previous years.

The biggest launched civil engineering projects were the construction of the Sajószentpéter-Berente bypass on main road 260 and the works of the Gesztely-Szerencs stretch on main road 37.

Started construction works more evenly balanced regionally

In Q3 2021, the biggest share of construction works started in the eastern regions, but overall, in the first 9 months of the year the western regions had the largest proportion of the total value of started construction works which exceeded the value of previous years.

On the whole, East Hungary registered the fewest started construction works in January-September, in spite of the growth in Q3.

Multi-unit housing construction works slow to kick off

Despite the drop of VAT rate on new homes down to 5% from 1 January 2021 (from 27% in 2020), there is no visible growth in multi-unit housing construction. In Q2 fewer multi-unit construction projects started than in Q1 and Q3 also saw a further decline. Yet due to the better Q1, the value of Activity Start of EBI Construction Activity Report for multi-unit housing construction in the first 9 months of 2021 was still 14% higher than in the same period of 2020.

Despite the VAT reduction, multi-unit home constructions are slow to start. According to the housing permit statistics of the CSO, ‘simple declarations to build a home’ played the main role in the growing number of permits this year. This may be due to the fact that since last fall’s announcement to lower the VAT, developers haven’t had the time to prepare for large-scale projects and permits have not yet been obtained (which is the prerequisite to start construction works). But overall, as a result of the VAT reduction, we still expect the Activity Start of multi-unit housing construction to pick up in the future, especially because the recently launched ‘green loan’ might also boost demand for new homes.

Between July and September the value of completed multi-unit projects was roughly at the level of Q2, falling short of previous expectations due to delays. In the first 9 months of the year, a total of HUF 208 billion worth of multi-unit housing projects reached completion.

Like in the first half of the year, most multi-unit construction works started in Central Hungary in the first 9 months. Although the rest of Hungary had a proportionately higher Activity Start in Q3, they still lagged behind their previous years’ share. Between January and September only 10% of construction projects started in the eastern regions and 18% of them in the western regions against the 72% share of Central Hungary.

Office projects in 2021

Compared to the sharp decline in 2020, office projects have accelerated in 2021. The Activity Start of EBI Construction Activity Report for the first 9 months of the year surpassed the total annual value of the record year of 2018.

The reconstruction works of the former Joseph Archduke’s Palace, the former Red Cross Headquarters and the buildings of the Ministry of Finance and the Hungarian National Bank have started. Also, the construction works of phase 4 of Madarász Office Park, phase 1 of BakerStreet Office Building, phase 1 of Dürer Park Office Building and Richter Gedeon Headquarters have been launched.

This year there have been fewer completions. As per iBuild construction project information and company database, office construction works were completed on less than HUF 90 billion. For example, BudaPart City office building reached completion this  year and in the last quarter we might see further office building completions such as Aréna Business Campus B, Green Court Offices and OTP M12. This could greatly increase the value of this year’s Activity Completion indicator.

Warehouse projects in 2021

The construction of industrial buildings and warehouses has also been showing a strong upswing this year. The value of started works, after 2020, is hitting another record in 2021. The value of construction works started in the first 9 months of the year in the segment has already significantly exceeded last year’s total Activity Start.

This year has seen the construction start of SK Innovation battery plant in Iváncsa, Semcorp separator film production plant in Debrecen, Phase 2 of Mercedes-Benz K1 press plant in Kecskemét and East-West Gate intermodal logistics center in Fényeslitke.

Several completions have already taken place and more are expected in the last quarter, possibly making 2021 a record year for completions as well. For example, this year has seen the completion of phase 2 of SK Innovation battery factory in Komárom and the M0-M31 warehouse in Nagytarcsa. Nestlé Purina pet food plant in Bük and LIDL’s logistics center in Ecser are also set to be completed yet this year.

Croatia’s economic recovery and construction boom: real or smoke and mirrors?

Written by Michael Glazer (SEE Regional Advisors) and Tatjana Halapija (Nada Projekt), EECFA’s Croatia members

Croatia’s remarkable recovery from the brutal impact that the COVID-19 epidemic had on the country in 2020 is, like its construction boom, both real and smoke and mirrors, both temporary and long-term.

Photo by Tatjana Halapija

The country’s tourism sector, brought low by COVID-19 in 2020 (with commercial accommodation facilities recording a 64.2% reduction in arrivals and a 55.3% fall in overnights compared to 2019), has rebounded a mere year later to levels as strong as or even stronger than the 2019 banner year for the sector. August 2021 overnights, for example, achieved 93% of 2019 levels and fiscalized receipts (a proxy for revenues) were 21% higher than those of August 2019. This rebound is crucially important to Croatia, since, depending on how you measure it, the tourism sector accounts for 18% or more of the country’s economy.

