Business, Finance & Economics

Spain's real estate woes

For years Spaniards have joked that their national bird is the construction crane. These new apartment complexes, millions of which have been built across the country in recent years, have been up to now snatched up by buyers. This economist in Spain says for years housing was a lucrative place to put your money because Spain was relatively cheap and the population was growing and thanks to record low interest rates lots of people started taking out long term mortgages. This sparked a buying boom and Spain started over building he says. Today that over building is more evident than ever. There could be a million homes too many by the end of the year, so with high interest rates sales are dropping fast says this official. Construction has been one of the main motors of the Spanish economy for ten years now so a slow down is cause for worry. 132,000 people joined the jobless ranks last month, half of them in home related industries. Spain's Employment Minister said this January is one of the worst in recent history. The ripple effect is far reaching. Many real estate agencies have closed. This real estate official says he's selling half the number of apartments compared to a year ago. Dropping prices mean trouble for everyone who bought when the market was hot. All the more so because interest rates on mortgages have doubled since 2004 driving up monthly payments. The economist says massive foreclosures haven't yet begun but a crisis is imminent. He says the number of Spaniards reported to credit agencies rose by half a million last year. He expects that number will keep climbing.