Prices of “regular” houses in Belgium rose by 2.6% in 2012, to €194,394 (0.17% inflation-adjusted), according to Statistics Belgium (StatBel). Quarter-on-quarter, house prices actually dropped 0.87% (-1.23% inflation-adjusted) in Q4 2012.
Eurostat figures also showed that the Belgian housing market is slowing. House prices in the country rose by just 1.19% in 2012 from the previous year, after rising by 3.45% y-o-y in 2011. When adjusted for inflation, house prices actually dropped by 1.21% over the same period. On a quarterly basis, nationwide house prices fell by 0.74% (-1.1%) in Q4 2012.
However, the national figures conceal regional house price variations. During the year to Q4 2012:
- In the Flemish region (Flanders), prices of regular houses rose by 3.43% (0.98% inflation-adjusted) to €209,125
- In Walloon region (Wallonia), regular house prices increased 1.92% (-0.5% inflation-adjusted) to an average of €149,083
- In Brussels-Capital region, regular house prices fell by 1.29% (-3.63% inflation-adjusted) to €352,977
- The average price of villas and bungalows dropped by 0.9% to €329,417
- Apartment prices rose by 0.9%, to an average of €202,844
During Belgium’s housing boom (2000-Q3 2008), nationwide house prices soared by 129% (86% inflation-adjusted). The housing boom was driven by low interest rates and increased competition between banks; and strong economic and wage growth.
Residential construction is also down. The number of dwelling permits fell by 15.1% to 3,545 units in January 2013 from a year earlier. Over the same period, the Flemish region (-15.6%) saw the biggest drop in dwelling permits, followed by the Walloon region (-14.5%) and Brussels (-6.6%). In 2012, there were about 46,894 dwelling permits issued in the country.
In March 2013, the total amount of new mortgage credit drawn dropped by 1.4% to €2.7 billion from the same period last year, according to the National Bank of Belgium.
The average interest rate for housing loans with floating rate and with an initial rate fixation (IRF) of up to 1 year is currently about 3.5%. On the other hand, the average interest rate for housing loans with an IRF of over 10 years is about 4%.
The Belgian economy contracted by 0.2% in 2012, after expanding by 1.8% in 2011 and 2.4% in 2010, according to Belgostat. In 2013, both the IMF and the European Commission expects Belgium to grow by just 0.2%, as the country losses its competitive edge and the government cuts back spending.
Analysis of Belgium Residential Property Market »
Square metre (sq. m.) prices of apartments and houses in the prime districts of Brussels have been increasing, according to the latest survey of Global Property Guide. So too have rents.
All of the apartments and houses included in our survey are located in the prime areas of Brussels. The prime areas are Auderghem, Brussels City, Etterbeek, Ixelles, St. Gilles, Uccle, Woluwe-St. Pierre, and Woluwe-St. Lambert. Our survey included around 2,300 apartments and houses.
Capital Gains: Capital gains tax of 16.5% is payable on gains on developed property held for less than five years. After a holding period of five years, no Capital Gains Tax is payable.
Inheritance: Inheritance tax rates in Belgium are progressive and vary according to the degree of kinship, region where the inheritance is opened, and the share inherited by each of the heirs.
Residents: Residents are taxed on worldwide income at progressive rates, from 25% to 50%.
Rents: Rents can be freely negotiated but rent increases above the inflation rate cannot be written into the contract. If there is a written contract, the rent will be automatically adapted once a year in accordance with the cost of living. Deposit payments must not exceed three month’s rent.
Tenant Security: Belgium’s landlord and tenant law is restrictive as regards the length of rental contracts. The main options for the duration of a lease are: a contract of 9 years and, alternatively, a contract for less than three years.
From 1997 to 2007, the country enjoyed a healthy economic growth of about 2.4% per year. However due to the global crisis, the economy contracted by 2.8% in 2009, after a measly growth of 0.99% in 2008. The economy bounced back strongly in 2010, with a real GDP growth rate of 2.4%.
The Belgian economy contracted again by 0.2% in 2012, from a real GDP growth of 1.8% in 2011, mainly due to the adverse impact of the eurozone debt crisis, according to Belgostat. In 2013, both the IMF and the European Commission expects Belgium’s economy to grow by just 0.2%, as the country losses its competitive edge and the government cuts back spending.
Quarter-on-quarter, real GDP actually dropped by 0.1% in Q4 2012, from a no growth in Q3, a contraction of 0.5% in Q2 and a 0.2% growth in Q1.
Belgium’s relatively higher labour costs (due to wage and pension increases linked to inflation) compared to its neighboring European countries, is also aggravating the situation. Ford Motor Co. closed its car plant in Genk last year and moved its production to Spain in search of cheaper labour. In addition, Caterpillar, the world’s largest maker of construction equipment, is planning to lay-off 1,400 of its workers at its plant near Charleroi due to high operating costs in the country.
The harmonized unemployment rate in Belgium stood at 7.6% in 2012, up from 7.2% in 2011 but down from 8.3% in 2010. In February 2013, the unemployment rate stood at 8.1%.
Belgium’s inflation rate dropped to 1.11% in March 2013, from 1.19% in February and 1.46% in January 2013, based on figures released by Belgostat. It was the lowest level since February 2010.
In 2012, the headline deficit widened to about 3.9% of GDP, up from 3.7% in the previous year, according to the National Bank of Belgium. The deficit figure includes the €2.915 billion contribution to the bailout of Franco-Belgian lender Dexia, which is equivalent to 0.77% of GDP.
The government aims to reduce the deficit to 2.46% of GDP in 2013, from an earlier forecast of 2.15%. To lower the deficit, Belgium agreed to make €1.4 billion savings and sell about €1 billion of state-owned assets.
The government’s gross debt was equivalent to 99.6% of GDP in 2012, from 97.8% in 2011 and 95.5% in 2010, and way above the EU limit of about 60% of GDP. Belgium’s public finances were one of the weakest in the eurozone partially due to an almost two years of political stalemate which was only resolved by end-2011.
In the second half of 2012, the total number of bankruptcies rose to 5.5% to 5,266 businesses from the same period last year, according to Statistics Belgium (StatBel).
In March 2013, the business confidence index, one of the country’s leading indicators, fell to its lowest level since September 2009. In March 2013, consumer confidence also dropped to its lowest level since December 2012.
“The fall in consumer confidence is almost exclusively due to the significantly worse macroeconomic outlook,” the Central Bank said. “Thus, expectations as regards the economic situation have become very gloomy again. Moreover, pessimism about unemployment has risen to its highest level for three years.”
The next federal election in Belgium is expected to be held in the middle of 2014.