Latvia’s housing market remains strong

Lalaine C. Delmendo | June 30, 2022

Latvia’s housing market remains robust but the overall economy is expected to slow sharply this year amidst the Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Latvia house prices

In Riga, Latvia’s capital city, apartment prices rose by 17.9% to €967 (US$1,017) per square metre (sq. m.) in April 2022 from a year earlier, according to Arco Real Estate’s figures, a sharp improvement from the previous year’s meager growth of 0.24%. In fact, it was the biggest y-o-y increase recorded in a decade.

However when adjusted for inflation, apartment prices actually increased by a modest 4.37% y-o-y in April 2022. The huge difference between the nominal and real figures is due to high inflation, amidst supply chain disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic as well as the ongoing Ukraine crisis.

In May 2022, nationwide inflation in Latvia reached 16.9%, the highest in about 13 years.

Real estate agent Ober Haus, which tends to deal in high-end city-centre housing, says average apartment prices in Riga rose, on average, by 11% during 2021, following a 0.9% decline in 2020.

  • For existing apartments, prices ranged from €700 to €1,500 per sq. m.
  • For new apartments, particularly in Riga city centre and in the Old Town, prices stood at about €1,800 to €4,700 per sq. m. Apartment prices in luxury projects can reach as much as €7,000 per sq. m.

“In 2021, the housing sector in Latvia, despite the fact that the Covid-19 pandemic had not yet receded, showed growth practically in all segments,” said Ober Haus. “The main drivers of the market— availability, financing and positive attitudes towards the market—remain high. As the demand for housing increased, so did their prices. Demand increased not only for new projects, but also in the secondary market.”

In Riga, apartment sales rose by 20% in 2021 from a year earlier, following a 9.5% decline in 2020, according to Ober Haus, as both local and foreign demand increased again amidst the easing of travel restrictions and other curbs. Nationwide, apartment sales transactions increased 16% y-o-y to 21,288 units in 2021, according to figures from Latio.

Despite increasing demand, residential construction activity remains weak. During 2021, the number of new dwellings authorized in Latvia fell by 6.5% to 2,853 units, according to the Central Statistical Bureau. Likewise, the area of new dwellings authorized also dropped 14.7% to 353,700 sq. m. over the same period. Then in Q1 2022, both the number and area of new dwellings commissioned fell further by 20.8% and 8% y-o-y, respectively.

Overall economic outlook is now uncertain amidst heightened risks caused by the ongoing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The European Commission (EC) repeatedly downgraded Latvia’s GDP growth forecast for this year – from an initial growth forecast of 5% to 4.4% and now to a much slower pace of just 2%. Likewise, the Bank of Latvia has also recently revised down its 2022 growth forecast to 1.8%, far lower than its previous estimate of a 4.2% expansion.

Latvia’s housing boom and bust

Latvia had one of the world’s biggest housing market crashes after 2007. In the second half of 2007 house prices began to fall, having risen almost 700% from 2000 to 2007, and inflation ballooned.

The economy shrank by about 25% from the start of the global crisis in 2008 to end-2010, making it the deepest depression recorded worldwide. Unemployment surged from 6.1% in 2007 to 19.5% in 2010, despite Latvia securing a €7.5 billion standby loan from a group led by the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The bailout prevented total economic collapse, but was coupled with rigid austerity measures. The country’s fiscal deficit shot up, capital left the country, exports fell, and domestic demand collapsed.

  • In 2007, apartment prices fell by 5% (-16.7% in real terms) from a year earlier.
  • In 2008, apartment prices plummeted by 30.5% (-37.1% in real terms) y-o-y
  • In 2009, property prices plunged by another 42% (-41.3% in real terms)

Then in 2010, the housing market started to recover, with house prices rising by 5% (2.4% in real terms) in 2010, 5.8% in 2011 (1.7% in real terms), 2.1% (0.5% in real terms) in 2012, 3.2% (3.3% in real terms) in 2013-14, and 0.4% (zero growth in real terms) in 2015.

Latvia house price indices

The housing market regained its momentum in 2016, thanks to strong economic growth, coupled with limited supply. House prices rose by 7.6% (5.3% in real terms) in 2016 and by another 8.8% (6.5% in real terms) in 2017.

The housing market has lost momentum since, with house price growth slowing to 3.9% (1.3% in real terms) in 2018 and further to 2.8% (0.5% in real terms) in 2019. During 2020, house prices fell 1.5% (-1% in real terms) due to the pandemic.

The housing market started to recover last year, with apartment prices rising strongly by 11.8% (3.6% in real terms), amidst the gradual easing of pandemic-related restrictions and improved economic conditions.

Demand rising again

In Riga, apartment sales rose by 20% in 2021 from a year earlier, following a 9.5% decline in 2020, according to Ober Haus, as both local and foreign demand increase again amidst the easing of travel restrictions and other curbs. On average, about 861 apartment units were sold in Riga every month.

This is supported by figures from Latio, which showed that the number of transactions in the apartment market in Latvia increased by 16% in 2021 from a year earlier.

“In 2021, there was a higher demand in the new apartment segment than in previous years, said Ober Haus. “One of the factors was that credit institutions were willing to offer relatively lower rates for the purchase of apartments in new projects as opposed to other segments, and larger banks competed intensely with each other to attract customers, allowing customers to obtain very favourable mortgage terms.”

Foreigners, who accounted for about 70% of all property transactions in the country, have buoyed the market in recent years. They are attracted to Latvia partly because it has one of the lowest house prices in Europe. In addition, foreigners get a five-year residence permit in Latvia if they buy residential real estate, under Immigration Law amendments implemented on July 1, 2010. The conditions were then:

  • The transaction should exceed €142,000 (US$ 148,445) in Riga or Jurmala, or €71,000 (US$74,223) in other regions;
  • Only non-cash funds may be used to buy real estate;
  • The buyer must not have any real estate tax arrears in Latvia (and must never have had such arrears);
  • Transaction concluded after July 1 2010.

