PROPERTY prices increased slightly in the last three months of 2018, marking the smallest increment in over a year.

The latest residential real estate price index (RREPI) of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) showed that home prices edged up just 0.5% in the fourth quarter, coming from the 4.4% pace recorded in July-September and the 5.7% climb seen a year ago.

Townhouses and condominium units led price increases during the period, while the price tags for duplex and single-detached homes even slipped compared to the previous year.

The RREPI measures the average change in home prices across building types and locations, allowing the central bank to closely monitor the real estate market and detect potential bubbles.

The BSP currently limits a bank’s real estate exposure to 20% of its total loan portfolio, which includes both residential and commercial properties.

Townhouse rates saw the biggest hike that quarter, increasing by 11.4% versus the 8.1% climb it posted back in October-December 2017. While that marked the fourth straight quarter of double-digit increases in townhouse prices, it was the slowest in a year.

Condominium prices inched up by a mere 0.6% nationwide, the slowest since at least 2016.

On the other hand, duplex units saw prices slashed by 3.7%, while single detached or attached homes also saw prices drop 1.9%.

By location, home prices in Metro Manila grew by 1.6%, versus a 0.8% decline in housing costs in the provinces. Duplex prices in Metro Manila plunged sharply to just a third of their value compared to the fourth quarter of 2017 while condominium rates were flat. Townhouses offset this drop with a 19.4% rise in prices, together with a four percent price increase for single homes.

Outside the capital, duplex prices surged by 23% year-on-year, although this accounted for a small share of the total. Townhouse prices rose by seven percent, condominiums up by 6.1%, while the cost for single homes — the top choice in the provinces — dropped by 2.7%.

“[T]he decline in prices of single detached houses outweighed the increase in prices of duplexes, townhouses, and condominium units,” the BSP said.

For the entire 2018, the cost to acquire homes rose by an average of 2.9% in the Philippines, easing from the previous year’s 3.6% climb.

About 75% of the home loans were used to acquire new properties, half of which were for condominium units, 39.8% for single detached houses and roughly a tenth for townhouses. — Melissa Luz T. Lopez