Dubrovnik – Photo by Zoran Jelaca

First, though, the smoke and mirrors part: a large, but hard to determine, portion of the apparent tourism recovery is due to the government’s requiring that guests staying in Croatia be registered with governmental authorities. In fact, a registration requirement has existed for many years, but Croatian lessors of rooms for short-term occupancy, which constitute the majority of the country’s tourism beds, have long ignored it in order to evade taxes. The difference is that for COVID-19-related reasons the government is finally enforcing the requirement. The upshot has been that many more guests have been registered in the COVID-19 era than would have been previously.

The reality, though, is also encouraging. It is clear that significantly more tourists have visited Croatia this year than might have been expected given the fierceness of the epidemic both in Croatia and in the countries that are the typical sources of its guests, although the exact size of this increase is hard to discern through the distorting glass of official statistics. What is certain, though, is that the surprisingly large number of tourists who actually visited Croatia and the increase in the portion of them who were registered has both leveled the playing field for large hotel chains (which have always registered their guests more or less accurately) and provided badly needed windfall revenues for the government. Regarding the latter, the budget deficit for 2021 is anticipated by the Minister of Finance to be less than 3.8% of GDP despite extensive spending on COVID-19 and earthquake relief. He expects the deficit for 2022 to fall to 3.0% of GDP.

The upshot for the Croatian construction sector is likely to be quite positive. Hotel firms are likely to loosen the reins at least somewhat on their construction activities. While this will be to an extent offset by lower construction spending by small renters of vacation homes and rooms, they, too, will have earned more this year than they expected, even taking into account that unlike prior years they will have to pay taxes on their income. And the windfall tax revenues generated by their tax payments are an unalloyed benefit for the government which will use at least some of them to pay for the new construction required to compensate for the recent earthquakes.

Zagreb – Vlaska street – Source: licegrada.hr

Other factors are less positive, making the overall construction picture in Croatia hard to read. GDP growth for 2021 is now forecast by the Croatian Minister of Finance to be greater than 8%, also unexpectedly high as the continuing increase in the forecast number over the course of the year shows (e.g., the European Commission’s July 2021 forecast was for 5.4% GDP growth in 2021, itself an increase in the EC’s prior forecasts). So, immensely positive for the construction sector.

Construction forecast for Croatia is available in the EECFA Forecast Report that can be purchased on eecfa.com. EECFA (Eastern European Construction Forecasting Association) conducts research on the construction markets of 8 Eastern-European countries.

That said, inflation is high (and possibly accelerating). The annualized change in the Harmonized Index of Consumer Prices was 3.5% in September (compared to 3.1% in August and 2.7% in July).

Construction costs (both supplies and labor) are nearing stratospheric levels. Regarding labor, Croatian construction firms are no longer importing workers only from Croatia’s neighbors in Southeast Europe or even from Central and Eastern Europe as a whole but are instead turning more and more to India, Nepal, the Philippines and other distant sources. This is not an option for many building supplies, of course, shortages of which are no longer just driving prices up but are now also slowing projects down. Demand and available resources differ greatly from construction sector to construction sector, so a wide variation in sectoral output is to be expected.

A number of other factors contribute to this variation, which we will analyze in detail in our upcoming Winter 2021 forecast report.

Zagreb – Photo by Ivana Nobilo

Rental housing: a potential growth spot in the Russian market

Written by Andrey Vakulenko – MACON Realty Group, EECFA Russia

The residential rental market in Russia is now at the initial stage of development: professional* projects are just beginning to appear, and almost the whole supply is made up of private units in the unorganized* market. However, the active participation of the state and the expected set of measures to stimulate developers and support demand for rental housing should contribute to the active development of the segment: by 2030 at least 45 million sqm of rental houses are planned to be built. At the same time, the longer-term potential is estimated by market experts at the level of at least 20% of the total housing stock in Russia, with the current value of 6% (in absolute terms, about 520 million sqm). Even with the partial realization of the indicated potential, rental housing will certainly play a major part in the Russian construction market in the coming years.

*In this article, by ‘organized/formal/professional, we mean rental objects under professional management such as apart-hotels, rental houses with professional operators, co-living and so on, while by ‘unorganized/informal’ segment we mean individuals renting out their own apartments.

source: DOM.RF

Current rental market

Total rental supply in Russia is estimated at 240 billion sqm (DOM.RF) with about 97% rented by private individuals and most of them not being officially registered with no taxes paid. Yet, professional rental properties (apart-hotels, apartment buildings, co-living, etc.) throughout Russia total at about 60 units, with 45 located in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The segment, despite the current relatively low supply, is developing quite actively, though: over the past 3 years, the market increased 1.6 times in project number, and will likely continue to grow rapidly in mid-term since 31 new projects are under construction with 18.2 thousand dwellings (now the volume of supply in the market is about 10.4 thousand dwellings and about 3.3 thousand beds in co-living).

Plans for regulation

The active development of professional rental homes, the need to regulate the shadow rental market, as well as the current state policy to improve living conditions in Russia in general, have led to new legislative initiatives with three main goals: 1) creating conditions for the further development of the formal market; 2) tightening the regulation of the informal segment; 3) creating a large block of social rental housing on preferential terms for citizens with below-average wages who cannot afford to take out mortgage.

