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The "Mortgage Equity Withdrawal" transmission belt is direct from housing wealth to consumption, but only relevant to the anglo world. Everybody in France seems to understand it is insane, except Sarkozy (who is pushing for it with other's money, and has now made it legally "available", but nobody would use it anyway). There is still a real but less efficient "psychological" transmission belt (like: your saving rate gets down to zero if you feel your house is already saving for you).

I think the difference in house prices between France and Germany boils down to one very simple fundamental: demographics. France is in a mini baby-boom, whereas Germany is plainly dying in the nursing home. The same kind of fundamental will drive the long-term recovery of other markets, like Ireland (OK long term), or Spain (no kids, will crash forever once the retired britons are forced to pull back with there pound-denominated pension slashed 30% by the coming pound crash)

Pierre

by Pierre on Mon Dec 3rd, 2007 at 10:26:03 AM EST
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your saving rate gets down to zero if you feel your house is already saving for you

Yes, there could be a "wealth effect". But one would expect it to bring down the savings rate, which hasn't happened in France. It is somewhere between 15 and 16%, as it was in 1999 before the boom. There was an uptick in 2001, 2002, then an easing off, but no really significant fall.

In fact, this can fit with my point above: as the grasshoppers spend (because they have made money on the boom), the ants save (because they are faced with a rising barrier of house prices and feel forced to save yet more).

Your demographic point offers an at least partial explanation for increased domestic consumption because the demand for new housing is (still) high and the building industry is at full stretch, creating jobs. (Quand le bâtiment va...) However, if credit doesn't follow, new housing will slow down and construction workers get laid off. From anecdotal local evidence, I know that demand for new housing is stymied by difficult credit conditions, and builders' order-books are emptying.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Dec 3rd, 2007 at 11:45:58 AM EST
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It's not just that.

I believe that Germany has a much higher proportion of rented property than anywhere else and that Germans are quite happy with that.

We have seen quite a few "locusts" catching a cold by buying up thousands of German properties, thinking they could bring in the joys of mortgage slavery, and thereby turn a nice profit, only to find that most tenants are quite happy with the way things are...

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon Dec 3rd, 2007 at 12:44:50 PM EST
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