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.

Link to this viz ->

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

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. 

____________

Source of data: EECFA Construction Forecast Report, 2021 Summer

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

Housing stock and renewal ratio in Europe in the last decade: Turkey leading the way

Written by Bálint Parragi, ELTINGA-EECFA-BUILDECON

We have examined the relationship between the renewal ratio and the actual stock in Europe (across countries covered by EECFA and EUROCONSTRUCT) during the last decade (see figure below). The renewal ratio is the ratio of the newly built homes between 2011 and 2020 and the housing stock at the beginning of 2020.

EECFA covers the construction markets of Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Turkey, and Ukraine. EUROCONSTRUCT covers the construction markets of Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

When analysing the data, we have found three different country groups:
(Click the heading named Group in the table above to rearrange the order)

  1. A heterogeneous group of countries with a building stock smaller than 10 million. There are some countries, mainly from Central-Eastern Europe and the Balkans with exceptionally low renewal ratios (lower than 5% during these ten years): Portugal, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, and Serbia. Czechia and Romania also have renewal ratios very close to 5%. Except for Portugal, all countries in Western and Northern Europe within this first category have a higher renewal ratio: in Finland, Switzerland, and Austria, every tenth building was built during the last decade.
  2. This group consists of countries with a bigger building stock, but relatively low renewal ratios. Southern Europe (Italy and Spain), the United Kingdom, Germany, and Ukraine fall under this category. Only 3%-6% of their building stock was built during the 2010’s.
  3. This category comprises countries with the highest renewal ratios in the last ten years. Poland and France have similar building stock sizes to the ones in Ukraine and Germany, respectively, but their renewal ratio is significantly higher; around 11%. Poland is especially outstanding among the postsocialist countries with a bit more than 11% renewal ratios between 2011 and 2020, followed by Slovakia (8%). There are two absolute outliers; Turkey and Russia with the two highest renewal ratios: 28% and 15%, respectively, in 2011-2020. In Turkey, almost every third building is only just 10 years old or newer, and in Russia, it is every seventh. Russia has of course the largest building stock in Europe (almost 70 million buildings), but its great renewal ratio means that they built as many buildings in the last decade as there are in Romania in total. And Turkey built more buildings in the last ten years than Poland, Ukraine, Spain, the UK, and Italy combined.

Although in this piece renewal ratio is defined as newly built homes / building stock, it is always good to have in mind that not only new housing construction contributes to the renewal of the stock, but also renovation. In some countries, typically in Western Europe, its contribution to renewal is even higher than that of new construction. In our forecast reports you may find the development stories for both new and renovation types of works.

Ukraine’s construction market amid the pandemic in 2021: a mixed bag

Written by Sergii Zapototskyi – UVECON, EECFA Ukraine

Since Ukraine is dependent on global economic changes to a great extent, the global crisis triggered by the pandemic has greatly affected its construction industry. Let’s see how.

Good news, bad news

The pace of housing construction significantly slowed down in Ukraine; the index of construction products for 2020 in the residential real estate segment amounted to 81.5% in comparison with 2019. At the same time, the average price per square meter grew by 6.5%. Yet the volume of non-residential constructions remained almost unchanged (99.3%) and civil engineering constructions even outstripped 2019 (111.6%) due to the implementation of the state program dubbed ‘Big Construction’ within which more than 3.9 thousand km of roads were repaired, and 114 schools, 100 kindergartens and 101 sports facilities were either built or reconstructed.

Source: freepik.com

As a real estate expert evaluation shows, more properties are being bought in the large cities of Ukraine such as Kiev, Odessa, Dnipro, Kharkiv and Lviv. The reason is the growing population number which is a good stimulus for the economy, construction, the development of engineering and social infrastructure, as well as business activity. In these cities, including the capital city, this year might see a further rise in prices and a greater revival of the real estate market (an increase in construction projects of residential complexes, cottage settlements, low-rise residential buildings, office and shopping centers, underground and ground parking lots).

The latest EECFA Construction Forecast Report Ukraine can be purchased on eecfa.com.

Residential

Influencing factors and reform on the downside

In 2021 the key influencing factors, which are also the risks for the real estate market of Ukraine, may be the failures of healthcare and vaccinations, which will lead to the disappointment of consumers and a passivity on their side.

