The Dangers Of A Housing Boom

Last year 700,000 new homes were built in Spain. A record number, and one which seems disproportionately high for Spains real future housing needs. In all likelihood the Spanish property market will one day crash, and prices drop considerably from their current highs. But what if they don’t? What if we ‘merely’ get a soft landing. This is a question the FT puts today in the US context, but what it says may be even more applicable to Spain. The economy is driven by the construction and property sector, simply slowing-up is going to have repercussions.

As property values have soared so has the level of interest in working in real estate. The number of realtors in the US has jumped by 45 per cent over the past four years to 1.1m, and many have left blue-chip companies or even delayed college to join the property jamboree. More joined the profession last year than at any time since records began in 1975.

Add in jobs in residential construction, furniture and DIY stores and mortgage finance, and the buoyant property market emerges as the main driver of employment growth over the past four years. Economy.com, the consultancy, estimates that about a third of the 2.6m jobs created in that period were in housing-related sectors.

This raises the question of what happens to these workers when the housing market cools.

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About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".