In September 2014, Immigration Law amendments increased the threshold for obtaining a residence permit and introduced other conditions and costs, if a foreigner’s real estate was registered in the Land Register after September 1, 2014:

  • Minimum transaction value of real estate must be €250,000 (US$261,348) in large cities or at least €125,000 (US$130,674) in other places (in which case at least two properties must be bought), according to Baltic Legal.
  • The total cadastral value of the property at the time of acquisition should be at least €80,000 (US$83,631).
  • Payment of a state budget contribution worth 5% of the real estate’s transaction value.

In recent years, most of the in-demand properties were located in Riga and Jurmala, according to the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs. Before the pandemic, Russians were the top residential real estate investors in Latvia, followed by Ukrainians, Chinese, Kazakhs, and Uzbeks, according to Arco Real Estate’s chairman of the board of directors, Aigars Smits.

Residential construction activity falling

During 2021, the number of new dwellings authorized in Latvia fell by 6.5% to 2,853 units, according to the Central Statistical Bureau. Likewise, the area of new dwellings authorized also dropped 14.7% to 353,700 sq. m. over the same period.

The weakness of the construction sector continued this year, with both the number and area of new dwellings commissioned falling by 20.8% and 8%, respectively, in Q1 2022 from a year earlier.

Latvia new dwellings authorized

By region, during the year to Q1 2022:

  • In Riga region, the number of new dwellings commissioned fell by 24% but the area increased by a modest 4.3%.
  • In Pierīga, both the number and area of new dwelling permits fell by 23.9% and 15.3%, respectively.
  • In Vidzeme, the number and area of dwelling permits fell by 63.6% and 62.5%, respectively.
  • In Kurzeme, the number of permits doubled and the area increased by 9.5%.
  • In Zemgale, both the number and area of dwelling permits more than doubled.
  • In Latgale, the number of permits were unchanged while the area fell by about 37%.

Riga and Pierīga regions accounted for about 87% of all new dwelling authorizations in Q1 2022.

According to Arco Real Estate, the number of apartments offered for sale in the largest housing estates in Riga mostly decreased in April 2022, with Bolderāja registering the biggest decline.

Rental yields moderate but rental market remains underdeveloped

Apartments located in Riga city can earn yields ranging from 4.1% to 6.1%, according to research conducted by the Global Property Guide. Bigger apartments of around 120 sq. m. have lower yields as compared to smaller units. However Ober Haus’ figures are lower, with residential yields at the city centre averaging about 3.9% in 2021.

Round trip transaction costs are low to moderate in Latvia. See our Property transaction costs analysis for Latvia.

Latvia housing stock

Yet Latvia’s rental market remains poorly developed, according to a study published by the OECD. About two-thirds of the rental market consists mainly of Soviet-era housing and a third of the population live in overcrowded housing units. Only 12% of the country’s housing stock are offered as rental accommodations.

In May 2021, a new law on Lease of Dwelling Premises came into force, which regulates the relations between the tenant and the landlord of a dwelling – defining their rights, duties, and responsibilities, the grounds for termination of contract, and the basic terms of the lease agreement.

Interest rates expected to rise

The ECB key rate remained at its all-time low of zero in March 2021, unchanged since March 2016. But in its June 2022 meeting, the ECB unveiled a plan to raise the key rate by 25 basis points next month.

Looking further ahead, the Governing Council expects to raise the key ECB interest rates again in September.

As such, housing mortgage rates are expected to rise in the coming months.

Latvia interest rates

Housing mortgage rates for new loans, in April 2022:

  • Floating rate and up to 1 year initial rate fixation (IRF): 2.03%, down from 2.16% a year earlier
  • 1-5 years IRF: 10.45%, sharply up from 8.65% a year earlier
  • 5-10 years IRF: 8.37%, down from 9.1% a year earlier
  • Over 10 years IRF: 6.08%, up from 5.43% a year earlier

For outstanding loans, in April 2022:

  • Housing loans with maturity of up to 1 year: 3.22%, up from 2.89% a year earlier
  • Housing loans with maturity over 1 year and up to 5 years: 9.38%, slightly up from 9.22% a year earlier
  • Housing loans with maturity over 5 years: 2.24%, almost unchanged from 2.27% a year ago

Mortgage market remains weak

In 2021, the size of the mortgage market was equivalent to about 13.8% of GDP – sharply down from 36.3% of GDP in 2010. This indicates that the mortgage market has not yet truly recovered from the 2008-09 global financial crisis, despite the introduction of the state-guaranteed Mortgage Loan Programme in 2015, under which the Latvian Development Finance Institution (ALTUM) provides guarantees for mortgage loans, now totalling €118.1 million (US$143.7 million) benefitting 15,888 families with children, and €19.6 million (US$ 23.9 million) benefitting 2,016 young professionals.

Latvia housing loans

Yet financing and state support remain insufficient. About 44% of households are unable to qualify for the government’s financial assistance or meet mortgage requirements, the OECD study noted.

In April 2022, total outstanding housing loans rose by 8.4% to €4.59 billion (US$4.8 billion) from a year earlier, according to European Central Bank (ECB).

Apartment rents rising

In Riga, monthly rents for two-bedroom apartments in new developments in the Centre rose by 10% to €605 (US$632) during 2021, according to Latio. In the neighborhoods of Āgenskalns, Imanta and Ziepniekkalns situated at the left bank, rents for 2-BR apartments ranged from €430 (US$449) to €545 (US$569) per month. In the neighborhoods of Purvciems, Markavas, and Pļavnieki located in the right bank, rents in new projects ranged from €370 (US$386) to €430 (US$449) per month.