And this year the factors making real estate investment risky will not be eliminated either: corruption and administrative/regulatory problems like the reform of SACI (State Architecture and Construction Inspectorate of Ukraine). SACI was planned to be liquidated on grounds of being a “corruption department”, and a transparent system for issuing permits and construction supervision was to be created instead. But what happened was that the market was simply halted. The system is on the brink of collapse; already built facilities are not being put into operation and many projects scheduled to start last year were postponed by developers. A series of defaults by high-profile developers (Arkada Bank, Ukrbud, etc.) also undermined investor confidence in the residential segment – financing housing construction in Ukraine is mostly carried out at the expense of future homeowners.

Suburban housing construction and mortgage program on the upside

Amid the pandemic most buyers are focusing on suburban housing construction as during the lockdown the remote work scheme emerged and many companies are willing to permanently switch to it. Thus, living in a city with its transport and environmental problems lost its lure for many when one can live 20-30 minutes away from the city in a comfortable suburban home. We are returning to the concept of full-fledged satellite cities with various types of buildings (multi-storey terraced houses, townhouses, cottages, etc.). Therefore, the growth in the volume of suburban construction seems to be a promising trend for the market this year, and possibly in subsequent years as well.

In March 2021 a new government program for providing preferential mortgage loans is expected to be launched. Mortgages at 7% are a long-awaited tool to revive Ukraine’s construction market and reduce the cost of housing loans. Developers say affordable lending could increase home sales by at least 10%.

Commercial

The commercial real estate sector in Ukraine had a significant blow due to the lockdown:  rising vacancies, dropping rental rates, and new construction works still being postponed.

Retail

Retail was the first to be hit by the spring 2020 lockdown as many shops and malls were closed. In November 2020, there was a so-called ‘weekend lockdown’ in effect, while a full lockdown occurred from January 8 to 24, 2021. During the lockdown consumer demand fell sharply, but then it recovered quickly. The NBU (National Bank of Ukraine) estimates that the pandemic-related crisis hit this segment less than it did offices as it was boosted by rising incomes and the quarantine flexibility (the entertainment segment was hit hard, though). Vacancy rates in the market rose by 5.4pp, and the average daily traffic in shopping centers sank by 25%-40%. In large cities of Ukraine, new supply in 2020 was about 113.5 thousand sqm. GLA, and even more shopping centers are planned to be completed in 2021-2022. This year, for instance, at least three shopping and entertainment centers are to open in Kiev (​​147.5 thousand sqm. GLA) and two in Kharkiv (122 thousand sqm GLA), among others.

Office

Offices were hammered by the pandemic, which led to a drop in rates to 10% in total in the first half of 2020. The balance of supply and demand will likely deteriorate in the near future. At the end of 2019, developers announced to release a significant volume of new supply for 2020 (about 230 thousand sqm). However, by end 2020, the real indicator of new supply was 105 thousand sqm, and completion dates for the rest was postponed to 2021-2022. Only 49% of the total office space announced for 2020 was completed last year. Now supply exceeds demand, but the situation will likely change if business activity in Ukraine revives after the pandemic subsides.

Hotel

The nearly 70% decline in passenger traffic at airports caused a decrease in hotel occupancy to the level of 15%-20% during the strict lockdown and to the level of 30%-35% in the laxer period. (For comparison, in the pre-quarantine period it was 53%). Thus, new formats had to be introduced, so an office/co-working component or service apartments were added to the hotel function.

Industry

Growth in online commerce in the pandemic increased demand for warehouses, making this segment the most resilient in the current crisis. In the long term, a decrease in vacancy and an increase in rental rates for warehouse and industrial premises are expected due to hiked demand, limited supply and the small number of projects under construction.

EECFA 2020 Winter Construction Forecast – 2nd Pandemic edition

The 2020 Winter EECFA Construction Forecast Report was released on 8 December. Full reports can be purchased, and a sample report can be viewed at www.eecfa.com. EECFA (Eastern European Construction Forecasting Association) conducts research on the construction markets of 8 Eastern-European countries.

Southeast Europe

Building construction markets of the Balkan EECFA countries as a whole have shown resistance during the pandemic so far. Nonetheless the region is foreseen to have yet another negative year in 2021, before expansion can return in 2022. As the current EU programming period is nearing its end, civil engineering is expected to be the driving force in the upcoming period, well outperforming building construction. The total construction market is projected to side move in 2021, and 2022 could bring a growth of around 4%. Based on its priorities, the NextGenerationEU recovery fund is also supportive for both building construction and the civil engineering sub-markets. Its specifics (for what and when) on country level are yet unknown, though.

