Estonian real estate developers increasingly cautious about projects

Parts of the Volta Quarter development in Tallinn's Kalamaja neighborhood are still under construction. August 27, 2023.
Parts of the Volta Quarter development in Tallinn's Kalamaja neighborhood are still under construction. August 27, 2023. Source: Aili Vahtla/ERR

Experts say the housing market is cooling, and builders are getting increasingly cautious. While developers aren't putting projects on hold, they are being selective about when to go ahead with new ones.

Estonian construction companies are building less and less. According to Statistics Estonia figures, Estonian companies' construction volumes fell by 12 percent on year. The number of new building permits issued hasn't been this low since the beginning of 2015.

Although building permit issuance has dropped off significantly, developers nonetheless still have a stash of existing permits ready to be implemented when the time is right, said real estate analyst Tõnu Toompark. When that might be is another matter, as the market is cooling.

"Residential property sales are down," Toompark said. "Why are they down? Because interest rates are high and consumer confidence is low. If new apartments aren't selling, then there's less need to build."

"This indicates that market participants nonetheless expect that the best times are not yet ahead for the economy," Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech) economist Tõnn Talpsepp explained.

Located at the northern end of Põhja-Tallinn's Kalamaja neighborhood, around a quarter of the 100,000 square meter Volta Quarter development has been completed to date, with years' worth of work still ahead. One-fifth of units in the most recently completed apartment buildings have yet to be sold.

"Everything in the market is interconnected," said Endover CEO Robert Laud. "If consumer confidence and demand decline, it can't be expected that we won't revise our plans."

Laud noted that Endover hasn't put any of its projects on hold. "We're keeping a close eye on the pace of sales, however, to see when it might be a good time to launch the next phase of some major development," he added.

Not far away from Volta, Manufaktuuri Quarter is currently being built around the old Sitsi cotton factory. In recent years, builders had more work there than they could keep up with, but that tempo is starting to slow, said Kristjan Mitt, member of the board at property developer Hepsor.

"If we look from here at how much more volumes may fall, then I dare say next year will be more difficult than this year," Mitt acknowledged. "Unfortunately, we can't do things so that if less bread is bought one day, then we produce less bread. We still have five- to seven-year cycles; we're trying to conduct long-term business."

However, neither analysts nor developers foresee a significant drop in real estate prices.

Both Hepsor and Endover are preparing their next stages of development; when construction on them may begin will be decided based on presales.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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