It was decided to adapt the Flemish "woonbonus" last year, with the new version coming into force on 1 January. The woonbonus is the tax return people get when taking out a loan to buy real estate. This can amount to 1,500 euros per person per year, or even more. However, as a part of a cost-cutting measure, the Flemish government decided to reduce this fiscal bonus for house buyers.
The announcement triggered a rush to real estate last autumn. Experts were longing to see January's sales figures, as some feared a small crash could take place. Nothing of that kind happened, explains Bart Van Opstal, spokesman of notaris.be. In fact, the latest figures show that Flanders had a status-quo (+0.1%) compared to January 2014. "We thought that potential home buyers would have advanced their purchase last autumn, which could create a serious downfall in January. The real estate market continues as if nothing happened, though."
This could be explained by the fact that interest rates to take out a mortgage are very low (between 2 and 3 per cent). Bart Van Opstal thinks that the positive figures could also be explained by investors venturing out on the real estate market. Savings accounts hardly have any yield at present. This makes it more tempting for those with some extra savings to invest in real estate.
Wallonia posts excellent figures
Figures for the whole of Belgium show a plus of 2.7% on the year. This is mainly due to the excellent figures posted in Wallonia, where real estate transactions saw an 11% rise.
"Any rise over 10% is special and deserves particular attention", says Bart Van Opstal, who sees no immediate explanation for the change. "There was no change in tax regulations like in Belgium, or any other change."
It could be that more Flemish residents are buying a home in Wallonia, where prices are mainly lower. Brussels saw a 6% fall on the year for January.