Bulgaria. The expected economic recovery should bring the Bulgarian economy back to pre-crisis levels by end 2022 with both exports and consumption contributing positively. Having it in mind, the future of residential construction remains positive despite the economic uncertainty. In short term, purchasing power should be affected, but in general, demand for new housing projects in big cities should remain. Non-residential construction will also be held back by dropping demand for commercial and hotel projects, and the projected slow and uneven economic recovery. Civil engineering in the future should be driven by EU funding as well as by the national budget. After major growth in total construction output in 2019 (+19%), 2020 will likely see a drop of 4.9%. Approaching the end of the programming period in 2021 and 2022, total construction will likely increase by 4.4% and 5.2%, respectably, in real terms.

Croatia. The effects of COVID-19 and the Zagreb earthquake on the Croatian construction industry will vary greatly from sector to sector. Thanks to swift, massive EU financial assistance, some sectors will even benefit from the disasters. These sectors include civil engineering generally and especially those CE sectors in which projects can be implemented rapidly. For buildings sectors, results are mixed. Some were harshly battered and will take years to recover. Others barely felt the catastrophes’ consequences. With few exceptions, the trends that underlay buildings sectors’ growth before these events will remain the primary drivers of buildings output in the medium and long run. In the short term, disaster-relief spending will benefit some.

Romania. Pandemic impact on construction was felt less strongly in 2020 since ongoing projects were not halted and thus the market slightly grew (3.8%). With the entire economy taking a few years to recover after the 2020 crisis, total construction output in Romania should drop in 2021 (-2%) and start recovering in 2022 (+2.8%). The pandemic will water down the housing subsector next year as fewer-than-expected new projects began this year and the recession should also continue to reduce purchasing power. In non-residential, retail and hotel were battered most. Office construction is in hiatus due to lower demand for new construction with the expansion of work-at-home scheme and with businesses rethinking the use of traditional offices. The drop in international trade set back industrial construction, but as borders open and exports start picking up, recovery may come too. Civil engineering is the brightest spot with an estimated growth in government investment as 60% of the EU funding for infrastructure is still unspent from the 2014-2020 budget.

Serbia. The developments in 2020 are marked by the reoccurring pandemic and during the year, movement restrictions were introduced twice, having a very negative effect on all service sectors. Furthermore, it is now certain that pandemic effects are to extend into 2021 and the best-case scenario means the economy will take the entire 2021 to recover. With still large uncertainty looming for next year, the forecast still carries a lot “ifs” and the government spent over 10% of GDP for various stimulus measures aiming to mitigate the effects of the interruptions. While the recovery in the second half of 2020 was strong, the new restrictions in October and December again impacted developments and stopped the normalization. Luckily, the realization of big public infrastructure projects has been steady and growing, which has helped growth in construction outputs, and private investments are still not subsiding. Strong credit activity and market fundamentals are also supporting recovery, but lingering foreign demand and slow recovery in the service sectors continue to dim the prospects.

Slovenia. Construction industry was less disrupted by COVID-19 that some were fearing. Even though construction output is estimated to have dropped by 4.8% this year, it will likely rebound next year close to the 2019 level and should expand further in 2022 on the back of civil engineering where big projects are continuing apace. The Second Railway Track to Port Koper, the Third Axis Road construction and the Karavanke Tunnel expansion all continued in 2020 and were less disrupted by the lockdown than expected. Non-residential construction, on the other hand, will suffer from the lingering effects of the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic and the consequent lower investment in industrial and commercial segments. Similarly, residential construction is subdued for the time being due to the pandemic but may return to growth path towards the end of the forecast horizon based on historically low interest rates and good availability of credit financing.

East Europe

Dragged down by Turkey, the decline in buildings construction started in the Eastern region of EECFA as a whole well before the pandemic struck. And 2020 is also expected to see a negative year. From 2021 on recovery could start, but the level of 2018 is not projected to be reached on the forecast horizon. The civil engineering submarket of the region also contracted massively already in 2019 and further decline is our scenario for this year. From 2021 on this submarket could turn to positive and we are optimistic for 2022 as well. Total construction market of the Eastern region is forecast to grow by around 3% in each of the upcoming 2 years.

