Javier de Oro-Pulido
Director of Real Estate Assets of Aliseda
“In today’s property market, entities are very careful about who and what they finance”
How can the property market avoid repeating the errors of the past?
They are not going to be repeated over the short term. The big mistakes of the past were closely linked to financial entities. Today, these are very careful about who and what they finance. As long as financial entities do their job properly, carrying out proper risk analysis, it is very unlikely that these errors will be repeated.
So corruption in urban development has been curtailed?
No. Since there’s little business right now, perhaps it is dormant. Urban development is very discretionary. In theory, it should also be perfectly well-regulated and, therefore, controlled. But it is terribly difficult to control honesty because that is something personal. A lot of money is involved, there are a great many interests, and it’s all absolutely discretionary. At the end of the day, people are people. And power, from a political point of view, is difficult to control.
Is 200,000 to 250,000 new builds a year a normal level, and is the industry still an economic driving force?
Of course. What wasn’t normal was 650,000 new builds. At a level of 250,000, it is clear that the sector can once more be a very important one from the point of view of its capacity to contribute to Spain’s value or its GDP, and, moreover, generate many synergies. But the problem for foreign capital is that it has trouble finding expert operators. This is one avenue Aliseda is going to explore. We are going to try to exploit our national structure and knowledge of the property sector to provide this reassurance for capital that wants to invest and cannot find anyone to manage this kind of business in Spain.
What regulatory changes are required in the sector?
A more uniform set of regulations is needed. Unfortunately, in Spain every autonomous community has its own urban development laws. Each city council has its own speciality when it comes to construction and for someone who doesn’t know Spain very well or doesn’t live here but wishes to invest in property it’s a rigmarole. To an investor who wants to invest and doesn’t care whether they invest in the coast, in Madrid, in Barcelona, or in Galicia, you have to start explaining how things work here and that it is nothing like the system in their own country. And that’s difficult.
Buy or rent?
Buy. Yes, it is a cultural thing and luckily we are more interested in purchasing our housing because it gives security. Spanish families seem to always associate housing with a kind of insurance for their future or their retirement. But it is true that this is changing in Spain, and there is an increasing percentage of rented housing, which has risen from 18.3 percent at the start of the crisis to the current level of 20 percent. Today, young couples wanting to buy their first property face many obstacles, even if they both work, because their salaries are often very low and financial entities are still going to regard their jobs as pretty unstable when considering them for a mortgage. What’s more, these people often don’t have the right percentage of money saved for the deposit. Perhaps in two generations’ time the rental market will reach similar proportions to those found in the rest of Europe. What we are seeing is that property has decreased by around 40 percent: housing can be bought at a good price and people are buying. The percentage of housing purchased without financing is significant: 30 to 35 percent among Spaniards and foreigners.