On The New Mortgage Law Of Turkey

Since the new Turkish mortgage law passed on March 2007, the mortgage and real estate markets have continued their growing trends that are mainly driven by lower interest rates; however, this growth is probably just the tip of the iceberg.

The Turkish mortgage law that passed on March 2007 has two important properties that are expected to boom the mortgage and real estate markets in Turkey:

1) New mortgage products :
With the inclusion of the adjustable rate mortgage products, banks are able to transfer some of the economy related risks in their balance sheets to borrowers. In adjustable rate mortgage products, the interest rate is a sum of a fixed margin that is determined by the lender and a benchmark index that is set by Central Bank of Turkey. In May 2007, central bank decided that Consumer Price Index should be the benchmark index for the variable interest rate calculation. In summer of 2007, some banks started to offer various adjustable rate mortgages and these loans, as expected have lower APRs. However, as Central bank’s current records show there is almost no interest in these variable interest loans right now. This lack of interest is probably due to several factors such as: i) the lack of trust in Turkish economy and the fear of a substantial increase in the interest rates even though the economy has been performing fine in the last 5 years without any major crisis; ii) the recent mortgage crisis in the USA, and particularly, the rise in mortgage default rates in the USA and the fact that most of the increases in the defaults were in the sub prime market and adjustable rate mortgages; and, iii) the lack of understanding of the benefits and risks of these new products. We believe that these three reasons are temporary and in the near future, as people are educated about the risks and benefits of these new products and mortgage brokers fill the necessary knowledge gap, the interest in the products will increase.

2) Securitization of Loans :
About six months after the new mortgage law passed, Capital Markets Board of Turkey completed secondary legislations on mortgage covered bonds and mortgage backed securities. With this addition to the law, banks are now able to bundle the loans into securities and take them off their balance sheets. Covered mortgage bonds and mortgage backed securities are debt instruments secured by a covered pool of mortgage loans (or public-sector debt) to which investors have a preferential claim in case of default. These instruments are among the most liquid fixed income securities after the government bonds in Europe. While it is not expected to see the first securitization until early 2008, reduced risk for the banks will cause a significant and sustainable growth in the mortgage market in the coming years.

Expectations for the future

a)The secondary mortgage market will probably trigger a decrease in the interest rates as banks will be able to transfer their risks off their balance sheets and the ratings of the deals in the secondary mortgage market could be higher than Turkey’s sub-investment grade sovereign rating (this has been the case in similar cases).

b)With the secondary mortgage market’s effects, the banks’ competition growth will fuel an already booming housing market. Especially, when the monthly interest rates get closer to 1 percent per month, the volumes will be substantial, as they were earlier. Expected growth in the mortgage market is expected to mimic those in Spain and South Korea as these countries have followed similar paths as Turkey. Sizes of the mortgage market in Spain and South Korea GDP are 50 and 25 percent of the GDP respectively. So it is not inconceivable to expect that Turkey’s mortgage market may grow up to 30% to %40 percent of the GDP from its current share of less than 10%. Note that since Turkey has a very strong ownership culture, the ratio can be even higher.

c)Turkey’s new long term mortgage laws will increase the investment in Turkey. The new instruments that will be introduced with the securitized mortgages will increase the stability and depth of the financial system probably creating a natural cushion for any unexpected events and decreasing the volatility and avoiding the episodes of financial crises that were observed in 2001 and 1994.

d) Enhanced foreign investment in the property market will cause a boom in the property market. Also in addition to real estate market, as mortgages will need associated insurance, it is expected that insurance sector will be a big beneficiary of the new mortgage law.

e) The central bank will have more dominant place in the economy similar to the developed countries.

f)New law will help strengthen Turkey’s EU bid. The Turkish mortgage law will bring Turkey into line with the standards and practices expected from worldwide property purchasers and investors.

In addition to the tangible effects listed above, we expect that there will be very important intangible effects too. For example, in a country like Turkey where ‘future planning’ is measured with months (mostly because of the economic, financial and political crises), just the fact that people are now able to get a loan up to 30 years is an encouraging incident that will probably change the way people plan, invest, spend and save in the future. Since being able to plan for the future is one of the most important requirements of economic development, the additional foresight produced by the new mortgage law may be one of the biggest impacts of the new mortgage law in the long run.