North Macedonia’s house prices continue to grow, albeit at a much slower pace

North Macedonia’s house price growth is decelerating, amidst higher interest rates and modest economic growth. 

During the fourth quarter of 2023, the nationwide house price index rose by 6.97%, sharply down from y-o-y increases of 11% in Q3, 12.97% in Q2, and 18.85%, according to the National Bank of the Republic of North Macedonia, the country’s central bank. House prices had been increasing by double-digit figures in the past eight consecutive quarters and reached a 14-year high growth of 21.25% in Q3 2022.

North Macedonia’s house price annual change

When adjusted for inflation, house price growth is much more muted, increasing by just a modest 3.09% in Q4 2023 from a year earlier.

Quarter-on-quarter, nationwide house prices were up by an average of 1.01% in Q4 2023 (2.93% inflation-adjusted) – its thirteenth straight quarter of q-o-q growth.

The government’s decision to officially change the country’s name from “Macedonia” to “North Macedonia” under the name deal with Greece in 2019 solved the long-standing dispute between the neighboring countries and opened the way for NATO and EU integration. North Macedonia became an official member state of NATO on March 27, 2020, and its EU accession talks have finally begun.

The housing market, which has been sluggish since the global financial crisis, is one of the major beneficiaries.

Year Nominal Inflation-adjusted
2007 10.82 5.26
2008 24.95 19.10
2009 -7.91 -6.92
2010 6.91 3.78
2011 -1.51 -3.55
2012 -3.94 -6.61
2013 -3.09 -4.89
2014 -0.99 -0.76
2015 1.12 1.47
2016 1.30 1.12
2017 0.04 -3.31
2018 1.62 0.07
2019 3.53 3.72
2020 1.77 -1.29
2021 11.25 6.09
2022 20.74 2.52
2023 6.97 3.09
Sources: National Bank of the Republic of North Macedonia, Global Property Guide

After house price rises of 10.8% (5.3% inflation-adjusted) in 2007 and 25% (19.1% inflation-adjusted) in 2008, Macedonia’s housing market has shown unimpressive performance since, mainly due to the global financial meltdown, the problems with neighboring Greece, and its extended political crisis exacerbating the situation. The housing market showed significant improvements just recently, with house prices rising strongly by 11.25% in 2021 and by another 20.74% in 2022, buoyed by strong property demand both from local and foreign homebuyers. The nationwide house price growth of 7% during 2023 remains robust when compared to its sluggish performance in the previous years.

Foreign individuals can freely buy apartments and buildings, subject to the reciprocity rule and approval from the Ministry of Justice.

Foreign citizens and companies can directly own land for construction in Macedonia, under the Law on Construction Land adopted in 2008. Under the law, the construction land is sold through a public tender procedure. Also, foreign individuals and companies can lease land for up to 99 years through a public bidding process.

During 2023, North Macedonia’s economy expanded by a modest 2.5% from a year earlier, following annual expansions of 2.1% in 2022 and 3.9% in 2021 and a contraction of 4.7% in 2020, based on figures from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The economy is expected to grow by 3.2% this year and by another 3.5% in 2025.

Though by European standards North Macedonia is a poor country, with a total population of about 2.1 million people and a GDP per capita of US$7,700 in 2023. Corruption is rife. There is much emigration. A large proportion of the population lives in poverty, especially ethnic Albanians who are simultaneously derided as “lazy” and discriminated against.

House price variations

Currently, the average dwelling price in North Macedonia is MKD 60,600 (EUR 985) per square meter (sq. m.). According to Immigrant Invest, the average price of a 100 sq. m. apartment increased to MKD6.05 million (EUR98,370), from MKD4.68 million (EUR 76,100) five years ago.

By location:

  • In Skopje, the average price of a three-bedroom apartment is about MKD 6.15 million (EUR 100,000). In the city center, the same apartment costs MKD 11.69 million (EUR 190,000).
  • In Ohrid, a three-bedroom apartment is sold for around MKD 4.31 million (EUR 70,000).
  • House prices in other parts of Macedonia are around 25% lower than the national average, at MKD 4.61 million (US$75,000).

Residential construction activity increasing again

During 2023, the total number of dwellings for which building permits were issued in North Macedonia increased by 12.3% y-o-y to 7,865 units, according to the State Statistical Office. This followed an annual contraction of 41.4% in 2022 and growth of 92.4% in 2021 and 3.7% in 2020.

Vardar registered the biggest y-o-y growth in the number of dwellings with issued permits of 79.4% in 2023, followed by Southwest (66.3%), Southeast (55.3%), Skopje (23.8%), and the East (18.1%).

In contrast, the Northeast saw the biggest annual decline of 70.6%, followed by Polog (-53.3%), and Pelagonija (-14.7%).