Russia. This year has seen several negative factors blasting construction industry in Russia, and the economy, such as falling oil prices, the devaluation of the rouble at the beginning of the year, and the pandemic with its related lockdown and restrictions. This caused a massive decline in real incomes, a deterioration in investment climate and a downturn in business activity. One way or the other almost all construction segments felt the pain and decline in total construction by end 2020 is to be 5.8%. It is better than our summer 2020 predictions, though; the government’s economic recovery plan turned out to be quite effective and allowed us to slightly improve our forecast. Return to growth in construction is possible already in 2021 (+0.3%), and by end 2022 a much more confident positive dynamics (+4.1%) is expected based on the likely recovery trends in all segments on the back of state support and the launch of big infrastructure projects.

Turkey. The economy was marred during the 3 months after COVID-19 appeared on 11 March in Turkey. Anti-COVID measures put in place caused massive declines in industrial production, including construction, and in GDP. Lifting most measures and introducing a subsidy offering soft loans by the three state-owned banks on 1 June 2020 served as an important stimulus for the economy and the construction sector. Together with a historical peak in housing transactions in July 2020, building starts began to grow, although there is a big backlog of construction in almost every sector. Rising inflation and construction costs owing to the depreciation of the Turkish Lira against foreign currencies would be the primary concern for the construction sector in 2021.

Ukraine. Construction this year showed a negative trend compared to last year. After a relative growth in Q1 2020, there was a significant dip in Q2, followed by a gradual recovery in Q3-Q4. Nominally, at end Q3 construction reached last year’s indicators in the volume of works performed, but with inflation considered, the drop is still 2%. In the same period last year, construction showed a rise of 23.5%. Key negative factors this year are the COVID-19 crisis and the reform of the State Architectural and Construction Inspectorate that started almost simultaneously with the lockdown in early spring. As a result of falling population incomes and complications in obtaining construction permit, the volume of housing construction slumped. Civil engineering fared well thanks to a state program and the redirection of part of the money from the Covid Fund into the subsector.

____________

Source of data: EECFA Construction Forecast Report, 2020 Winter

Russian Metropolitan Areas: Crisis Resilience in 2020

The economic turmoil of 2020 is hammering real estate and construction, but its degree is not the same across Russia. We saw this happening during the 2008 and 2014 crises, and we are watching it right now. Tracking the situation on the real estate markets of large Russian cities, we see that the dynamics of market indicators in crisis periods have always been different in various cities under the same external conditions, and different regional real estate markets react to macroeconomic shocks in different ways.

Written by Ilya Volodko and Andrey Vakulenko – MACON Realty Group, EECFA Russia

Moscow city – Source of picture

The 2020 crisis and regionality in Russia

While the past crises were mostly of macroeconomic nature, the crisis in 2020, in addition to the macro component such as falling oil prices and the ruble’s volatility, has a strong local component: different regimes and periods of lockdown measures due to the pandemic and the variety and unequal effectiveness of regional measures to support businesses and the population. Because of this, the current crisis affects local real estate markets even more asymmetrically.

One of the main influences on the degree of penetration of the crisis into the largest cities of Russia will be exerted by the structure of their economies because the degree of damage caused by lockdown and other measures to combat the pandemic on different sectors is mixed. To analyse these differences, we have used data from the Institute for Urban Economics Foundation on the structure of the economy of Russian cities and the volume of the Gross Urban Product (GUP).

To understand how strongly a metropolitan economy reacts to the crisis, MACON consultants have assigned a stability coefficient to each metropolitan economic sector (classification according to the Brookings Institution methodology), depending on its vulnerability, recovery rate and predicted consequences. Coefficient 1 means the greatest stability/no influence, 0 means the least stability/complete or partial temporary liquidation of the industry:

  • Local/non-market services. Stability coefficient 1. The most stable sector, including state and municipal services, education, health care, social support, culture and art, recreation, etc. Its volume is set to remain or increase due to additional indexation or one-time/permanent support measures.
  • Manufacturing. Stability coefficient 0.8. Despite a possible decline in output and employment, the sector is sufficiently stable as severe lockdown measures do not apply. Since these are large businesses, they receive the greatest support both directly (financially) and through government orders, tax incentives, subsidized interest rates and easier access to debt financing.
  • Utilities. Stability coefficient 0.8. They remain fundamentally resilient to the crisis. They are negatively affected by shrinkage in business activity, which is offset by the rise in consumption by individuals, many of whom still work remotely. Yet, the difference in tariffs for individuals and businesses is hurting earnings.
  • Commodities. Stability coefficient 0.7. It includes mining, agriculture, forestry, hunting and fishing. The impact is more significant, the dynamics of commodity prices has a negative trend. But given the large volume of employment, the traditional volatility in these markets, and the non-stop nature of many extractive industries, the sector is most likely to continue working and maintain basic employment in mid-term.
  • Construction. Stability coefficient 0.5. A major negative impact due to the industry’s high dependence on any macroeconomic fluctuations, as well as with the multiplier effect, due to which even a slight decrease in construction volumes causes great changes in related industries. But the nature of the industry guarantees a considerable degree of state support and hence stability.
  • Transportation. Stability coefficient 0.5. The sector contracted due to both direct factors during the lockdown (almost complete elimination of air traffic, reduction of railway transportation, prohibition of movement within cities, between municipalities and regions), and indirect factors during the lockdown (reduction of wholesale and retail trade turnover). Yet, the need to ensure commodity logistics preserves industry volumes at an acceptable level.
  • Business/Finance. Stability coefficient 0.4. One of the most vulnerable sectors of the metropolitan economy, including financial services, insurance, real estate and new technologies (science and technology). It is characterized by a great drop in business activity and a decrease in physical access to such services.
  • Trade and tourism. Stability coefficient 0.1. The segment of retail and wholesale trade, catering, hotel and conference services is the most affected in the current crisis due to the impossibility of carrying out such activities during the lockdown. It is aggravated by the low ability of the sector to recover fast, the simplicity of liquidation procedures, the lack of access to credit and inadequate state support.

Based on data on the structure of metropolitan economies, as well as the above estimates and stability coefficients, it is possible to compile a ranking of the largest Russian metropolitan areas in terms of the degree of resistance to the crisis, where the first place/highest value means a higher degree of stability.

The findings

The metropolitan areas of Perm, Chelyabinsk and Saratov demonstrate the greatest stability. In these cities, on average, more than 60% of the economy is accounted for by the 3 basic sectors: local/non-market services, manufacturing, utilities. These are either fully controlled by the state/municipality or have a major systemic/city-forming character allowing them to receive benefits that contribute to the preservation of employment and production.

The metropolitan areas of Moscow, St. Petersburg, Krasnodar and Yekaterinburg turned out to be the least resistant to the crisis. The share of the 3 basic sectors (local/non-market services, manufacturing, utilities), in contrast to the leaders, is much lower here: on average 45% versus 63%. However, the share of Business/Finance and Trade and tourism sectors, which are the most vulnerable in the current situation, is much higher (42% versus 23%). But while Moscow and St. Petersburg, due to broader financial opportunities, can offset these factors with active financial, tax and other support of the population and businesses, non-capital cities do not have such a resource.

We have found that the poorer the city, the more stable it is in the current crisis. The paradox is that Russian metropolitan areas that actively developed before the current crisis with a great deal of financial, business services, improved construction market and IT-technologies are in a much more difficult situation today than those with an economic structure from the pre-digital era and with industrial enterprises and non-market services.

For construction forecast on Russia, consult the latest EECFA Forecast Report Russia that can be purchased on eecfa.com

Construction and resilience

The different resilience to the crisis in various cities has a direct consequence on the segments of the construction market. Apart from the obviously severely affected office and retail, the most indicative is housing where demand reacts rather quickly to macroeconomic shocks and changes in the external environment. The number of housing transactions in Q2 2020 compared to Q1 2020 decreased in most Russian cities and regions owing to the dropping income of the population, the restrictions on movement, and the temporary impossibility of state registration of transactions. However, the most pronounced decline in demand was precisely in the cities with the least crisis-resistant economies which experienced a bigger increase in unemployment and a much bigger reduction in general business activity and a decrease in household income.

Will COVID-19 shake Bulgarian housing?

