Real estate: Rebuilding a house of cards
In 2008, Russia’s property developers were hit by a brutal mix of fast-shrinking funding options and falling customer demand, sending equity valuations into a tailspin. Guy Norton reports from Moscow on the prospects for recovery.
ALWAYS READ THE small print. It’s one of the cardinal rules of any successful investment strategy but seemingly one that was widely ignored when it came to the Russian real estate market. In the pre-credit-crunch period, investors snapped up billions of dollars-worth of stock in initial public offerings from the sector in the belief that demand and prices for real estate in Russia were heading in one direction only – to infinity and beyond. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, that highly optimistic belief in the sector’s prospects looks sadly misplaced. Financing for developers and their customers has all but dried up, with the result that prices for commercial and residential real estate are already down 30% to 50% over the past 12 months and still trending lower.
Although real estate sector indices across the globe were all sharply down over the past 12 months, nowhere comes close to Russia for value destruction. While the Global Property Research emerging markets real estate index registered a 40% fall in the year to the end of March, Russia was the worst performer of any large economy, falling by 95%.