Latvia’s housing market remains robust but the overall economy is expected to slow sharply this year amidst the Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Latvia house prices

In Riga, Latvia’s capital city, apartment prices rose by 17.9% to €967 (US$1,017) per square metre (sq. m.) in April 2022 from a year earlier, according to Arco Real Estate’s figures, a sharp improvement from the previous year’s meager growth of 0.24%. In fact, it was the biggest y-o-y increase recorded in a decade.

However when adjusted for inflation, apartment prices actually increased by a modest 4.37% y-o-y in April 2022. The huge difference between the nominal and real figures is due to high inflation, amidst supply chain disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic as well as the ongoing Ukraine crisis.

In May 2022, nationwide inflation in Latvia reached 16.9%, the highest in about 13 years.

Real estate agent Ober Haus, which tends to deal in high-end city-centre housing, says average apartment prices in Riga rose, on average, by 11% during 2021, following a 0.9% decline in 2020.

  • For existing apartments, prices ranged from €700 to €1,500 per sq. m.
  • For new apartments, particularly in Riga city centre and in the Old Town, prices stood at about €1,800 to €4,700 per sq. m. Apartment prices in luxury projects can reach as much as €7,000 per sq. m.

“In 2021, the housing sector in Latvia, despite the fact that the Covid-19 pandemic had not yet receded, showed growth practically in all segments,” said Ober Haus. “The main drivers of the market— availability, financing and positive attitudes towards the market—remain high. As the demand for housing increased, so did their prices. Demand increased not only for new projects, but also in the secondary market.”

In Riga, apartment sales rose by 20% in 2021 from a year earlier, following a 9.5% decline in 2020, according to Ober Haus, as both local and foreign demand increased again amidst the easing of travel restrictions and other curbs. Nationwide, apartment sales transactions increased 16% y-o-y to 21,288 units in 2021, according to figures from Latio.

Despite increasing demand, residential construction activity remains weak. During 2021, the number of new dwellings authorized in Latvia fell by 6.5% to 2,853 units, according to the Central Statistical Bureau. Likewise, the area of new dwellings authorized also dropped 14.7% to 353,700 sq. m. over the same period. Then in Q1 2022, both the number and area of new dwellings commissioned fell further by 20.8% and 8% y-o-y, respectively.

Overall economic outlook is now uncertain amidst heightened risks caused by the ongoing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The European Commission (EC) repeatedly downgraded Latvia’s GDP growth forecast for this year – from an initial growth forecast of 5% to 4.4% and now to a much slower pace of just 2%. Likewise, the Bank of Latvia has also recently revised down its 2022 growth forecast to 1.8%, far lower than its previous estimate of a 4.2% expansion.

Latvia’s housing boom and bust

Latvia had one of the world’s biggest housing market crashes after 2007. In the second half of 2007 house prices began to fall, having risen almost 700% from 2000 to 2007, and inflation ballooned.

The economy shrank by about 25% from the start of the global crisis in 2008 to end-2010, making it the deepest depression recorded worldwide. Unemployment surged from 6.1% in 2007 to 19.5% in 2010, despite Latvia securing a €7.5 billion standby loan from a group led by the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The bailout prevented total economic collapse, but was coupled with rigid austerity measures. The country’s fiscal deficit shot up, capital left the country, exports fell, and domestic demand collapsed.

  • In 2007, apartment prices fell by 5% (-16.7% in real terms) from a year earlier.
  • In 2008, apartment prices plummeted by 30.5% (-37.1% in real terms) y-o-y
  • In 2009, property prices plunged by another 42% (-41.3% in real terms)

Then in 2010, the housing market started to recover, with house prices rising by 5% (2.4% in real terms) in 2010, 5.8% in 2011 (1.7% in real terms), 2.1% (0.5% in real terms) in 2012, 3.2% (3.3% in real terms) in 2013-14, and 0.4% (zero growth in real terms) in 2015.

Latvia house price indices

The housing market regained its momentum in 2016, thanks to strong economic growth, coupled with limited supply. House prices rose by 7.6% (5.3% in real terms) in 2016 and by another 8.8% (6.5% in real terms) in 2017.

The housing market has lost momentum since, with house price growth slowing to 3.9% (1.3% in real terms) in 2018 and further to 2.8% (0.5% in real terms) in 2019. During 2020, house prices fell 1.5% (-1% in real terms) due to the pandemic.

The housing market started to recover last year, with apartment prices rising strongly by 11.8% (3.6% in real terms), amidst the gradual easing of pandemic-related restrictions and improved economic conditions.

Demand rising again

In Riga, apartment sales rose by 20% in 2021 from a year earlier, following a 9.5% decline in 2020, according to Ober Haus, as both local and foreign demand increase again amidst the easing of travel restrictions and other curbs. On average, about 861 apartment units were sold in Riga every month.

This is supported by figures from Latio, which showed that the number of transactions in the apartment market in Latvia increased by 16% in 2021 from a year earlier.

“In 2021, there was a higher demand in the new apartment segment than in previous years, said Ober Haus. “One of the factors was that credit institutions were willing to offer relatively lower rates for the purchase of apartments in new projects as opposed to other segments, and larger banks competed intensely with each other to attract customers, allowing customers to obtain very favourable mortgage terms.”

Foreigners, who accounted for about 70% of all property transactions in the country, have buoyed the market in recent years. They are attracted to Latvia partly because it has one of the lowest house prices in Europe. In addition, foreigners get a five-year residence permit in Latvia if they buy residential real estate, under Immigration Law amendments implemented on July 1, 2010. The conditions were then:

  • The transaction should exceed €142,000 (US$ 148,445) in Riga or Jurmala, or €71,000 (US$74,223) in other regions;
  • Only non-cash funds may be used to buy real estate;
  • The buyer must not have any real estate tax arrears in Latvia (and must never have had such arrears);
  • Transaction concluded after July 1 2010.