How much the pandemic hit construction activity: short-term implications for the residential property market

Written by Dragomir Belchev, EPI – EECFA Bulgaria

Construction activity

Construction sector in Bulgaria, and building construction in particular, was not affected as hard as others by the COVID-19 crisis. Yet, limited economic activity during the 3-month long state of emergency (between March 13th and May 13th) resulted in a drop of the index of construction production during this period by 16.9% on average. In June building construction output was 4.3% lower as companies in the sector are returning to business as usual. But already started residential and non-residential projects are financially ensured and are expected to be completed on time. And the accumulated started projects during the last several years started to materialize and 3660 dwellings were completed in Q2 2020, which is 56% higher than in Q2 2019. On the other hand, the economic uncertainty temporarily cooled down investor thirst in residential projects. Permitted dwellings in Q2 2020 dropped by 29.9%, while in terms of started dwellings the decline was not so dramatic (-15.6%).

The full exposure of the Bulgarian residential construction to the COVID-19 crisis remains to be seen in the months to come. Unemployment rate reached 5.9% in Q2 2020, which is 1.8 p.p. more than at the end of 2019. In mid-term the loss of income will reflect in people’s intention for buying a home, which could have a cooling effect on investments in residential property.

Residential property market

During the state of emergency, activity on the residential property market was restricted due to hampered administrative services. Additionally, the uncertainty regarding the near future made buyers temporarily pull away from the market. As a result, the total number of home transactions in Bulgaria in Q2 2020 shrank by 27.8% over Q2 2019. In Sofia, which has the largest chunk of the market (around 15%), the decline was lower (-7.6%).

During this summer we saw buyers gradually returning to the market, but while they are expecting a more significant price reduction, sellers are still reluctant to make such sacrifice. The shortage of quality property in big cities still puts the market power in the hands of supply with price levels almost unchanged compared to the beginning of 2020. In short-term, demand for property is fostered by 3 main factors:

  • Despite increasing unemployment, there is no major loss of income of people willing to buy before the start of the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Interest rates on mortgages were stable in the last 5 months, and as of July 2020 the average interest rate reached 2.89%, nearing the historic low of 2.85%. During the state of emergency financial institutions started to be much stricter in requirements, taking into account the affected sectors of the economy. In general, banks have the needed liquidity to finance viable projects of both sides – construction entrepreneurs and families buying a home. According to the Bulgarian National Bank data, the total sum of granted loans remain stable except for a considerable negative change in May 2020 when new housing loans decreased by nearly 28% over May 2019.
  • Buying property as investment is popular among people with free money since deposit rates are close to zero. Such investments could record good profitability especially when made before the completion of the construction project.

One segment of residential property market is experiencing a noticeable upturn. Due to pandemic, people are seeking more freedom and fresh air, which is resulting in strong demand for family houses in the agglomeration of big cities or near to them (in radius of 30 km).

Construction forecast for Bulgaria, including residential forecast, is available in the latest EECFA Forecast Report Bulgaria that you may buy on eecfa.com

Turkey: Despite Covid-19 housing transactions historically peaking

In the midst of the pandemic, Turkey’s housing transactions are booming. Here is the answer why.

Written by Prof. Ali TUREL, EECFA Turkey

The pandemic in Turkey

Covid-19 has caused various problems in the Turkish economy, like in many other countries. The Government had to introduce a series of precautionary measures from mid-March onwards. Schools, universities, and many commercial establishments were closed. Factories and most construction sites had to stop work or reduce the number of workers. Many people lost their jobs that had to be compensated by the Government through allocating large sums of money. Many establishments got into financial difficulty, and rescue plans had to be put into effect in the forms of providing loans and deferring tax and other payments to public institutions. Demand for many goods and services, including real estate, shrank under the Covid-19 pressures.

Industrial production slumped by 6.8% in March, 30.4% in April and 19.5% in May 2020 from the same months of 2019. Some recovery occurred only in June by a 17.6% rise from the previous month and a 0.1% growth from the same month of 2019. Building construction was also hit by Covid-19, as at the end of Q1, building construction permits in floor areas total were 11.4%, occupancy permits 41.1% down from Q1 2019. The number of completed dwelling units was 152 thousand with a 39.5% drop against Q1 2019.

Building construction industry also appears to enter the recovery process in Q2 with a 40.8% growth in the first 6 months of 2020 from the same 6 months of 2019. Completions, however, registered a 32.5% falloff in January-June 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, most likely because of the Covid-19 effects, although there are big backlogs of construction in almost every segment. The completed number of dwelling units with 269 thousand was about 70% of the 6-monthly rise in the number of households in Turkey.