North Macedonia Dwelling Permits graph

Skopje, the capital, accounted for more than 39% share of all residential construction activity in the country last year.

From 2010 to 2022, there were an average of 3,050 building permits issued annually in North Macedonia. Over the same period, the average number of residential dwelling permits was 6,900 units while completed dwellings averaged 5,700 units every year.

During 2023, there were 3,932 building permits issued, nearly unchanged from a year earlier, based on figures from the State Statistical Office.

North Macedonia Completed Dwellings graph

Mortgage interest rates increasing gradually

The National Bank of the Republic of North Macedonia kept its key interest rate unchanged at 6.3% in March 2024, following fourteen consecutive rate hikes, in an effort to rein in inflationary pressures. Since April 2022, the key rate has raised by a cumulative 505 basis points.

The interest rates on overnight and 7-day deposit facilities were also kept unchanged at 4.2% and 4.25%, respectively.

“The current level of interest rates, together with the changes in reserve requirement and macro-prudential measures taken, are expected to contribute to further slowdown in inflation and maintaining of the exchange rate stability,” said the central bank.

“In conditions of favorable foreign exchange market, when deciding to maintain the current monetary policy setup, the main emphasis was placed on the need for inflation stabilization to the record low levels and long-term inflation expectations, bearing in mind the risks. In February 2024, domestic inflation decelerated and reduced to 3% annually, amid significantly reduced pressure from food and energy, as well as lower price pressures from less volatile categories, in line with the monetary measures taken,” the central bank added.

With this, mortgage interest rates are gradually increasing. In January 2024, the average interest rate for new denar-denominated housing loans was 3.84%, up slightly from 3.44% in the previous year and 3.27% two years ago, according to the central bank.

By initial rate fixation (IRF):

  • Floating rate, or up to 1-year IRF: 3.92%, unchanged from a year ago but up from 3.37% two years earlier
  • 1-5 years IRF: 3.65%, up from 3.23% a year earlier and 3.16% two years ago
  • 5-10 years IRF: 3.92%, up from 3.22% a year ago and 3.28% two years earlier
  • Over 10 years IRF: 3.77%, higher than the 3.4% in the previous year and 3.35% two years ago

On the other hand, the average interest rate for new euro-denominated housing loans stood at 3.95% in January 2024, up from 3.46% in January 2023 and 3.14% in January 2022. Over the same period:

  • Floating rate or up to 1-year IRF: 3.77%, down from 6% in the previous year and 4.85% two years ago
  • 1-5 years IRF: 6.44%, sharply up from 3.54% a year earlier and 3.84% two years ago
  • 5-10 years IRF: 4.37%, up from 3.31% in the previous year and 3.2% in the past two years

On the other hand, interest rates for outstanding housing loans are more or less steady. In January 2024, the average interest for denar-denominated housing loans was 4.14%, slightly up from 4.08% in the previous year. Over the same period, the average interest rate for euro-denominated loans was 4.23%, slightly down from 4.3%.

North Macedonia Mortgage Interest Rates graph

Mortgage market growth decelerating

During 2023, loans for house purchases increased 10.5% y-o-y to MKD 83.89 billion (EUR 1.36 billion), a slowdown from annual expansions of 12.7% in 2022, 15.5% in 2021, 13.6% in 2020, 12.7% in 2019 and 15.2% in 2018, according to the National Bank of the Republic of North Macedonia. It was the lowest growth recorded in fifteen years.

North Macedonia Housing Loans graph

About 92% were denominated in foreign currency while the remaining 8% were in domestic currency.

In January 2024:

  • Denar-denominated housing loans fell by 14% to MKD 6.61 billion (EUR 107.44 million).
  • Foreign currency-denominated housing loans rose by 13.2% y-o-y to MKD 77.56 billion (EUR 1.26 million).

From 2010 to 2023, the total value of housing loans rose by an annual average of 13.5%. As a result, the mortgage market expanded to more than 9.4% of GDP in 2023, more than double its size a decade ago. Yet it remains very low when compared to international standards.

North Macedonia Housing Loans Outstanding graph

Rental yields are moderate to good

Gross rental yields on apartments in North Macedonia are moderately good at an average of 6% in Q1 2024, according to a Global Property Guide research conducted in February 2024.

In Q1 2024:

  • In Skopje, apartments offer rental yields ranging from 4.12% to 6.67%, with a city average of 5.37%.
  • In Bitola, gross rental yields for apartments are higher, ranging from 5.41% to 7.32%, with a city average of 6.63%.
  • In Štip, rental yields range from 6.17% to 6.32% in Q1 2024, with a city average of 6.25%.

Two-bedroom apartments in Skopje can be rented out for around MKD 21,500 (EUR 350) per month, according to Global Property Guide.

There is no rent control in North Macedonia; rent is determined by the market.