In September 2014, Immigration Law amendments increased the threshold for obtaining a residence permit and introduced other conditions and costs, if a foreigner’s real estate was registered in the Land Register after September 1, 2014:

  • Minimum transaction value of real estate must be €250,000 (US$261,348) in large cities or at least €125,000 (US$130,674) in other places (in which case at least two properties must be bought), according to Baltic Legal.
  • The total cadastral value of the property at the time of acquisition should be at least €80,000 (US$83,631).
  • Payment of a state budget contribution worth 5% of the real estate’s transaction value.

In recent years, most of the in-demand properties were located in Riga and Jurmala, according to the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs. Before the pandemic, Russians were the top residential real estate investors in Latvia, followed by Ukrainians, Chinese, Kazakhs, and Uzbeks, according to Arco Real Estate’s chairman of the board of directors, Aigars Smits.

Residential construction activity falling

During 2021, the number of new dwellings authorized in Latvia fell by 6.5% to 2,853 units, according to the Central Statistical Bureau. Likewise, the area of new dwellings authorized also dropped 14.7% to 353,700 sq. m. over the same period.

The weakness of the construction sector continued this year, with both the number and area of new dwellings commissioned falling by 20.8% and 8%, respectively, in Q1 2022 from a year earlier.

Latvia new dwellings authorized

By region, during the year to Q1 2022:

  • In Riga region, the number of new dwellings commissioned fell by 24% but the area increased by a modest 4.3%.
  • In Pierīga, both the number and area of new dwelling permits fell by 23.9% and 15.3%, respectively.
  • In Vidzeme, the number and area of dwelling permits fell by 63.6% and 62.5%, respectively.
  • In Kurzeme, the number of permits doubled and the area increased by 9.5%.
  • In Zemgale, both the number and area of dwelling permits more than doubled.
  • In Latgale, the number of permits were unchanged while the area fell by about 37%.

Riga and Pierīga regions accounted for about 87% of all new dwelling authorizations in Q1 2022.

According to Arco Real Estate, the number of apartments offered for sale in the largest housing estates in Riga mostly decreased in April 2022, with Bolderāja registering the biggest decline.

Rental yields moderate but rental market remains underdeveloped

Apartments located in Riga city can earn yields ranging from 4.1% to 6.1%, according to research conducted by the Global Property Guide. Bigger apartments of around 120 sq. m. have lower yields as compared to smaller units. However Ober Haus’ figures are lower, with residential yields at the city centre averaging about 3.9% in 2021.

Round trip transaction costs are low to moderate in Latvia. See our Property transaction costs analysis for Latvia.

Latvia housing stock

Yet Latvia’s rental market remains poorly developed, according to a study published by the OECD. About two-thirds of the rental market consists mainly of Soviet-era housing and a third of the population live in overcrowded housing units. Only 12% of the country’s housing stock are offered as rental accommodations.

In May 2021, a new law on Lease of Dwelling Premises came into force, which regulates the relations between the tenant and the landlord of a dwelling – defining their rights, duties, and responsibilities, the grounds for termination of contract, and the basic terms of the lease agreement.

Interest rates expected to rise

The ECB key rate remained at its all-time low of zero in March 2021, unchanged since March 2016. But in its June 2022 meeting, the ECB unveiled a plan to raise the key rate by 25 basis points next month.

Looking further ahead, the Governing Council expects to raise the key ECB interest rates again in September.

As such, housing mortgage rates are expected to rise in the coming months.

Latvia interest rates

Housing mortgage rates for new loans, in April 2022:

  • Floating rate and up to 1 year initial rate fixation (IRF): 2.03%, down from 2.16% a year earlier
  • 1-5 years IRF: 10.45%, sharply up from 8.65% a year earlier
  • 5-10 years IRF: 8.37%, down from 9.1% a year earlier
  • Over 10 years IRF: 6.08%, up from 5.43% a year earlier

For outstanding loans, in April 2022:

  • Housing loans with maturity of up to 1 year: 3.22%, up from 2.89% a year earlier
  • Housing loans with maturity over 1 year and up to 5 years: 9.38%, slightly up from 9.22% a year earlier
  • Housing loans with maturity over 5 years: 2.24%, almost unchanged from 2.27% a year ago

Mortgage market remains weak

In 2021, the size of the mortgage market was equivalent to about 13.8% of GDP – sharply down from 36.3% of GDP in 2010. This indicates that the mortgage market has not yet truly recovered from the 2008-09 global financial crisis, despite the introduction of the state-guaranteed Mortgage Loan Programme in 2015, under which the Latvian Development Finance Institution (ALTUM) provides guarantees for mortgage loans, now totalling €118.1 million (US$143.7 million) benefitting 15,888 families with children, and €19.6 million (US$ 23.9 million) benefitting 2,016 young professionals.

Latvia housing loans

Yet financing and state support remain insufficient. About 44% of households are unable to qualify for the government’s financial assistance or meet mortgage requirements, the OECD study noted.

In April 2022, total outstanding housing loans rose by 8.4% to €4.59 billion (US$4.8 billion) from a year earlier, according to European Central Bank (ECB).

Apartment rents rising

In Riga, monthly rents for two-bedroom apartments in new developments in the Centre rose by 10% to €605 (US$632) during 2021, according to Latio. In the neighborhoods of Āgenskalns, Imanta and Ziepniekkalns situated at the left bank, rents for 2-BR apartments ranged from €430 (US$449) to €545 (US$569) per month. In the neighborhoods of Purvciems, Markavas, and Pļavnieki located in the right bank, rents in new projects ranged from €370 (US$386) to €430 (US$449) per month.