In August 2021, the Ministry of Construction proposed a number of amendments to the current state program dubbed ‘Provision of affordable and comfortable housing and utilities for citizens of the Russian Federation’. Although the planned changes have not yet been adopted and are being examined by anti-corruption experts, it is highly probable that they will come into force. The main measures of the state program for the rental segment are: 1) tax incentives, including building or creating 1buying out apartments (a separate section) in a building under construction and making it a rental object rental homes through collective investment mechanism, 2) tax deduction in the amount equal to rent payments, 3) building or creating rental homes through PPP schemes, 4) subsidizing rent and 5) the provision of land plots on preferential terms.

These measures will ensure the annual volume of rental housing construction of about 5 million sqm by 2030. The stages of implementation are as follows:

  • By end 2021: tax incentives, preferential terms for the provision of land and connection to engineering networks will be developed,
  • By 2024: a fully transparent and legal rental market must be created,
  • By 2030: 45 million sqm of rental housing built (between 2022 and 2030).

Social rental housing

The planned changes are to create the social rental housing segment mainly through the state-owned company DOM.RF, which is currently one of the main financial institutions for the development of the housing sector in Russia. They intend to provide preferential rent for people in need of better housing conditions and for citizens with below-average incomes who cannot afford to take out a mortgage loan to purchase own housing. It will subsidize up to 80% of the rental rate for these categories of citizens. In 2021–2024 about RUB 650 billion will be allocated for this purpose. It is planned to attract private investors and developers to implement social housing projects to build such facilities on preferential terms and are guaranteed to receive the required demand. The difference between the reduced preferential rate and the market rental value will be covered by the state budget, so developers’ lost profit will be compensated for. This should stimulate the construction of new rental homes and increase the attractiveness of the segment for developers previously not interested in such projects due to the long payback periods and the high level of market risks.

Whitening the segment

Another important area of ​​the regulation to contribute to the development of formal rental housing in professional projects is the measures to increase the transparency of the informal market. According to expert estimates, over 90% of housing in Russia is rented out by landlords not paying taxes. Even though the situation slightly improved after the law on the self-employed came into force which lowered the tax rate for renting out housing from 13% to 4% (under several conditions), but most of the market remains in the shadows. Authorities intend to resolve this issue through the introduction of measures in 2021-2024. As of September 2021, the real steps are still under discussion and specific decisions have not yet been made, but, in general, the following steps are planned:

  • a unified electronic system for all residential lease transactions with data from the register being transferred directly to the tax office,
  • a standard lease agreement to protect the rights of tenants,
  • a unified online register of owners renting out housing,
  • to regulate relations between tenants and landlords, a special state-owned company will be created as an intermediary between the parties,
  • penalties for failure to provide data on renting out residential property, and
  • a publicly available ‘blacklist’ of homeowners evading tax liability.

Although this will likely increase the security of rental transactions for tenants, the main difficulty of the transition to the new system will be that it is voluntary for homeowners to register, transfer their data and start paying taxes. Thus, it is planned to provide tax incentives for landlords complying with the new rules in good faith, and to develop additional support measures such as the possibility of introducing a system of guarantees on the part of an intermediary company against non-payments for landlords, as well as insurance against early termination of the contract unilaterally by the tenant, among others. It is also assumed that penalties will gradually be introduced with a long transition period.

Despite all the advantages, the regulation of the informal rental market will lead to increased rental charges: additional taxes and other costs that landlords will have when switching to the new system will be passed on to tenants. This will raise the competition of the informal market with formal rental properties that on average are significantly more expensive than renting homes from individuals, limiting demand for them.

Residential forecast for Russia is available in the latest EECFA Forecast Report Russia up to 2023. For orders and sample report, please visit eecfa.com. EECFA (Eastern European Construction Forecasting Association) conducts research on the construction markets of 8 Eastern-European countries, including Russia.

Fundamental factors determining the segment:

  • Insufficient level of living space and low availability of housing. At the moment, the former indicator is at the level of about 26 sqm/person, less than the values ​​in most European countries and less than the level of comfortable living conditions (30 sqm/person). The construction of at least 600 million sqm would be required, which, with the current volume of completion, would take at least 8 to 10 years. The level of affordability of own housing for the wide range of the population is low. According to the estimates of DOM.RF and the Ministry of Construction, mortgage loans – the key means to buy housing in Russia – are currently unaffordable for 35% of the population who needs to improve living conditions. Such families will not be able to take out a mortgage even with a zero loan rate as their income will be insufficient for monthly repayments. Housing rental is a potential solution, so social rental projects are of key importance.
  • Low level of development of the rental housing market. As of end 2020, only about 6% of the Russian population (about 8.8 million people or about 5.5 million families) lived in rental housing, while this figure in developed countries can reach 50%-60%. Even in the largest Russian cities with the most developed rental markets, the share of rental housing in the total stock does not exceed 10%, which can also be assessed very low.
  • High potential for development. DOM.RF (by far the biggest rental housing operator in Russia) estimates a realistic achievable share of rental housing in the total stock at about 20% long-term. With the current volume of the housing stock (about 3.9 billion sqm), this is potentially about 750 million sqm of rental housing, (about 240 million sqm already built and about 520 million sqm still to be built). The current version of the state program plans to build about 45 million sqm of rental housing until 2030. The market potential will surely not be exhausted in the coming years, making the overall prospects favorable for the segment in the long run.
  • Pandemic effects. The pandemic has had two main consequences. First, a sharp deterioration in the macroeconomic climate last year and a long-expected economic recovery after the recent shocks. Against the backdrop of falling real incomes, own housing has become even more inaccessible for many people, and for some, renting can become a permanent replacement. Second, although less significant to the rental market, the growing popularity of remote work and new sources of demand for rental housing. With many companies shifting to a fully or partially decentralized work format, employees have more opportunity to choose where to work. This raises the number of digital nomads, i.e. employees not tied to an office and having the opportunity to work from any Russian city. The number of transactions in the rental market in mid-term will to some extent grow due to this category. One of the trends in the rental housing is the workspitality format focusing on the needs of such nomads (separate work areas, co-working spaces, meeting rooms).
  • The absence of major growth in real incomes and the lack of macroeconomic prerequisites for this on the horizon. Real disposable income was in the negative between 2014 and 2017 (the decline varying from 0.5% to 4.5% per year), followed by a short period of positive correction (+0.1% in 2018 and +1% in 2019), and then by another decline at end 2020 (-3.5%). Thus, purchasing power has actually been declining for 7 years. At the same time, the Ministry of Economic Development forecasts a rather moderate dynamics of this indicator in 2021-2023: +1.6%-1.9% per year in a conservative scenario and +2.4%-3% per year in the baseline scenario. But even in the best case, by 2023 purchasing power will not return to the level of 2013, which should not contribute to more home purchases, but should grow demand for the rental market.
Continue reading Rental housing: a potential growth spot in the Russian market
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    buying out apartments (a separate section) in a building under construction and making it a rental object

Press Release on EBI Construction Activity Report Hungary Q2 2021

After a relative stagnation in previous quarters, Q2 2021 saw a considerable expansion in the Activity Start indicator of EBI Construction Activity Report. It was the first three months of 2018 last that witnessed a higher value of construction works to start in a quarter. In H1 2021, projects entered construction phase on a total of HUF 1,398 billion, marking a significant increase of 20% and 18%, respectively, against the same period of the previous two years.

EBI Construction Activity Report examines the situation of the Hungarian construction industry on a quarterly basis, including the volume of newly started construction works, and the value of projects completed in each quarter in aggregate and by segment as well. It is prepared by Buildecon, Eltinga (creation of indicators and development of algorithms for aggregation) and iBuild (project research and project database). Full publications can be purchased at ebi@ibuild.info.

Compared to Q1 2021, Q2 2021 registered a continued growth in the Activity Start indicator of EBI Construction Activity Report for building construction. Overall, HUF 558 billion worth of construction works started in this submarket: the highest quarterly value in recent years. Due to the high figures for the first and second quarters of this year, the total value of construction works started between January and June grew by 19% like-for-like. And when compared to the same period in 2019, the rise amounts to 34%.

Within building construction, the Activity Start indicator of non-residential construction grew in H1 2021, 25% up from H1 2020. The expansion is mainly due to the particularly high Q2 figures. Projects entering construction phase include the SK Innovation battery plant in Iváncsa and the renovation of the headquarters of the Ministry of Finance and the MNB (Hungarian National Bank) in Budapest. The construction of several office buildings also began in Budapest, like Phase I of Dürer Park Office Building and Phase IV of Madarász Office Park. In Dunavarsány the first construction phase of Dunapack plant (paper packaging) also started.

The multi-unit housing segment witnessed a significant decline in Activity Start Indicator between April and June compared to the first three months of the year. However, Activity Start in H1 2021 shows only a minimal decrease over H1 2020 due to the stronger first quarter.

The civil engineering Activity Start indicator of EBI Construction Activity Report registered a substantial growth in Q2 2021 against Q1 2021. It was also the highest value in recent quarters. In the first six months of 2021, projects entering construction phase accounted for HUF 423 billion. Within civil engineering, both road and rail, and non-road and rail sub-markets saw a considerable growth in Q2 against Q1. The biggest civil engineering projects comprise the Bóly-Ivándárda section of M6 motorway and the construction of the new Danube bridge and related road network in Kalocsa-Paks.

Regions

The share of the total value of construction works launched in H1 2021 was the highest in the Western regions (39%), more than 10 percentage points higher than the average share of the region in previous years.

Yet, both the regions of Eastern and Central Hungary saw a lower share of started construction works in the first 6 months of this year than in previous years with Eastern Hungary recording the lowest share (27%).

Multi-unit housing

After an exceptionally high Activity Start value in Q1 2021 over previous quarters, Q2 data showed a major decline in the multi-unit housing segment. The value for the first half of the year is thus slightly lower overall like-for-like.

