600,000 more houses than households in Belgium

600,000 more houses than households in Belgium
Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Teresa J. Cleveland

In Belgium, there are about 5.8 million houses, around 600,000 more than there are households on paper, which has resulted in real house prices increasing more slowly.

In the last decade, 400,000 new houses were built in Belgium, whilst the population grew more slowly, as just 235,000 additional households were reported in the same period, meaning there are more houses than households in Belgium, according to figures that De Standaard requested from the National Bank (NBB).

The difference in new houses compared to households in 2011 and 2019 was much larger compared to the previous ten years when the increase was about the same: 460,000 new households and 466,000 new houses.

This surplus is mainly explained by an increasing number of people investing in real estate by buying second homes or flats to rent out, and irregularities in data, for example, when several families living under the same roof, but not advising the government.

According to the NBB, the reported increase in real estate investment was partly facilitated by the low interest rates, as borrowing money from the bank became extremely cheap.

"People are going to diversify their portfolio and invest in the real estate market, for example. We see that the number of owners with more than one home has increased quite strongly in recent years," said economist Geert Langenus from the NBB.

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This means the supply of housing in Belgium has increased much faster than demand over the past decade, and as a result, real house prices (without taking into account the influence of inflation) rose less quickly - just 7%.

"It sounds a bit strange but the consequence is that, without this effect, prices would have risen even faster than they are now. We think that has been an inhibiting factor on price growth over the past ten years," Langenus said.

However, since last year, especially as a result of the coronavirus crisis, house prices seem to be rising more strongly again, but according to Langenus, it is too early to draw conclusions from the 2020 data, as it was a unique year.

"In 2020, the average house sold was different from 2019. People bought a bigger house to be able to set up a home office, for example. More flats with terraces were also sold as a result of the various lockdown measures," Langenus added.

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