Dutch housing market: slowly but surely, more homes move into positive equity
- An estimated 165,000 households moved into positive equity last year
- Due to higher house prices and additional repayments
- The number of households with negative equity is forecast to return to the 2008 level by 2019
More households in positive equity due to higher prices and repayments
The recovery in the housing market is bringing more households into positive equity. In other words, more owner-occupied homes now have a value that is higher than the amount of the mortgage that they secure. Currently, around 900,000 households have a mortgage debt that is higher than the value of their property. Last year, this number was estimated at approximately 1.07 million. Compared to the first quarter of last year, the number of households with negative equity has fallen by around 15%, due to rising house prices and a reduction in mortgage debt. House prices in the first quarter of this year are up by 2.4% compared to the first quarter of 2014. In addition, homeowners made extra repayments and reduced their mortgage debt (Treur, 2015).
Households slowly but surely emerge from negative equity
In June 2014, we published an economic report describing the method we used to estimate the ability of households in a situation of negative equity to recover. We have now updated this estimate in the light of the current figures. Our base scenario for the medium to longer term is that house prices will rise on average by 2% and that the current trend of increased repayments by homeowners will continue. In this scenario, in 2019 the number of households in negative equity will be the same as before the crisis: around 450,000 households, or roughly 13% of homeowners (see table 1).
Relatively large group with small residual debt
Figure 1 shows the level of equity in owner-occupied households with a mortgage in the first quarter of 2015 throughout the Netherlands, amounting to 100%. The orange section shows the negative equity of households: in total 25%, and estimated at approximately EUR 45 billion. The blue section shows the households with positive equity: 75%, amounting to around EUR 620 billion. The orange peak at 4.9% shows that a large group of households have negative equity of between EUR 10,000 and EUR 20,000 (approximately 175,000 households). This group will thus return to positive equity given a relatively modest rise in house prices.
Larger price rises will help more households into positive equity
If we see a larger rise in house prices or additional mortgage repayments, the number of households with negative equity will of course fall faster. If house prices rise by 4% instead of 2%, a further 190,000 households or so would move into positive equity instead of 140,000. This would leave around 20% of households in a situation of negative equity (figure 2). This percentage will thus remain relatively high in the coming years, even if house prices rise faster than we expect.
 Note of course, that if house prices fall in the coming years (which we do not expect) then more households will fall into negative equity. Additional repayments will in this case probably not be enough to compensate for lower house prices.
Literature (Dutch only)
Vries, P. de (2014a). Herstelvermogens van huishoudens die onder water staan.
Vries, P. de (2014b). Onderwaarde en doorstroming op de woningmarkt.