Real estate: the authorities’ bet to make access to credit more fluid

In exceptional circumstances, exceptional measures. After resisting multiple demands from banks and brokers, the Banque de France officially confirmed on Friday that the usury rate would be raised every month from 1er February to 1er July, and no longer every quarter.

This a small revolution that should make the mortgage market more fluid, but could also lead to a sharper acceleration in rates. Since 1er January, this all-inclusive rate beyond which banks are not allowed to lend amounts to 3.57% for loans over twenty years.

Good news for brokers

“The monthly updating of the wear rate from the 1er February is excellent news,” rejoices Cécile Roquelaure, Director of Studies at Empruntis. “Banks will be able to price credit at its fair price, and therefore start lending again or lend more. Better a credit a little more expensive but a credit! »

” [Cela] will make it possible to unlock the granting of credit and to have a wider window of opportunity to obtain loan agreements, according to Julie Bachet, general manager of Vousfinancer. However, this risks contributing to the acceleration of the rise in credit rates, which could reach 4% over 20 years as of this summer. »

Access to the property

In December, the average rate for housing loans was 2.04%, according to the Banque de France. A level clearly lower than those observed elsewhere in Europe, precisely thanks to the rate of wear which acts as a brake. A brake that was sometimes too rigid, which excluded certain clientele and created jolts, with files released only after the quarterly increase in the rate of wear and tear…

“With a monthly increase in the wear rate, we will be able to pass on at least part of the increase in our refinancing costs and avoid refusing customers,” adds a banker. That’s the whole problem: the banks are closely dependent on the key rates of the European Central Bank (ECB) to refinance themselves. And these went from 0 to 2.5% between the beginning and the end of 2022.

“Access to credit is at the heart of our social pact in that it allows access to the property, rejoiced Bruno Le Maire on Friday evening, who will take a decree next week allowing this monthly payment. As Minister of Finance, my duty is to ensure that the usury rate makes it possible to protect without excluding borrowers from access to credit. »

For the Banque de France, which wants at all costs to avoid a spiral of household over-indebtedness, this derogation is the lesser evil. “There were various requests on the rate of wear, which would have required fundamental changes such as its temporary suspension or the replacement of its formula, explains to ‘Echos’ the governor of the Banque de France, François Villeroy de Galhau. We do none of that. »

Measure which is not intended to be extended

The governor, who jointly conducted with the Treasury a broad consultation of banks, consumer credit companies and brokers, prefers to speak of an “intelligent technical adjustment”. But for him, it is indeed a temporary measure. “We have every reason to think that after a few months, we will return to more measured changes in rates”, explained François Villeroy de Galhau, specifying that these were indeed exceptional measures which had not intended to be extended.

Now that the rate of wear should stick more closely to the reality of the market, it remains to be seen whether borrowers are not likely to find themselves blocked by their level of indebtedness, defined by the criteria of the High Council for Financial Stability (HCSF). Indeed, with high real estate prices and rates rising more quickly, their level of debt could quickly become a problem again, brokers believe.

“We will not touch the HCSF criteria, already warns the governor of the Banque de France. They have worked very well since they became mandatory in early 2022, and they have, as advertised, made credit more secure, without making it more scarce. It is not when interest rates are rising that we should risk putting households in a situation of over-indebtedness. »

A shift in numbers that is starting to pose a problem

If the Banque de France stresses that 2022 should be an exceptional year in terms of the production of mortgage loans, it will undoubtedly be down 3% compared to the record year of 2021. However, it notes a “normalization” in the last quarter.

For its part, the CSA Credit Housing Observatory speaks of a fall in credit production of 20% over 2022 and even evokes a collapse of 44% in the last quarter, compared to the same period in 2021. Either the strongest falling since the 2008 crisis.

A difference related to the scope of data collection: the Banque de France collects figures from all banks while Crédit Logement mainly takes into account commercial banks, and not mutualists such as Crédit Agricole or Banque Populaire.

“We can only deplore the lack of alignment between observers which prevents the emergence of a consensus on the financing conditions of the real estate market”, comments Pierre Chapon, the founder of Pretto. “When will this battle of numbers end? he wonders.

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