LONG-TERM RENTS IN TOP NEIGHBORHOODS & PROJECTS

IN RIGA, 2021 (EUR/month)

Neighborhoods Project Type 1-Room Apartment 2-Room Apartment
Āgenskalns Serial project 260 330
Unrenovated historical project 250 325
New project 300 545
Imanta Serial project 240 295
New project 360 460
Ziepniekkalns Serial project 235 300

LONG-TERM RENTS IN TOP NEIGHBORHOODS & PROJECTS

IN RIGA, 2021 (EUR/month)

Neighborhoods Project Type 1-Room Apartment 2-Room Apartment
Āgenskalns Serial project 260 330
Unrenovated historical project 250 325
New project 300 545
Imanta Serial project 240 295
New project 360 460
Ziepniekkalns Serial project 235 300
New project 325 430
Centre Unrenovated pre-war time project 290 430
New project 365 605
Purvciems Serial project 240 305
New project 335 430
Maskavas Forstate Unrenovated historical project 215 305
Serial project 230 285
New project 255 370
Pļavnieki Serial project 240 305
New project 335 430
Source: Latio

In other major cities:

  • In Daugavpils, Latvia’s second most populous city next to Riga, the average apartment rent was €165 (US$172) per month.
  • In Jelgava, a city in central Latvia and considered as the country’s railway centre, apartment rents stood at €265 (US$277) per month.
  • In Liepāja, a port city on Latvia’s west coast known for its long Liepāja Beach, the average monthly rent for apartments was €225 (US$235).
  • In Valmiera, the largest city of the historical Vidzeme region, rents stood at €250 (US$261).
  • In Cēsis, a northeastern town known for its medieval castle, the average monthly rent stood at €235 (US$246) in 2021.
  • In Bauska, a town located in the Zemgale region of southern Latvia, apartment rents in serial projects averaged €185 (US$193) per month.
  • In Ventspils, a port city on the Baltic Sea, the average rent for apartments in serial projects was €175 (US$183) per month last year.
  • Rēzekne, situated on the eastern part of Latvia, has one of the lowest rents in the country, at just €170 (US$178) per month last year.

“Supply of both flats for sale and rentals is dominated by one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments in several cities in Latvia, although demand has shifted focus to larger space,” said Latio.

Latvia’s economy to slow, inflation surging

Latvia’s economy expanded by 4.5% in 2021, recovering from the 3.8% contraction it suffered in 2020 due to pandemic-related restrictions and lockdowns.

However, the outlook is now uncertain amidst heightened risks caused by the ongoing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with the European Commission (EC) repeatedly downgrading Latvia’s GDP growth forecast for this year. From a growth forecast of 5%, the EC reduced it to 4.4% and now to a much slower pace of just 2%. Likewise, the Bank of Latvia has also recently revised down its 2022 growth forecast to 1.8%, far lower than its previous estimate of a 4.2% expansion.

Latvia unemployment

“The Latvian economy will continue to grow, thanks to investments, services exports, and consumption,” said Valdis Dombrovskis, the Executive Vice-President of the European Commission. “However, given the negative economic impact of Russian aggression against Ukraine and related sanctions, Latvia´s GDP growth will slow down significantly. This impact will be felt both as exports decline and as energy and raw material prices rise.”

The country recorded a budget deficit of 7.3% of GDP in 2021, sharply up from shortfalls of 4.5% in 2020, 0.6% in 2019 and 0.8% in 2018, according to Eurostat. In fact, it was the biggest deficit since 2010.

The EC expects Latvia’s deficit to remain high at 7.2% of GDP this year before falling to 3% in 2023.

Latvia’s public debt reached 44.8% of GDP in 2021, up from 43.3% in 2020 and 36.7% in 2019. It was the biggest debt since 2009. The public debt is expected to increase further to about 47% of GDP this year, according to the European Commission.

Latvia infaltion rate

In Q1 2022, nationwide unemployment stood at 7.3%, up from 7.1% in the previous quarter but down from 7.5% a year earlier, according to the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia. This is still much lower than the country’s jobless rate from 2009 to 2012, which averaged 17.1%, falling to 8.9% from 2013 to 2021.

Inflation accelerated to 16.9% in May 2022, an acceleration from 2.6% in May 2021 and -0.6% two years ago. It was the highest level since June 2008.

On January 1, 2014, Latvia adopted the euro. Then in July 2016, the country officially became the 35th member of the prestigious OECD.


Sources:

New project 325 430 Centre Unrenovated pre-war time project 290 430 New project 365 605 Purvciems Serial project 240 305

Latvia’s housing market remains robust but the overall economy is expected to slow sharply this year amidst the Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Latvia house prices

In Riga, Latvia’s capital city, apartment prices rose by 17.9% to €967 (US$1,017) per square metre (sq. m.) in April 2022 from a year earlier, according to Arco Real Estate’s figures, a sharp improvement from the previous year’s meager growth of 0.24%. In fact, it was the biggest y-o-y increase recorded in a decade.

However when adjusted for inflation, apartment prices actually increased by a modest 4.37% y-o-y in April 2022. The huge difference between the nominal and real figures is due to high inflation, amidst supply chain disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic as well as the ongoing Ukraine crisis.

In May 2022, nationwide inflation in Latvia reached 16.9%, the highest in about 13 years.

Real estate agent Ober Haus, which tends to deal in high-end city-centre housing, says average apartment prices in Riga rose, on average, by 11% during 2021, following a 0.9% decline in 2020.

  • For existing apartments, prices ranged from €700 to €1,500 per sq. m.
  • For new apartments, particularly in Riga city centre and in the Old Town, prices stood at about €1,800 to €4,700 per sq. m. Apartment prices in luxury projects can reach as much as €7,000 per sq. m.

“In 2021, the housing sector in Latvia, despite the fact that the Covid-19 pandemic had not yet receded, showed growth practically in all segments,” said Ober Haus. “The main drivers of the market— availability, financing and positive attitudes towards the market—remain high. As the demand for housing increased, so did their prices. Demand increased not only for new projects, but also in the secondary market.”

