A serious and historic slowdown has gripped Iran’s residential real-estate market, with nationwide sales down 55 percent this month compared with the same period last year.
Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency says nationwide sales from September 21-October 6 were 16,400 units, a huge drop from the previous year when around 35,000 units were sold in the same period.
The main reasons for the drop is a deep economic recession and high inflation, which have affected the middle class, especially people on fixed incomes and salaries. They simply spend their money on bare necessities and are priced out of the market for buying an apartment. Some can barely afford rising rents, especially that in Iran owners demand extra cash for signing a rental agreement.
But oddly, high prices are also a reason why those buyers who have the money sit on the fence and wait to see a more reasonable market. Prices have risen anywhere from 70-200 percent in the last 18 months.
If there is an economic recession, why have prices gone up? The reason for this is a steep devaluation of the local currency. The rial has lost its value against the U.S. dollar and other major currencies fourfold since February 2018, mainly as a result of crippling American sanctions.
Owners of homes and apartments think of asking prices for their properties in terms of dollars, not the local currency. Therefore, prices owners demand easily double and triple. In fact, calculated in dollars, real estate prices have not risen at all. One square meter in Tehran goes for an average price of $1,200 or $110 per square foot. This is much lower than in other capital cities in the world.
But people with fixed incomes are not earning dollars to be able to afford the higher prices. In short, a combination of high prices in local currency and lack of jobs and higher incomes have pushed sales down.
However, prices seem to be slowly declining, as those owners who need to sell are ready to bargain. There are also buyers with ready cash who want to take advantage if the price is right. For them, it is a strategy to protect their capital in Iranian currency from further devaluation - invest in real estate.
In the last 30 days, sales in Tehran have improved by 25 percent, according to ISNA and real-estate agents who have spoken with local media. This might signal a better balance between demand and supply as prices have edged lower. But still the volume of sales remains much lower than last year and a fraction of what it was in 2017, before U.S. sanctions.