The effects of the Corona virus pandemic on the real estate market 

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a global halt on all aspect of economic activities. Though, certain activities such as stock exchange trading, education and construction could wait for the virus spread to calm down; the basic things such as shelter, food and water must continue to be available for human sustenance.

The Covid-19 has shown some serious impact on the global real estate market and the Ghanaian market is no exception.  A look into the property rental market in Ghana has shown lots of transaction from the beginning of the year 2020 (according to our market data analytics.)  Globally, there is a pullback by buyers, which will eventually reduce the momentum in the real estate market, resulting in price falls.  In the Ghanaian contexts, the real estate market seems to be one of the few, where the principle of demand and supply does not work in some scenarios. For instance, property rental values are hardly reduced by the property owner’s and some properties can even be on the market for years without letting.

The Rental Perspective: Could Ghana’s real estate market be hit by the Covid-19 pandemic causing price drop?

The rental market in Ghana can be segregated into two main segments: the “dollar market” and the “cedi market”. Property owners in the cedi market insist on one or two-year payment in advance, which is not a practice in European market. Though, the main reason why property owners insist on one or two years rent in advance hovers around the tendency of people defaulting in payment and the depreciation of the cedi.

With the emergence of Covid-19, countries in the world have issued a statement making it a criminal offence for any property owner to demand rent for the next three months. Certainly, it is time for Ghana to take a critical look at how the Rent Act can be enforced.  The states, ability to enforce the Rent Act will be a great economic relief on Ghanaians. The “cedi rental market”, seems not to have suffered major liquidity challenge concerning rent payment since property owners have taken their rent in advance which is unlike the European markets. Currently, there may not be an immediate effect of Covid-19 on cedi property market as majority of them have taken rent in advance from tenants.

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Meanwhile in the “dollar rental market”, there are many factors that might affect the flow of business, as property owners accept a refundable security deposit and rental payments monthly. Property owners may have to give their tenants some moratorium on rent payments. Most tenants in this category are expatriates and due to the global pandemic, there has been a shutdown of most corporate headquarters which may cause a delay in expatriate’s rental payments. Property owners in this segments may need to make some concessions for their tenants, similar to the European markets.  The dollar property market is bound to see a decreasing trend with respect to rentals due to the closure of the Ghana’s airports, and travel restriction worldwide.  In a nutshell, the rental market including hotels and airbnb will have a huge hit due to spread of the virus.

Is this a good time to buy a property?

In these current circumstances, buyers who are in very secure jobs are actually in a strategic position to purchase a property because of the gradual market decline. The Covid-19 will reduce the buyer segments to those who are in a good financial standing to purchase. People who are also looking to buy houses on a mortgage will stand the risk of being affected, though policy rate has dropped it may not reflect in mortgage rates.

I am Looking to Sell. What do I need to know?

If you are a seller, you need to appreciate that things are going to be weaker. However, sellers who have flexibility to accept the prevailing market value could cut their losses and breakeven. In addition, individuals who are likely to default their mortgage payment would prefer to sell. It will be prudent for them to liquidate their property, pay off their mortgage instead of waiting for foreclosure of their properties.

I am a property investor. What do I need to know?

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The real estate market has been sluggish since 2008, and it is getting more difficult for the investor, for example, apartments are oversupplied at the moment and there have been some downward pressure on rents. Investors can benefit from the decline of the dollar, but that benefit is offset by declining market rent. The turnover will decline but there will still be new upcoming development into the market.

How will the Corona virus cause further risk in the property market?

The weakness that the Covid-19 is causing in the economy, will accentuate the downward pressure on rent on the “dollar” in the short term and that’s something investors need to consider. Most “expats” in the country are likely to leave to their home country when the Covid-19 fades. If prices drop, investors could be in a better position to buy (to create or add to an existing property portfolio) but that weakness in rents is a real factor and is unlikely to go away in the short run, as the supply of houses, apartments, townhouses, condo etc continues to rise steadily.

The Year 2020

2020 will, in many ways, be a hard year for the real estate market in Ghana and the world at large.  Talk of a recession; most aspects of the economy will suffer not leaving the real estate sector, which is major factor of production. While the big companies may not lay off a lot of people, a lot of SME’s are likely to face the prospects of low to no revenue after the Covid-19 pandemic. The financial capacity of small and medium sized business will be harshly affected. Most business occupying rental facilities, such as, restaurants and retail outlets may have no option but to reduce staff or close down for now. This will have a direct correlation on the real estate market not only the residential sector but all complimentary business as well.

The writer is a Real Estate Consultant

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