In Riga, apartment sales rose by 20% in 2021 from a year earlier, following a 9.5% decline in 2020, according to Ober Haus, as both local and foreign demand increased again amidst the easing of travel restrictions and other curbs. Nationwide, apartment sales transactions increased 16% y-o-y to 21,288 units in 2021, according to figures from Latio.

Despite increasing demand, residential construction activity remains weak. During 2021, the number of new dwellings authorized in Latvia fell by 6.5% to 2,853 units, according to the Central Statistical Bureau. Likewise, the area of new dwellings authorized also dropped 14.7% to 353,700 sq. m. over the same period. Then in Q1 2022, both the number and area of new dwellings commissioned fell further by 20.8% and 8% y-o-y, respectively.

Overall economic outlook is now uncertain amidst heightened risks caused by the ongoing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The European Commission (EC) repeatedly downgraded Latvia’s GDP growth forecast for this year – from an initial growth forecast of 5% to 4.4% and now to a much slower pace of just 2%. Likewise, the Bank of Latvia has also recently revised down its 2022 growth forecast to 1.8%, far lower than its previous estimate of a 4.2% expansion.

Latvia’s housing boom and bust

Latvia had one of the world’s biggest housing market crashes after 2007. In the second half of 2007 house prices began to fall, having risen almost 700% from 2000 to 2007, and inflation ballooned.

The economy shrank by about 25% from the start of the global crisis in 2008 to end-2010, making it the deepest depression recorded worldwide. Unemployment surged from 6.1% in 2007 to 19.5% in 2010, despite Latvia securing a €7.5 billion standby loan from a group led by the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The bailout prevented total economic collapse, but was coupled with rigid austerity measures. The country’s fiscal deficit shot up, capital left the country, exports fell, and domestic demand collapsed.

  • In 2007, apartment prices fell by 5% (-16.7% in real terms) from a year earlier.
  • In 2008, apartment prices plummeted by 30.5% (-37.1% in real terms) y-o-y
  • In 2009, property prices plunged by another 42% (-41.3% in real terms)

Then in 2010, the housing market started to recover, with house prices rising by 5% (2.4% in real terms) in 2010, 5.8% in 2011 (1.7% in real terms), 2.1% (0.5% in real terms) in 2012, 3.2% (3.3% in real terms) in 2013-14, and 0.4% (zero growth in real terms) in 2015.

Latvia house price indices

The housing market regained its momentum in 2016, thanks to strong economic growth, coupled with limited supply. House prices rose by 7.6% (5.3% in real terms) in 2016 and by another 8.8% (6.5% in real terms) in 2017.

The housing market has lost momentum since, with house price growth slowing to 3.9% (1.3% in real terms) in 2018 and further to 2.8% (0.5% in real terms) in 2019. During 2020, house prices fell 1.5% (-1% in real terms) due to the pandemic.

The housing market started to recover last year, with apartment prices rising strongly by 11.8% (3.6% in real terms), amidst the gradual easing of pandemic-related restrictions and improved economic conditions.

Demand rising again

In Riga, apartment sales rose by 20% in 2021 from a year earlier, following a 9.5% decline in 2020, according to Ober Haus, as both local and foreign demand increase again amidst the easing of travel restrictions and other curbs. On average, about 861 apartment units were sold in Riga every month.

This is supported by figures from Latio, which showed that the number of transactions in the apartment market in Latvia increased by 16% in 2021 from a year earlier.

“In 2021, there was a higher demand in the new apartment segment than in previous years, said Ober Haus. “One of the factors was that credit institutions were willing to offer relatively lower rates for the purchase of apartments in new projects as opposed to other segments, and larger banks competed intensely with each other to attract customers, allowing customers to obtain very favourable mortgage terms.”

Foreigners, who accounted for about 70% of all property transactions in the country, have buoyed the market in recent years. They are attracted to Latvia partly because it has one of the lowest house prices in Europe. In addition, foreigners get a five-year residence permit in Latvia if they buy residential real estate, under Immigration Law amendments implemented on July 1, 2010. The conditions were then:

  • The transaction should exceed €142,000 (US$ 148,445) in Riga or Jurmala, or €71,000 (US$74,223) in other regions;
  • Only non-cash funds may be used to buy real estate;
  • The buyer must not have any real estate tax arrears in Latvia (and must never have had such arrears);
  • Transaction concluded after July 1 2010.

In September 2014, Immigration Law amendments increased the threshold for obtaining a residence permit and introduced other conditions and costs, if a foreigner’s real estate was registered in the Land Register after September 1, 2014:

  • Minimum transaction value of real estate must be €250,000 (US$261,348) in large cities or at least €125,000 (US$130,674) in other places (in which case at least two properties must be bought), according to Baltic Legal.
  • The total cadastral value of the property at the time of acquisition should be at least €80,000 (US$83,631).
  • Payment of a state budget contribution worth 5% of the real estate’s transaction value.

In recent years, most of the in-demand properties were located in Riga and Jurmala, according to the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs. Before the pandemic, Russians were the top residential real estate investors in Latvia, followed by Ukrainians, Chinese, Kazakhs, and Uzbeks, according to Arco Real Estate’s chairman of the board of directors, Aigars Smits.

Residential construction activity falling

During 2021, the number of new dwellings authorized in Latvia fell by 6.5% to 2,853 units, according to the Central Statistical Bureau. Likewise, the area of new dwellings authorized also dropped 14.7% to 353,700 sq. m. over the same period.

The weakness of the construction sector continued this year, with both the number and area of new dwellings commissioned falling by 20.8% and 8%, respectively, in Q1 2022 from a year earlier.

