Property prices still on the rise - BSP

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — It seems like the property boom is showing no signs of waning, with real estate prices rising by nearly 10 percent in the first quarter compared to a year ago, according to figures from a property price index released Monday by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

In the first-ever index of its kind, the central bank tracked property prices across the country to assess how the market is performing.

The BSP said that real estate prices saw an annual growth of 9.2 percent in the first quarter. Prices in the National Capital Region (NCR) grew at a faster 9.7 percent and areas just outside it, 9.4 percent.

Prices of condominium units increased the most, jumping 12.9 percent in the first quarter compared to last year. Coming in second were townhouses, with prices climbing 8.5 percent annually.

Condo units were the most common purchases in the NCR, the data showed. In areas outside the capital, consumers preferred single detached houses.

The BSP compiled the real estate price index by surveying 93 banks and the housing loans they approved from January to March.

NCR accounted for half of housing loans in the first quarter, while CALABARZON (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon), followed with more than a quarter of loans. Other key areas were Central Luzon (7.6 percent), Western Visayas (3.8 percent) and Central Visayas (3.3 percent).

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Bubble watch

The central bank watches the property market closely since it was ground zero for the Asian financial crisis in 1997 and more recently, the global financial crisis in 2008.

As economies grow and incomes rise, consumers tend to purchase property, both for their own use and for investment. The strong demand naturally pushes prices up, especially when the supply is limited.

However, the rise in prices also breeds speculation -- buyers snapping up properties in the belief that their values will just keep going up.

This pushes prices even higher -- to the point that the industry collapses, because their properties become unaffordable and buyers default on their housing loans.

BSP Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo assured this scenario is unlikely in the Philippines just yet.

Property prices are still moving in line with economic growth and consumer optimism, he explained. Underlying the rise in prices is actual demand for properties.

This is supported by information from real estate developers, Guinigundo added. Vacancy and occupancy rates are all low, indicating a strong market for the building frenzy.

Seller's market

For homeowners like Ging Galang, the steady rise in property prices means it's currently a seller's market.

When she put up her house for sale, she didn't think of earning a profit.

With the children grown up and moving out, Galang and her husband just wanted to look for a smaller place.

"My son got a job in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, so I thought maybe we could move there. After all, Metro Manila is very crowded already. We don't have a business, we don't have jobs. We don't have to suffer the traffic," she told CNN Philippines.

Galang didn’t have high expectations for the sale of her sprawling, 520-square-meter home in Quezon City since it wasn't near any of the business districts. She said she was hoping to sell the house within a year, but in just two weeks, she received two serious offers from buyers.

Real estate broker Yvette Poe said the property market has been on the up since 2010. While the national index showed property prices climbing 10 percent, Poe said in some pockets of Metro Manila, the increases went as high as 20 percent.

"Of course because the economy is good, there's more money to go around. And people are more confident to be buying homes," Poe said.

She added that it wasn't just the residential segment doing well, but commercial too. "The market is good in all aspects of real estate," she said.

The continued increase in property prices could intimidate potential homebuyers, especially first-timers, Poe said.

Those with a small budget could always adjust based on the size and location of their properties, she said. The risk in waiting is ending up buying properties when they get even more expensive, she added.

According to Poe, the appreciation of property values should assure and not scare off buyers.

"That is what it's showing: for people who have already purchased real estate, the appreciation is there. When they sell, they can sell for a lot more than what they bought it for," she said. "I feel that a buyer should, instead of wait to buy real estate, he should buy real estate and wait."