A combination of Russian macro factors and local supply-demand developments mean that the upper-economy, comfort-class, and business-class segments in which we operate should see robust, sustainable growth for years to come. We are already among the leading players in both of these geographies, with a strong reputation as a reliable developer of high-quality housing. Etalon Group’s strategic aim is to leverage its strong position to deliver profitable and rapid growth in the years ahead.
There are four key factors that will drive demand in the MMA and St Petersburg residential real estate markets: urbanisation, better working conditions, access to financing and improving standards of living.
Historically, Moscow and St Petersburg have been Russia’s two main centres of economic activity. This has attracted migrants from other parts of the country and helped these cities grow faster than the Russian average, including in terms of the employed population. Population growth in Moscow and St Petersburg is significantly higher than the Russian average and above that of many major European cities as well. Moreover, the number of employed people has expanded at a higher rate than the overall population. This has helped keep unemployment rates in Russia’s two largest cities significantly below the national average and well below the levels seen in other European capitals.
Better working conditions
Our core geographies enjoy robust employment levels, which are well above the Russian average and above those in other major European cities. This indicates the potential for stronger, more sustainable demand compared to other markets. Among Russian population centres, Moscow and St Petersburg also enjoy higher average monthly salaries, with RUB 71.4 ths in Moscow and of RUB 48.7 ths in St Petersburg, while other regions of Russia average just RUB 37.7 ths.
Affordability and access to financing
Due to historically high interest rates, Russia’s mortgage market remains significantly underdeveloped compared to EU economies. In 2017, this situation began to change, as rates started to decline in line with the Russian Central Bank’s ongoing key rate reductions.
Mortgage rates declined throughout 2017, in line with decreases in the key rate. Unlike in 2015 and 2016, however, when the state subsidised banks to reduce mortgage rates, the decline in 2017 was organic due to a general reduction in rates in the economy and declining actual and expected inflation. As a result, mortgage rates fell by 2 percentage points by the end of the year to a record low of 9.79% in December 2017.
During the year, a record 1.09 million mortgage loans were issued (+27% year-on-year) worth a total of RUB 2 trillion (+37% year-on-year).
Russia’s Agency for Housing and Mortgage Lending (AHML) forecasts that 1.4 million mortgages worth RUB 2.8 trillion will be issued in 2018, and that the average rate will continue to fall, in line with the CBR key rate, possibly reaching the level of 8% in December 2018.
Improving standards of living
Moscow and St Petersburg have well-developed leisure infrastructure, with more than 300 museums and 100 theatres in the two cities. They are also home to 41 of Russia’s top 100 universities, and residents have access to high-quality medical services. This has helped to support an increase in the average lifespan to 74.9 and 77.08 years in St Petersburg and Moscow, respectively, compared to the Russian average of 73.07 years.
The Russian real estate development market has historically been highly fragmented, with only a small number of larger players controlling significant shares of the market. This is changing, though, as the biggest players have managed to consolidate the market, supported by many smaller players struggling to survive economic cycles, as well as regulatory changes that favour the market leaders. Over the years, the largest and most reliable players have also earned better reputations among customers, and they have developed internal know-how that gives them advantages over other players.
Significant potential for years to come
Looking ahead to 2022 and beyond, there is a strong case for new demand to develop faster than supply in our key markets. According to our forecast, due to the growing availability of mortgages, the demand for new housing for 2017–2022 will increase by 131.5 million square metres, with a planned supply of 63.8 million square metres for the same period.