Latvia new dwellings authorized

By region, during the year to Q1 2022:

  • In Riga region, the number of new dwellings commissioned fell by 24% but the area increased by a modest 4.3%.
  • In Pierīga, both the number and area of new dwelling permits fell by 23.9% and 15.3%, respectively.
  • In Vidzeme, the number and area of dwelling permits fell by 63.6% and 62.5%, respectively.
  • In Kurzeme, the number of permits doubled and the area increased by 9.5%.
  • In Zemgale, both the number and area of dwelling permits more than doubled.
  • In Latgale, the number of permits were unchanged while the area fell by about 37%.

Riga and Pierīga regions accounted for about 87% of all new dwelling authorizations in Q1 2022.

According to Arco Real Estate, the number of apartments offered for sale in the largest housing estates in Riga mostly decreased in April 2022, with Bolderāja registering the biggest decline.

Rental yields moderate but rental market remains underdeveloped

Apartments located in Riga city can earn yields ranging from 4.1% to 6.1%, according to research conducted by the Global Property Guide. Bigger apartments of around 120 sq. m. have lower yields as compared to smaller units. However Ober Haus’ figures are lower, with residential yields at the city centre averaging about 3.9% in 2021.

Round trip transaction costs are low to moderate in Latvia. See our Property transaction costs analysis for Latvia.

Latvia housing stock

Yet Latvia’s rental market remains poorly developed, according to a study published by the OECD. About two-thirds of the rental market consists mainly of Soviet-era housing and a third of the population live in overcrowded housing units. Only 12% of the country’s housing stock are offered as rental accommodations.

In May 2021, a new law on Lease of Dwelling Premises came into force, which regulates the relations between the tenant and the landlord of a dwelling – defining their rights, duties, and responsibilities, the grounds for termination of contract, and the basic terms of the lease agreement.

Interest rates expected to rise

The ECB key rate remained at its all-time low of zero in March 2021, unchanged since March 2016. But in its June 2022 meeting, the ECB unveiled a plan to raise the key rate by 25 basis points next month.

Looking further ahead, the Governing Council expects to raise the key ECB interest rates again in September.

As such, housing mortgage rates are expected to rise in the coming months.

Latvia interest rates

Housing mortgage rates for new loans, in April 2022:

  • Floating rate and up to 1 year initial rate fixation (IRF): 2.03%, down from 2.16% a year earlier
  • 1-5 years IRF: 10.45%, sharply up from 8.65% a year earlier
  • 5-10 years IRF: 8.37%, down from 9.1% a year earlier
  • Over 10 years IRF: 6.08%, up from 5.43% a year earlier

For outstanding loans, in April 2022:

  • Housing loans with maturity of up to 1 year: 3.22%, up from 2.89% a year earlier
  • Housing loans with maturity over 1 year and up to 5 years: 9.38%, slightly up from 9.22% a year earlier
  • Housing loans with maturity over 5 years: 2.24%, almost unchanged from 2.27% a year ago

Mortgage market remains weak

In 2021, the size of the mortgage market was equivalent to about 13.8% of GDP – sharply down from 36.3% of GDP in 2010. This indicates that the mortgage market has not yet truly recovered from the 2008-09 global financial crisis, despite the introduction of the state-guaranteed Mortgage Loan Programme in 2015, under which the Latvian Development Finance Institution (ALTUM) provides guarantees for mortgage loans, now totalling €118.1 million (US$143.7 million) benefitting 15,888 families with children, and €19.6 million (US$ 23.9 million) benefitting 2,016 young professionals.

Latvia housing loans

Yet financing and state support remain insufficient. About 44% of households are unable to qualify for the government’s financial assistance or meet mortgage requirements, the OECD study noted.

In April 2022, total outstanding housing loans rose by 8.4% to €4.59 billion (US$4.8 billion) from a year earlier, according to European Central Bank (ECB).

Apartment rents rising

In Riga, monthly rents for two-bedroom apartments in new developments in the Centre rose by 10% to €605 (US$632) during 2021, according to Latio. In the neighborhoods of Āgenskalns, Imanta and Ziepniekkalns situated at the left bank, rents for 2-BR apartments ranged from €430 (US$449) to €545 (US$569) per month. In the neighborhoods of Purvciems, Markavas, and Pļavnieki located in the right bank, rents in new projects ranged from €370 (US$386) to €430 (US$449) per month.

LONG-TERM RENTS IN TOP NEIGHBORHOODS & PROJECTS

IN RIGA, 2021 (EUR/month)

Neighborhoods Project Type 1-Room Apartment 2-Room Apartment
Āgenskalns Serial project 260 330
Unrenovated historical project 250 325
New project 300 545
Imanta Serial project 240 295
New project 360 460
Ziepniekkalns Serial project 235 300
New project 325 430
Centre Unrenovated pre-war time project 290 430
New project 365 605
Purvciems Serial project 240 305
New project 335 430
Maskavas Forstate Unrenovated historical project 215 305
Serial project 230 285
New project 255 370
Pļavnieki Serial project 240 305
New project 335 430
Source: Latio

In other major cities:

  • In Daugavpils, Latvia’s second most populous city next to Riga, the average apartment rent was €165 (US$172) per month.
  • In Jelgava, a city in central Latvia and considered as the country’s railway centre, apartment rents stood at €265 (US$277) per month.
  • In Liepāja, a port city on Latvia’s west coast known for its long Liepāja Beach, the average monthly rent for apartments was €225 (US$235).
  • In Valmiera, the largest city of the historical Vidzeme region, rents stood at €250 (US$261).
  • In Cēsis, a northeastern town known for its medieval castle, the average monthly rent stood at €235 (US$246) in 2021.
  • In Bauska, a town located in the Zemgale region of southern Latvia, apartment rents in serial projects averaged €185 (US$193) per month.
  • In Ventspils, a port city on the Baltic Sea, the average rent for apartments in serial projects was €175 (US$183) per month last year.
  • Rēzekne, situated on the eastern part of Latvia, has one of the lowest rents in the country, at just €170 (US$178) per month last year.