As of 1 January 2021, new homes can again be sold at the reduced VAT rate of 5% (those that obtained a valid building permit until 31 December 2022 and will be sold until 31 December 2026). The higher value of construction works to start at the beginning of the year is no surprise; given the low VAT rate, developers can now start the plans previously parked due to the 27% VAT. This may have contributed to the spike in the Activity Start of EBI Construction Activity Report.

At the same time, there was little time left for investors to react to the VAT change announced last autumn, and it may take longer to plan and approve a completely new project. As a result, the actual start of construction works may be delayed, which may partly explain the weaker Q2 numbers. As the number of building permits rose in the first half of this year against last year (CSO data), the future may see an increase in the Activity-Start indicator of multi-unit housing construction as well. In addition, the ‘green loan’ effective from this autumn and the interest-free CSOK loan (Family Housing Support Program) for modern newly built homes may have a positive impact and increase demand for newly built homes.

When it comes to the Activity Completion indicator of multi-unit housing construction, it sank in Q2 2021 compared to Q1 2021. It may be related to the delay of construction projects as we can still expect many new multi-unit buildings to be completed in the following periods. In the first half of the year, projects worth a total of HUF 138 billion were completed.

Almost three-quarters of the total value of multi-unit construction projects that started in H1 2021 realized in Central Hungary, but this is mainly thanks to the high numbers in Q1. In the already weak Q2, the share of launched construction projects was slightly higher than in previous years in case of Central Hungary. The share of western and eastern regions was much lower in H1 2021 than in previous years, with the lowest share of multi-unit housing projects launched in the eastern regions.

Road and railway

Q2 2021 registered a major rise in the Activity Start indicator of EBI Construction Activity Report for the road and rail construction segments over the previous quarters. It was last in Q3 2019 when we saw a higher number than this one. Although construction works started on HUF 140 billion between April and June, data for the first half of the year are not outstanding due to the weaker first quarter, so the figures for the first six months were similar to those for the last half years, only showing a slight increase. The high Activity Start value in Q2 is attributable to the outstanding road construction numbers as rail construction works barely started.

Between April and June, far more road and rail construction works reached completion than in the first three months of the year. Within road and railway construction, the improving Q2 value can be attributed to railway construction, with projects worth HUF 74 billion completed between April and June, which is the highest number in recent years. In comparison, the value of completed road construction works amounted to only HUF 16 billion, after the already low value of HUF 9 billion in Q1.

Despite the high Q2 figures, the Activity Completion indicator in H1 2021 was lower than in H1 and H2 2020. It was last in in H1 2019 when a lower value of projects got completed than in the first 6 months of this year. In the coming quarters, however, road and railway construction projects may be completed in a significant value. And based on the expected completion date of projects, the value of Activity Completion indicator may be one of the highest in recent years.

Section A of M30 expressway between Miskolc and Tornyosnémeti already reached completion in the summer, and sections B and C are also set to be completed yet this year. It is also expected that the stretch between Szentkirály and Lakitelek of M44 expressway and the section between Körmend and Rábafüzes of M8 expressway will be completed.

In case of railway projects, Phase 2 of the Kelenföld-Pusztaszabolcs section was completed in the summer and they plan to complete the reconstruction works of the Rákos-Hatvan section of railway line 80.

Building Construction in Turkey during the Pandemic based on H1 statistics for 3 years up to 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic that began in March 2020 has caused significant disruption in the Turkish economy and building construction. The exchange rate crisis in H2 2018 resulted in big rises of construction costs and sharp drops in building construction in 2019. In H1 2020 the economy and the construction sector were recovering from that crisis when the pandemic struck.

Written by Prof. Ali TUREL, EECFA Turkey

Karaköy, İstanbul, Turkey. Photo by Kadir Celep. Source: https://unsplash.com/

Building starts in the first six months of 2020 were about 41% up from the same six months of 2019. The government’s subsidy policy to provide mortgage loans under market exchange rates by the three state-owned banks was in effect from the beginning of June to the end of August 2020, greatly stimulating demand for housing and housing transactions. House building starts appear to have gained momentum from the subsidy policy, and building construction permits, dominated by residential buildings, grew by 45,3% in H1 2021. Nonetheless, there is a large backlog of buildings under construction in almost every use.  

The hike in the starts of residential buildings is also reflected in their growing share in total building construction permits: 63% in 2019, 76,7% in 2020 and 79,3% in 2021. The share in total starts of commercial and industrial buildings (hotels, restaurants, wholesale and retail buildings, warehousing and industrial buildings) has had a downtrend: 15,1% in 2019, 14,8% in 2020 and 12,5% in 2021, although their starts rose by 42,6% in 2020 and by 23,5% in 2021. The shrinking share of their starts is due to the bigger growth rates in residential buildings starts. Public buildings (transport buildings, schools, research buildings and hospitals) had a 21,9% share in 2019 but dropped to 8,5% in 2020 and to 8% in 2021. Their high share in 2019 might be explained by the huge decline in private sector investments in that year.

