The Argentine housing market, along with many other parts of the economy, has seen some interesting ups and downs in the last decade. Following the 2002 crisis, the housing market benefited greatly for two reasons: First, as people had lost their faith in the financial market, the started pouring their financial resources into real estate. Secondly, construction costs that were measured in dollars fell dramatically, due to devaluation.
Unlike the 1990s, when demand was mostly stimulated by mortgages, the early 2000s saw many purchases being made in cash. The buyers and builders came from all sorts of different economic sectors, and they all saw a positive revenue flow as a result.
Today, all of these conditions have, once again, changed dramatically. Not only is Argentina is in the midst of economic and political uncertainty, but the mortgage advertisements have made little to no impact, as that credit simply isn’t available. And given the recession, people are less willing to turn their cash into bricks, preferring to retain liquid assets until the political and economic situations develop further. Many have expected a devaluation of the peso after the election, and, furthermore, nobody can tell how long the recession will last.
If the peso continues to fall, so will the salaries of those working in exportation sectors. However, if the dollar falls, it will become increasingly difficult to put any stock in the current dollar prices that apply to the real estate market.
Currently, the market is hampered because most people won’t accept that their home or property is worth less than they think it is, or less than it should be, which is the case for so many. On the other hand, it is important to remember that the market is what dictates these values, and the real price of assets can fluctuate from day to day, or month to month.
So property owners can maintain that their property is worth, say, USD 500,000, but if there are no buyers, then what can be said of that value? At the same time, those who did buy property in recent years are in a great situation, because they have no mortgage companies urging them to sell. They can hang on to their properties longer, assuming the costs of maintaining that asset don’t change too much (taxes, etc.).
If people do not have the resources to buy a place of their own, then, there is always the option to rent. Costs, however, are not so agreeable, and it is increasingly difficult to find people who can actually afford the asked rent. In short, the Buenos Aires real estate market isn’t dynamic because the prices simply do not meet the demand, both in properties for sale and for rent.
But looking at the near future, we can consider the following: 1) given the lack of money currently circulating and available, we can expect the emergence of mortgages that are actually realistic for potential buyers, which will, in turn, invigorate the market. And 2) an increase in the exchange rate will decrease the price per square meter, again, stimulating the housing market.
So it is important to realize that the market can only truly be unlocked if people are willing to accept that all assets have lost some value in Argentina, and the situation will only change if we look at long-term growth. Unfortunately, many are not willing to look at the long-term situation due to the political and economic uncertainty, but it is absolutely necessary in order to move forward into healthier, more prosperous times.
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