“Supply of both flats for sale and rentals is dominated by one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments in several cities in Latvia, although demand has shifted focus to larger space,” said Latio.

Latvia’s economy to slow, inflation surging

Latvia’s economy expanded by 4.5% in 2021, recovering from the 3.8% contraction it suffered in 2020 due to pandemic-related restrictions and lockdowns.

However, the outlook is now uncertain amidst heightened risks caused by the ongoing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with the European Commission (EC) repeatedly downgrading Latvia’s GDP growth forecast for this year. From a growth forecast of 5%, the EC reduced it to 4.4% and now to a much slower pace of just 2%. Likewise, the Bank of Latvia has also recently revised down its 2022 growth forecast to 1.8%, far lower than its previous estimate of a 4.2% expansion.

Latvia unemployment

“The Latvian economy will continue to grow, thanks to investments, services exports, and consumption,” said Valdis Dombrovskis, the Executive Vice-President of the European Commission. “However, given the negative economic impact of Russian aggression against Ukraine and related sanctions, Latvia´s GDP growth will slow down significantly. This impact will be felt both as exports decline and as energy and raw material prices rise.”

The country recorded a budget deficit of 7.3% of GDP in 2021, sharply up from shortfalls of 4.5% in 2020, 0.6% in 2019 and 0.8% in 2018, according to Eurostat. In fact, it was the biggest deficit since 2010.

The EC expects Latvia’s deficit to remain high at 7.2% of GDP this year before falling to 3% in 2023.

Latvia’s public debt reached 44.8% of GDP in 2021, up from 43.3% in 2020 and 36.7% in 2019. It was the biggest debt since 2009. The public debt is expected to increase further to about 47% of GDP this year, according to the European Commission.

Latvia infaltion rate

In Q1 2022, nationwide unemployment stood at 7.3%, up from 7.1% in the previous quarter but down from 7.5% a year earlier, according to the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia. This is still much lower than the country’s jobless rate from 2009 to 2012, which averaged 17.1%, falling to 8.9% from 2013 to 2021.

Inflation accelerated to 16.9% in May 2022, an acceleration from 2.6% in May 2021 and -0.6% two years ago. It was the highest level since June 2008.

On January 1, 2014, Latvia adopted the euro. Then in July 2016, the country officially became the 35th member of the prestigious OECD.


Sources:

New project 335 430 Maskavas Forstate Unrenovated historical project 215 305 Serial project 230 285 New project 255 370 Pļavnieki Serial project 240 305 New project 335 430 Source: Latio

In other major cities:

  • In Daugavpils, Latvia’s second most populous city next to Riga, the average apartment rent was €165 (US$172) per month.
  • In Jelgava, a city in central Latvia and considered as the country’s railway centre, apartment rents stood at €265 (US$277) per month.
  • In Liepāja, a port city on Latvia’s west coast known for its long Liepāja Beach, the average monthly rent for apartments was €225 (US$235).
  • In Valmiera, the largest city of the historical Vidzeme region, rents stood at €250 (US$261).
  • In Cēsis, a northeastern town known for its medieval castle, the average monthly rent stood at €235 (US$246) in 2021.
  • In Bauska, a town located in the Zemgale region of southern Latvia, apartment rents in serial projects averaged €185 (US$193) per month.
  • In Ventspils, a port city on the Baltic Sea, the average rent for apartments in serial projects was €175 (US$183) per month last year.
  • Rēzekne, situated on the eastern part of Latvia, has one of the lowest rents in the country, at just €170 (US$178) per month last year.

“Supply of both flats for sale and rentals is dominated by one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments in several cities in Latvia, although demand has shifted focus to larger space,” said Latio.

Latvia’s economy to slow, inflation surging

Latvia’s economy expanded by 4.5% in 2021, recovering from the 3.8% contraction it suffered in 2020 due to pandemic-related restrictions and lockdowns.

However, the outlook is now uncertain amidst heightened risks caused by the ongoing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with the European Commission (EC) repeatedly downgrading Latvia’s GDP growth forecast for this year. From a growth forecast of 5%, the EC reduced it to 4.4% and now to a much slower pace of just 2%. Likewise, the Bank of Latvia has also recently revised down its 2022 growth forecast to 1.8%, far lower than its previous estimate of a 4.2% expansion.

Latvia unemployment

“The Latvian economy will continue to grow, thanks to investments, services exports, and consumption,” said Valdis Dombrovskis, the Executive Vice-President of the European Commission. “However, given the negative economic impact of Russian aggression against Ukraine and related sanctions, Latvia´s GDP growth will slow down significantly. This impact will be felt both as exports decline and as energy and raw material prices rise.”

The country recorded a budget deficit of 7.3% of GDP in 2021, sharply up from shortfalls of 4.5% in 2020, 0.6% in 2019 and 0.8% in 2018, according to Eurostat. In fact, it was the biggest deficit since 2010.

The EC expects Latvia’s deficit to remain high at 7.2% of GDP this year before falling to 3% in 2023.

Latvia’s public debt reached 44.8% of GDP in 2021, up from 43.3% in 2020 and 36.7% in 2019. It was the biggest debt since 2009. The public debt is expected to increase further to about 47% of GDP this year, according to the European Commission.

Latvia infaltion rate

In Q1 2022, nationwide unemployment stood at 7.3%, up from 7.1% in the previous quarter but down from 7.5% a year earlier, according to the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia. This is still much lower than the country’s jobless rate from 2009 to 2012, which averaged 17.1%, falling to 8.9% from 2013 to 2021.

Inflation accelerated to 16.9% in May 2022, an acceleration from 2.6% in May 2021 and -0.6% two years ago. It was the highest level since June 2008.

On January 1, 2014, Latvia adopted the euro. Then in July 2016, the country officially became the 35th member of the prestigious OECD.


Sources:

 

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