Construction forecast for Turkey is available in the latest EECFA Forecast Report Turkey up to 2023 which can be purchased on eecfa.com. EECFA (Eastern European Construction Forecasting Association) conducts research on the construction markets of 8 Eastern-European countries.

Building occupancy permits, on the other hand, had a different trend from that of construction permits. Total floor areas of completed buildings expanded by 2,8% in 2019, while construction permits dwindled by 60,1%. 2020 saw a 32,2% shrinkage in occupancy permits, followed by a 3,3% growth in 2021. And it is a known fact that builders cannot react to market signals during economic crises in a short period of time because of the heavy sunk cost of buildings under construction, particularly of those close to completion.     

Wonder why completion is above permit on the chart above? Check this visualization and choose Turkey in the <Country> dropdown

Builders of residential, commercial and publicly used buildings had almost the same reaction to the crisis caused by the pandemic: the share of these buildings did not alter much between 2019 and 2021. The only notable difference was a slight drop in the share of residential buildings from 79,5% in 2020 to 77,4% in 2021, and a 2% rise in the share of commercial and industrial buildings from 12,6% in 2020 to 14,6% in 2021.

The total floor area of residential buildings and the number of dwelling units completed in H1 2020 and H1 2021 were almost the same, while a 19% growth occurred in the total floor areas of completed commercial and industrial buildings. Housebuilders appear to be cautious in completing construction because of the shrinking demand under the conditions of high mortgage interest rates. Decreased real incomes due to big falls in the value of Turkish Lira against foreign currencies under the effects of the pandemic also contributes to the fall in demand. Mortgaged sales in housing transactions was 18,9% of total sales until the end of July, 2021. First sales have been decreasing during the pandemic from their consistently stable level of 46% to 30% in the same 7 months of 2021.

Housebuilders are also squeezed between the upsurge in building construction cost (42,48% yearly until the end June 2021) and the relatively less rise in housing prices (33% for new housing and 29,2% for all housing) within the same period. The great backlog of residential buildings under construction causes builders an additional cost of delaying completions. Thus, expectations for another subsidised mortgage scheme from the government are frequently raised in the media.

EECFA countries in the European Commission’s 2021 Macro Forecast

EECFA has again examined the main changes in the prospects between the Autumn 2020 and Spring 2021 Macro Forecasts of the European Commission for those EECFA member countries which are covered by this forecast; Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Turkey, plus Hungary.

Written by Bálint Parragi, EECFA Research, ELTINGA

After a severe recession during last year, the global economy as a whole could grow again in Spring 2021, and it is expected to continue doing so. As the first chart shows, GDP in all countries could recover fast and return to an increasing trajectory.

In Autumn 2020, projections showed the majority of the countries in the EECFA region with a stagnating or very slowly increasing economy. This was mainly due to the composition of the 3-year-average comprising a year with a very deep recession, and the two upcoming years with cautious estimations of growth. The only two economies with growth exceeding 1% were Serbia and Turkey (2.3% and 2% respectively) as these economies shrank least in 2020 (-1.8% and -2.5%).

On the other hand, the results are quite different in the European Commission’s Spring 2021 report where every EECFA country registers a positive GDP growth with all of them being at least 0.5%. The order of countries is almost identical to the one in Autumn 2020 and we can see a grouping of countries:

  • The first one is the group of the highest growing two countries, Serbia and Turkey again. This time, Turkey has a higher average growth, though (+3.7% and +2.8% respectively). The significant growth is the result of the slight contraction (or even growth) during 2020 (-1% in Serbia and +1.8% in Turkey).
  • The second group consists of countries with a negligible growth according to the Autumn 2020 report (+0.4-+0.7%) but with a more remarkable increase projected in Spring 2021; above 1% in each case and reaching 1.5% in Romania, Hungary, and Slovenia.
  • The economies in the last category: Croatia, Russia, together with the EU, all decreased according to the Autumn 2020 report, but in the Spring 2021 report it seems that they have better prospects in the future as they may grow to a little extent (+0.5-+1.1%).

When it comes to total investment (gross fixed capital formation) data, two general conclusions can be drawn:

  • Firstly, the projection in Spring 2021 is higher for every country than the Autumn 2020 values. The upward revision is especially remarkable for Turkey, Croatia, and Romania. This again could mean that economic recovery is expected to be a rapid process.
  • Secondly, the expected GFCF growth is positive in every country in 2021, except for Russia where it is close to zero. However, the countries are not homogeneous as Romania, Serbia, Turkey, Croatia and Slovenia have an expected growth within 4%-6%, but Hungary, Bulgaria, and Russia, as well as the EU, has a growth smaller than 2% (average of 2020-2021-2022).

