Notaries can't remember ever seeing anything like this. In a report published on the website of Belgian notaries (text in French), it seems that 2016 saw a record number of real estate transactions. Price trends for houses and apartments in the capital, districts that are riding high. We've taken the Brussels property market's temperature for you.
A real estate boom: Brussels brings the house down!
Real estate deals across Belgium up 8.5% in 2016. That's the biggest figure since the notaries' annual Barometer was launched in 2009. And Brussels is there in the thick of it: on its own, it saw a rise of 12.5%.
Bart Van Opstal at the notaire.be website says there are a number of explanations for the boom: 'Low interest rates are undeniably a key factor. They've made it easier for many young people to get started on the property ladder. Real estate has also attracted interest as an investment, in new forms like garages, hotel rooms or student halls. Our ageing population is also playing a role: older people are selling off their homes to buy apartments or some form of assisted accommodation, like service flats, old people's homes and homeshare schemes'.
Though prices are not rocketing, this property appetite has nonetheless pushed up the average price of a residential home in Brussels by 4.8%, from 435,033 to 455,824 euros. Brussels is therefore reaffirming its status as a capital in vogue.
At an average of 212,465 euros, apartment prices are up 3.6% in Belgium. In Brussels, the rise has stabilised at 3%, with the average price for an apartment now at 231,843 euros. This upward trend is mainly explained by the number of single persons and the ageing population, since the elderly are keener to live in apartments. Note that a three-bedroom apartment will generally set you back around 35% more than a two-bedroom one!
The north-south divide
The classic differences in allure that mark out the Brussels districts have in no way diminished in 2016: the south will cost you a premium. But Brussels City has not yet said its final word and there's one northern district that's starting to show form.
As far as houses are concerned, following a (serious) downturn in 2015, Brussels City is rebounding with vigour, and is up 47.6%. Why this yo-yo effect? It's probably due to the famed city-centre pedestrian, who initially worried prospective buyers but is said now to be a factor promising price appreciation. Elsene, beloved of expats, hauled itself up to second place in the rises (+21.7%). There then follow Ganshoren, the northern district that's on the ascendant (+21.7%), Vorst (11.4%) and Sint-Pieters-Woluwe (+9.3%). Koekelberg heads up the falls (-25.9%), followed by Ukkel (-9.6%), Ouderghem (-3.8%), Sint-Joost-ten-Node (-1.6%) and Etterbeek (-1.1%).
On the apartments side, Sint-Gillis takes gold (+15.3%), followed by Brussels (+13%), Ukkel (+8.7%), Elsene (+8%) and Schaarbeek (+6.7%). Down are Sint-Joost-ten-Node (-9.4%), Anderlecht (-5.2%), Koekelberg (-3.8%), Etterbeek (-1.9%) and Sint-Pieters-Woluwe (-1.2%).
The future lies in brick
Brussels property trends for 2017 are set to continue riding this same wave. To the unchanging, very low interest rate should be added the positive effect that the reduction in stamp duty is having, now at 175,000 euros (to offset repeal of the housing bonus). This lowers the notarial fees by about 22,000 euros. There should therefore still be plenty of prospective buyers waiting to descend on the capital.
More about the new 2017 rules regarding the reduction in stamp duty? Read our article about Housing grants and allowances in Brussels.