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9 ways SA’s property market affects the economy – and vice versa

A country's real estate market plays a significant role in its overall economy. Picture: Michael Tuszynski/Pexels

A country's real estate market plays a significant role in its overall economy. Picture: Michael Tuszynski/Pexels

Published Sep 12, 2023


The health of a country’s property market does not only reflect the state of its economy, but the market itself contributes to economic growth.

So when South Africa’s property market is thriving, the knock-on effects on the economy will be positive; similarly, if the country’s economy is doing well, more people will buy property.

A country's real estate market plays a significant role in its overall economy, and the relationship between the two is complex and multifaceted.

Read our latest Property360 digital magazine below

The profound impact that the property market can have on the economy is through its influence on consumer spending, job creation, government revenue, investment, and financial stability. However, the relationship is not one-sided as economic factors such as interest rates, employment, and overall economic health can also influence the real estate market.

Therefore, real estate and the broader economy are interdependent, and changes in one can ripple through to affect the other.

These are some ways in which our country's real estate market can affect its economy:

1. Wealth effect

Rising real estate prices can make homeowners feel wealthier, leading to increased consumer spending. When people perceive that the value of their homes is increasing, they may be more inclined to borrow against their homes' equity or spend more on goods and services, thereby stimulating economic growth.

2. Construction and development

The real estate sector is a major driver of economic activity. Construction, in particular, is a labour-intensive industry that creates jobs for a variety of skilled and unskilled workers. When the property market is robust, there is a higher demand for construction, which, in turn, boosts employment and income levels.

3. Investment and financing

Real estate is a significant investment asset for individuals and institutions. Changes in real estate values can impact the wealth and financial stability of investors, including pension funds, banks, and individuals who have invested in real estate. In addition, the availability of financing for property transactions, such as mortgages, can affect overall liquidity in the financial system.

4. Government revenue

Property taxes, transfer taxes, and other fees related to property transactions contribute to government revenue. A strong real estate market can lead to increased tax revenue for local and national governments, which can be used for public services and infrastructure development.

5. Consumer confidence

The health of the real estate market can influence consumer confidence. When property values are rising, people tend to feel more optimistic about their financial future, which can lead to increased spending and investment in other sectors of the economy.

6. Home loan market and interest rates

Real estate markets can influence monetary policy decisions as central banks may adjust interest rates in response to developments in the housing market. For example, a housing bubble with rapidly rising prices might prompt the South African Reserve Banks to raise interest rates to cool down the market and prevent excessive borrowing.

7. Housing market cycles

Real estate markets are subject to cycles of boom and bust. During a boom, there is often a surge in economic activity, but a bust can lead to a slowdown or recession. The 2008 financial crisis, which was triggered by the collapse of the US housing market, is a stark example of how a real estate market downturn can have global economic repercussions.

8. Consumer debt levels

High levels of home loan debt can make households vulnerable to economic shocks. A collapse in real estate prices can lead to defaults on bond repayments, which can have cascading effects on the broader financial system and economy.

9. Housing as an economic indicator

Real estate market trends can serve as an economic indicator. A declining property market may signal economic trouble, while a robust market can indicate economic growth.

IOL Business