The 5th anniversary of the housing slump

by Alistair Helm in , ,


It was 5 years ago this week that in the UK the first cracks started to appear in what was then considered the bedrock of the financial markets, when it was revealed that Northern Rock had asked for help from the Bank of England. Within days queues were forming outside branches and the UK government was forced to guarantee deposits.

What began in the UK and yet was already underway beneath the surface in the US was a financial collapse of a scale never before witnessed in history, and whilst we can say that a great depression was in some way avoided by the collective skin-of-our teeth the impact ripples of the global financial crisis that followed has been felt in every corner of the globe and today, 5 years on many parts of the world still feel its impact.

Whilst the housing market was not the root cause of the crisis; it was without doubt a critical component, as without the construction of financial instruments built around mortgages the crisis may never have occurred or at least not risen to such heights.

It would take a whole year from the Northern Rock collapse before the world would witness the collapse of Lehman Brothers, but back in September 2007 the property bubble was about to burst. The run up to that point had seen property prices in many countries treble over a 15 year period. Putting together data from the main countries of interest in the chart below shows the consistency of this trebling from 1992 to 2007.

It is noticeable, the extent to which the NZ bubble outpaced the other countries, almost reaching prices 3.5 times what they were back in 1992.

From September 2007 property prices fell across all of these markets, and many other around the world. Some of the falls were more significant than others. The worst was felt in the US, falling a third from 2007 to 2009. The UK fell by 17%. NZ fell by 11%, whilst Australia hardly missed a beat before taking on a secondary spurt in prices to overtake NZ by 2010, although recent prices have eased back.

What is so clear from this comparable chart is the extent to which the NZ property market since 2007 has staged such a strong recovery, far outpacing the UK and the US to see prices now heading back to the pre-crash levels whilst both the UK and the US have experienced stagnant pricing.

Assessing the last 5 years in isolation as the chart below seeks to do shows the comparable performance across the 4 countries particularly well.