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Swedes' high debts spark housing bubble fears

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09:04 CET+01:00
Swedes should brace for a downturn in housing prices in the face of overvalued homes and ballooning household debt, the head of Sweden's financial regulator has warned.

In an interview with the Bloomberg news agency, Martin Andersson, the head of Sweden's Financial Supervisory Authority (Finansinspektionen), expressed his concern about Swedes' mounting debts.

“Swedish households today are among the most indebted in Europe and we cannot have household lending that spirals out of control,” Andersson said.

One tool already in place to dampen the growth of Swedish household debt is a mortgage lending ceiling introduced in 2010 which caps the amount home buyers can borrow at 85 percent of the value of the property.

Another option cited by Andersson as a way to reign in mortgage lending is hiking risk weights bank place on mortgages, meaning they would need to have more capital to secure their mortgage loans.

Riksbank head Stefan Ingves has also suggested new rules that would require Swedes to pay down the principal on their mortgages, although Andersson refused to say whether his agency would consider such a rule.

Last year, Swedes' household debt hit a record 173 percent of disposable income, well above the 135 percent level during the height of Sweden's banking crisis in the early 1990s.

According to Sweden's National Housing Board (Boverket), Sweden is already in the midst of a housing bubble, with homes overvalued by around 20 percent.

As property prices have risen 25 percent since 2006, Andersson warned of a possible "downturn" in the Swedish housing market.

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“House prices cannot just continue upwards in eternity," he told Bloomberg.

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