Home sales returned to sharp declines in March, after the isolated rebound in February that served to break an entire year of declines. In total, 44,878 homes were transferred, which represents a drop of 19.3% year-on-year and the worst figure of the year, according to data published this Thursday by the National Institute of Statistics (INE). The comparison with a positive previous year, the lack of stock or the impact of Easter affect, say real estate experts.

The drop is pronounced “because March 2023 represented the third best month of 2023, with more than 55,000 operations, when the mortgage tightening caused the opposite effect and fueled purchase demand,” says María Matos, Director of Studies at Fotocasa. . The expert sees a positive tone in any case, since demand remains “at maximum” despite high rates.

The General Council of the Official Associations of Real Estate Agents of Spain believes that the March data will surely be the worst in 2024, and that in the coming months the trend will reverse again. In fact, Ferran Font, director of studies at Pisos.com, expects a “significant” increase in April data. This year Easter fell in March, which may have helped the decline in operations.

The second-hand market continues to be the driving force of the sector, with 35,961 homes sold. They are 80% of the properties that change ownership. In any case, they also suffer a notable drop of 20.5% compared to last year. New housing moved 8,917 properties, 14% less.

“The sharp drop has been surprising due to its intensity, although it is consistent with the increasingly lower supply available in the market,” says Francisco Iñareta, spokesperson for idealista, who believes that the drop may be related more to the lack of stock than to the increase in mortgage prices.

The decline was general: only Navarra escaped the falls, rising 38% to 706 homes, and Cantabria (3.5% to 687 homes). The largest decreases occurred in the Balearic Islands (-39% and 866 homes), Castilla y León (-30%, 1,788 homes) and Extremadura (-29%, 699 homes). In the main markets the falls were also double digits, with Catalonia (-22.5%, 6,802), Andalusia (-22%, 8,805), Valencian Community (-18.4%, 7,423) or Madrid (-11% , 5,944) as a sample.

The first quarter closed with a 5.6% drop in sales, with some 152,000 signatures, according to Fotocasa. Rather than talking about a “collapse” or “slowdown,” they point out that it is “a return to normality after the boom in activity in previous years.” “We are witnessing a behavior towards stabilization in the first half and a probable greater activity for the second half driven by the de-escalation of interest rates,” comments Matos. “The rate increases have not frozen latent demand, but are affecting the excess demand that has arisen,” he assures.

“It will be very interesting to closely monitor the upcoming statistics to see if the depth of this decline is maintained or if it is a blip and continues to trend towards stability,” warns Iñareta.