Modest economic performance; easing inflation

During 2023, North Macedonia’s economy expanded by a modest 2.5% from a year earlier, following annual expansions of 2.1% in 2022 and 3.9% in 2021 and a contraction of 4.7% in 2020, based on figures from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“Growth is expected to moderately accelerate in the medium term led by the rise in public investments, recovered consumption and exports, before slowing towards the potential growth trend thereafter,” said the World Bank.

“While underlying risks remain largely skewed to the downside and reflect the outlook for the country’s main trading partners, moving ahead with EU accession negotiations may accelerate critical reforms and unlock growth. However, heightened political uncertainty and a prolonged parliamentary impasse due to lack of consensus for constitutional changes and upcoming elections may delay reform implementation,” the World Bank added.

The economy is expected to grow by 3.2% this year and by another 3.5% in 2025, based on IMF projections.

North Macedonia GDP Growth and Inflation graph

Inflation eased to 3% in February 2024, sharply down from 16.7% in the same period last year and the lowest level since June 2021, according to the State Statistical Office. Inflation reached a record high of 19.8% in October 2022. Yet the current level of inflation remains far higher than the annual average inflation rate of just 1.6% registered from 2011 to 2021.

Unemployment continues to fall, although it remains very high by international standards. In Q4 2023, the nationwide unemployment rate stood at 13%, down from 14.3% a year earlier and 15.2% two years ago.

North Macedonia had a total labor force of 790,440 people in Q4 2023, 102,980 of whom were unemployed.

The jobless rate averaged 16.4% in 2018-23, a sharp improvement from an annual average of 25.8% in 2013-17 and 33.6% in 2000-12.

North Macedonia Unemployment Percentage graph

North Macedonia is now a NATO member state; EU accession talks began

In recent years the country has been in a state of continuous crisis, after then Macedonian opposition leader, Zoran Zaev, released what he has called information “bombs” against the government.

Zaev accused the former government of systematically wiretapping all important people in the country and released a series of allegedly wiretapped conversations of the then-prime minister, Nikola Gruevski, the head of the secret service, and other senior officials, in which they apparently discussed interference in the judiciary, media and urban-planning process.

Zaev claimed that the elections of April 2014, in which the ruling conservative VMRO-DPMNE party of Gruevski defeated Zaev’s ex-communist Social Democrats (SDSM), were fraudulent and has accused Gruevski of operating a dictatorship. Zaev’s party tends to represent ethnic Albanians.

Gruevski, who had been prime minister since 2006, resigned in January 2016 to pave the way for early elections, initially scheduled for February before being postponed until June 5, and finally to December 2016. A highly controversial presidential amnesty for 56 of those subject of investigations into the alleged wiretappings was issued by then president Gjorge Ivanov, with the obvious intention of aborting the judicial investigations and hiding any evidence.

Mass protests erupted in Skopje. Zaev and 10 other politicians who have received amnesties have refused them, and foreign institutions have condemned them.

The December 2016 general elections failed to produce an outright winner and months of tension over the formation of a new government ensued. Finally, in May 2017, a new government was formed, with Zoran Zaev as the country’s new prime minister. Zaev promised to boost the economy, address political divisions and tense relations between ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians in the country, and finally resolve the country’s dispute with Greece over its name – a vital step for Euro-Atlantic integration.

A dispute with Greece over Macedonia’s name had blocked the country’s accession to the European Union (EU) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). However, the change of government has changed the picture, with Zaev indicating Macedonia’s willingness to compromise to resolve the issue. PM Zaev also announced that Skopje’s airport will no longer bear the name Alexander the Great nor will the motorway leading to Greece, which now be called Friendship Highway.

Then in June 2018, the government decided to enter into a new agreement with Greece – officially changing its name from “Macedonia” to “North Macedonia” to resolve the decades-long name dispute, paving the way for the country to start accession talks with NATO and the EU. In 2019, the name change came into force after ratifications by Greek and Macedonian parliaments.

During the 2019 presidential election, Stevo Pendarovski of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia and the Democratic Union for Integration defeated the nationalist candidate Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova.

North Macedonia signed the NATO accession agreement in 2019 and on March 27, 2020, became an official member state.

Then in July 2022, North Macedonia’s parliament accepted a French proposal aimed at settling its dispute with Bulgaria and clearing the way to long-overdue EU membership talks. In the past years, Bulgaria has been blocking North Macedonia’s efforts to join the EU, accusing it of disrespecting historical and cultural ties. To remove Bulgaria’s veto against North Macedonia’s accession talks, they have made several demands, including the acceptance that the language of North Macedonia is derived from Bulgarian and the recognition of a Bulgarian minority in the country, which requires an amendment to the Macedonian Constitution.

Parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held on May 8, 2024, potentially alongside a second round of presidential elections, if a run-off is required.