Construction investment growth (where available – click the arrow on the chart above) has been revised upward everywhere, but while in Bulgaria it has grown by just 0.4 percentage points, it has multiplied in Hungary, Slovenia and Romania. For the latter, it has even exceeded 8% per annum. Construction’s share in total investment in EECFA countries and Hungary ranges from 55% (Bulgaria) to 64% (Romania), with Hungary and Slovenia in between (62% and 59%, respectively).

All these represents the Commission’s opinion. If you are curious about our opinion on Eastern European construction markets or you need construction forecast on segment level, please consult with the latest EECFA reports. For a sample report and order, visit eecfa.com

EECFA 2021 Summer Construction Forecast – 3rd Pandemic edition

EECFA’s 2021 Summer Construction Forecast Report up to 2023 was released on 28 June. Full reports can be ordered here. EECFA (Eastern European Construction Forecasting Association) conducts research on the construction markets of 8 Eastern-European countries.

Southeast Europe

In the first year of the pandemic the construction market of the SEE region as a whole remained in the positive, and further expansion is expected until 2023. The only exception is Bulgaria where a harsh transition is foreseen for 2023 when the 2014-2020 EU programming period ends financially. The massive growth experienced in the years before 2020 is not anticipated to return; around 3% growth is projected for 2021 and 2022, and a 3% drop for 2023. The countries with the largest cumulated growth on the forecast horizon are Croatia and Serbia.

Bulgaria. After a drop of 4.2% in 2020, the European Commission (EC) forecasts the economy to rebound by the end of 2021 and to grow by 3.5%. Positive economic outlook, combined with low interest rates on home loans, will result in more affordable homes. But increased savings and zero deposit rates raise speculative investments in residential, pushing home prices up. Non-residential construction was expected to decelerate even before the pandemic, but the Covid-19 crisis has accelerated this process. Civil engineering is backed by advancing EU fund absorption and by 2027 will be given new opportunities. After an estimated drop in total construction in 2020 by 1.3% in Bulgaria, 2021 and 2022 are expected to see a growth of 9.2% and 12%, respectively. But a considerable drop of 24% is prognosticated in construction output in 2023 due to the slow preparation for the next programming period and the National Recovery and Resilience Plan.

Croatia. We are significantly more optimistic about output growth in a number of Croatian construction sectors than in our last report. Assistance from the EU and international financial institutions blunted the edge of the three catastrophes that struck Croatia in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and the Zagreb and Sisak-Maslovina earthquakes. For most (but not all) sectors, it appears that the catastrophes will not greatly change the drivers of output growth over the medium to long term, although they will have some short-term consequences. The three-year hiatus until the next elections in Croatia and the recent election of a reformist mayor in Zagreb, Croatia’s economic powerhouse, provide openings for spurring Croatia’s economic growth and so construction output, but it is not clear that they will be utilized.

Romania. The economic impact of Covid-19 has been less than initially feared. Investment into construction grew strongly in 2020, preventing GDP from a larger drop, and we expect investment to continue in the following years thanks to the RRF. Recovery is also to be quicker than previously forecasted: the EC forecasts a GDP growth of 5.1% for 2022 and 4.9% for 2023. EECFA’s forecast for 2021 and 2022 in construction output is a small contraction (-0.7% and -0.2%) with growth returning in 2023 with 2.6%. Last year residential developers focused on finishing as many projects as possible as there were concerns of a potential market downturn. It didn’t happen, but the new supply to be delivered in the next years could push prices down under normal market conditions.

Serbia. In 2021 things are getting back to normal with the economy standing strong and having already surpassed pre-pandemic levels. Serbia’s economy was one of the least affected in Europe with GDP contracting just 1% last year, and an expected real growth of around 6.5% this year. Recovery is visible in almost all economic segments except for some service sectors still struggling to reach 2019 levels. Serbia’s weaker exposure to tourism and related services moderated losses during the pandemic, and investment stayed strong in both 2020 and 2021. In addition, the government increased public investments in infrastructure and civil engineering projects. Demand in Europe is also recovering, orders are growing again, and with tourism on the rise as well, there is a lot of reason for optimism in the coming period.

Slovenia. Construction industry and the economy in general was less disrupted by the pandemic than originally expected. While GDP decreased by 5.5% in 2020, it is expected to rebound strongly in 2021. Total construction output stayed at almost exactly the same level in 2020 as in 2019: EUR 3.4bln; and it is prognosticated to increase strongly in 2021 and 2022, and exceed EUR 4.1bln in 2023, for the first time since 2008. An interesting recent development though has been the rise in construction costs in 2021 resulting from high demand and supply disruptions owing to the pandemic and its economic aftermath. However, we estimate that this increase in construction cost will be temporary and will decelerate after 2022.

East Europe

The worst performer in 2020 in the Eastern region of EECFA was Turkey, but the downtrend here started well before the pandemic struck. As recovery is awaited to start this year in Turkey, the region as a whole could turn to positive in 2021. Expansion is our current scenario for the region with 9% cumulated real growth until 2023. The largest cumulated market growth on the horizon, thanks to the relatively low starting point, could happen in Turkey.