Stimulus measure

In a bid to stimulate housing transactions, the Government introduced a measure in June 2020, according to which the loan-to-value ratio in residential mortgage loans was increased to 90%. The three state-owned banks were to offer mortgage loans under market interest rates and with a longer repayment period: 0.64%/month for new housing, 0.74%/month for used housing, both with a 15-year repayment period when the annual rate of increase in the Consumer Price Index was 12.62% in June 2020.

The stimulus measure greatly influenced the national housing market. The number of dwelling units sold in March-April 2020 came down to 42,8 thousand and 50,9 thousand, respectively. After the announcement, 190 thousand dwelling units were sold in June and 229,4 thousand in July, implying 209.7% and 124.3% rises from the same months of 2019, respectively. The number of transactions in July was the monthly historical peak, while in June the second monthly historical peak in Turkey.

In June and July 2020 together, 419.369 dwelling units were sold, 232.222 of which (55.4%) on mortgage loans. It is possible that not all applicants were able to use these credits. The ratio of mortgage financed housing to total housing sold was 12.5% in the same two months of 2019. Equity financing was still important with a 44.6% share (187.144 dwelling units) in June and July this year. It appears that people consider investing on housing as a hedge against inflation when all commercial banks offer negative real interest for deposit accounts. 

It has been a much-discussed issue in the media whether offering mortgage loans by state-owned banks under market interest rates would contribute to the clearance of the unsold newly built housing stock. The total number of first sales in June and July 2020 together was 126.569, 30.2% of total sales. The relatively higher price of newly built housing than that of the existing housing stock could be a factor keeping first sales at a 30% level. A media outlet suggests that about 24% clearance of the stock occurred by first sales in June and July this year.

The policy of offering mortgage loans under market interest rates contributed to the big revival of housing demand that had greatly decreased due to Covid-19. Since an interest rate subsidy at that level would unlikely continue for a long time, it will be interesting to see how the housing market will return to its usual course in the following months.

Construction forecast for Turkey is available in the latest EECFA Forecast Report Turkey which can be purchased on eecfa.com

EECFA countries in the European Commission’s 2020 Macro Forecast

Before the 2020 Summer EECFA Construction Forecast Report was published, the European Commission released its forecast for the economic prospects for EECFA member countries. The main changes in prospects between Autumn 2019 and Spring 2020 have been collected in this article.

Written by Bálint Parragi, EECFA Research, ELTINGA

In Spring 2020, the global economy as a whole has been hard hit and shrunk due to the coronavirus pandemic, marking the end of many quarters and years of economic growth. According to data depicted on Chart 1, every country’s GDP growth decreased, but not to the same extent.

The countries having experienced high GDP growth (higher than 2.5% per annum) in Autumn 2019 are still growing, but very much less than before. Romania and Bulgaria have the highest absolute decrease with approximately a reduction of 3% and 2.5%, respectively. The economy of Serbia and Euroconstruct member Hungary slowed down too, but not as drastically as that of their eastern neighbours, so they have the highest GDP growth among these countries. Where growth was less and reduction was the same, the crisis created a stagnating or even shrinking economic status such as in the Euro Area, the EU and Turkey. The Russian economy even suffered a significant negative shock with a value of -0.7% per annum. All in all, EECFA countries still have a higher GDP growth than the others.

Looking at the gross fixed capital formation data (Chart 2), the situation is a bit different, but decreases are general. According to expected GFCF growth, Serbia lost little to its previous period value, ranking high above all other states. While Romania experienced a moderate drop, annual GFCF growth has nearly come to zero in Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, the EU (the Eurozone as well) and Russia. The greatest falloffs are connected to Bulgaria and Turkey whose previous period value was by far the lowest and the only negative value among the examined countries.

Total construction growth has been revised downward everywhere, but while in Romania and Hungary it stayed positive (3-4%), it has come to zero in Slovenia and turned into negative value in Bulgaria, around -5% per annum. Construction’s share in total investment in the EECFA countries ranges from 57% (Slovenia) to 62% (Romania), with Hungary and Bulgaria in between (61% and 59% respectively).

For construction segment level forecast, please consult with our latest reports issued on 29 June that can be purchased on eecfa.com