Russia. The economy is coping with the effects of the pandemic relatively well. GDP contraction last year turned out to be less serious than anticipated with one reason being the stability of the construction sector that showed high resilience to the crisis on the back of active government support for the entire industry, the implementation of many transport and energy projects, and measures to support demand for homes. Construction output shrank by 0.9% in 2020 (against the previously expected drop of about 5%-6%). In the short term, the decline is most likely to slow down to 0.3% in 2021 with a transition to active growth in 2022-2023 within 3.9%-3.4% per year, respectively. Optimism for the next two years stems from the expected recovery in housing construction and the continued infrastructure projects in civil engineering.

Turkey. The economy is showing a rebound after the pandemic. The recent months have seen positive rates of change in GDP, industrial production, value added of construction sector, building starts, and completions. However, a weak Turkish Lira against foreign currencies continues to cause inflationary problems to the economy. Producer prices, construction costs and mortgage interest rates have been increasing at rates close to the rise in exchange rates. The government may again adopt the policy of requiring the three state-owned banks to offer preferential mortgage loans. Total construction output in Turkey is estimated to have slumped by 6.9% last year, but this year growth might return averaging roughly +4% all the way through the forecast horizon.

Ukraine. Last year the construction market was marked by the impact of Covid-19 along with internal problems such as the reform of the State Architectural and Construction Inspection, primarily affecting housing construction. On a positive note, the president launched the Big Construction scheme in March 2020 to support construction industry, so we estimate the overall decline to be 2.2%. And although the recession has reduced the investment flow in construction this year, it has increased demand for some commercial segments such as logistics and co-working offices. As the Big Construction scheme will have sufficient funds for this year as well, it gives cause for optimism for now, and Ukraine’s construction market is forecasted to register growth across the board. 

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Source of data: EECFA Construction Forecast Report, 2021 Summer

Contact information: www.eecfa.com, info@eecfa.com

Property demand pushing up Bulgarian residential construction

Written by Dragomir Belchev, EPI – EECFA Bulgaria

Construction activity

Since the start of the pandemic, the activity of construction companies in Bulgaria was hindered by economic uncertainty, the government’s anti-COVID measures and the lack of workforce due to quarantine or illness. Therefore, during the period of March 2020 – March 2021, NSI (National Statistical Institute) data shows that building construction decreased by 8.4%. However, the sector has signs of recovery as in March 2021 building construction production index increased by 8.0% for the first time compared to the same month a year earlier.

Short-term indicators also suggest the improved confidence of investors after the hesitant 2020. In the first quarter of 2021, permitted floor area was 11.0% more than in Q1 2020, and almost 4% more than Q1 2019. The same trend, but with stronger dynamics, is also observed regarding started floor area. During the first quarter, accumulated construction permits resulted in starting of more than 660 000 sqm., which is nearly 25% more than in the corresponding quarter of 2020, and by 5.5% more compared to 2019.

Sofia (Bulgaria) – Source: unsplash.com (photo taken by Georgi Kalaydzhiev)

Residential property market

Despite the experienced difficulties, residential construction is remaining in the center of investors’ attention due to the growing residential property market especially in the largest cities (Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna, Burgas, etc.). After the initial withdrawal of buyers in the middle of 2020, it became clear that there would be no evident shift on the residential property market.

Regarding the supply side of the market, 15 623 new dwellings were completed last year (Q2 2020 – Q1 2021), which is 17.4% higher than a year ago and is the highest figure in the last 10 years. Still, this cannot catch up with demand which pushed prices up at the end of 2020 and in early 2021. The number of transactions went up in the first quarter of 2021 by 17% compared to the same quarter of 2020, and it is actually the strongest first quarter in the last 5 years. The ongoing housing price increase intensified after 2015. Since then, the accumulated price growth has been over 41%.

There are several factors contributing to the ongoing process:

Low interest rates on housing loans: last year banks improved the conditions of granting loans. The average interest rate on housing loans in March 2021 is 2.75%, which is historic low. The increasing interest in buying a home resulted in a 6% growth of newly granted loans in the period of April 2020 – March 2021 compared to the same period a year earlier. In Q1 2021, 20% of all deals are financed with bank loans but there are significant differences between cities. In Sofia, where buying a property is the most expensive, nearly half of the deals are financed with the banks’ help. In Varna the share is 32%, while in Burgas and Plovdiv the respective deals are 30% and 25%.

Low deposit rates: interest rates on deposits are close to 0% as in the last months some banks started to refuse taking new term deposits, which shifted people’s savings into real estates as the most reliable option.

Speculative investment: investors’ invest in acquiring properties in early construction stages with intentions to re-sell after the completion, which generates additional demand, and increases prices. Additionally, the growing profitability of the real estate market attracts the savings of people working abroad who look for investment opportunities in their country of origin.

Residential construction forecast is available in the EECFA Construction Forecast Report Bulgaria that can be purchased on eecfa.com. EECFA (Eastern European Construction Forecasting Association) conducts research on the construction markets of 8 Eastern-European countries.