COVID-19 Infects Real Estate Markets: Short and
Mid-Run Effects on Housing Prices in Campania
Vincenzo Del Giudice, Pierfrancesco De Paola * and Francesco Paolo Del Giudice
Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Naples “Federico II”, Piazzale Vincenzo Tecchio 80,
80125 Naples, Italy; firstname.lastname@example.org (V.D.G.); email@example.com (F.P.D.G.)
* Correspondence: firstname.lastname@example.org
Received: 22 May 2020; Accepted: 2 July 2020; Published: 5 July 2020
Abstract: The COVID-19 (also called “SARS-CoV-2”) pandemic is causing a dramatic reduction in
consumption, with a further drop in prices and a decrease in workers’ per capita income. To this will be
added an increase in unemployment, which will further depress consumption. The real estate market,
as for other productive and commercial sectors, in the short and mid-run, will not tend to move
independently from the context of the aforementioned economic variables. The effect of pandemics
or health emergencies on housing markets is an unexplored topic in international literature. For this
reason, firstly, the few specific studies found are reported and, by analogy, studies on the effects
of terrorism attacks and natural disasters on real estate prices are examined too. Subsequently,
beginning from the real estate dynamics and economic indicators of the Campania region before
the COVID-19 emergency, the current COVID-19 scenario is defined (focusing on unemployment,
personal and household income, real estate judicial execution, real estate dynamics). Finally, a real
estate pricing model is developed, evaluating the short and mid-run COVID-19 effects on housing
prices. To predict possible changes in the mid-run of real estate judicial execution and real estate
dynamics, the economic model of Lotka–Volterra (also known as the “prey–predator” model) was
applied. Results of the model indicate a housing prices drop of 4.16% in the short-run and 6.49% in
the mid-run (late 2020–early 2021).
Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; pandemic; unemployment; personal and household income; real
estate judicial execution; real estate dynamics; housing prices; Campania region; Lotka–Volterra model
COVID-19 is an ongoing pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019, caused by severe acute respiratory
syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The outbreak was first identified in Wuhan, China, in December
2019. The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International
Concern on 30 January, and a pandemic on 11 March (World Health Organization 2020).
On 9 March 2020, Italian government imposed a “lockdown” in the country for the COVID-19
pandemic. After about two months of lockdown, and a further two months of gradual recovery of
production and work activities, the pandemic’s economic effects begin to appear in all their intensity.
The pandemic has caused severe global economic disruption, including the largest global recession
since the U.S. Great Depression (International Monetary Fund 2020). Real estate markets are not or
will remain immune from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A nefarious scenario recalls a question that many ask themselves: will house prices drop? In Italy,
the drop in the number of real estate transactions is a certainty, but it will not be accompanied by an
equal drop in prices, at least not in the short term. This is what Nomisma and Scenari Immobiliari
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9, 114; doi:10.3390/socsci9070114 www.mdpi.com/journal/socsci
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9, 114 2 of 18
say, two big independent and private Italian real estate research institutes (Nomisma 2020; Scenari
There are two factors to be reckoned: on the one hand, the impoverishment that will result as an
effect induced by involuntary inactivity for many productive and commercial sectors; on the other,
a new future propensity of families who will give priority to saving to protect themselves from
other future difficulties. In the short term, the effect of this situation will reflect quickly on housing
sales and real estate prices, which for the residential market, could drop between 1.3% and 4.0%
in the two-year period 2020–2021, and then, slightly rise in 2022, according to what the Nomisma
Institute affirms (Nomisma 2020). The real estate outlook of the Scenari Immobiliari group, updated to
April 2020, indicates an estimated 2.1% reduction in real estate prices (−1.2% for Naples, the capital
city of Campania) (Scenari Immobiliari 2020). Since the end of the Italian lockdown, real estate data
sourced by “Idealista”, one of Italy’s most important websites for real estate ads, have recorded
a reduction in the requested home prices in the order of 4.4% for Naples (capital of the Campania
region) (Idealista 2020).
The COVID-19 pandemic is causing a dramatic reduction in consumption, with a further drop
in prices and a decrease in workers’ per capita income. To this will be added to an increase in
unemployment, which will further depress consumption.
The real estate market, as for other productive and commercial sectors, in the medium-long term,
will not tend to move independently from the context of the aforementioned macroeconomic variables.
At the sector level, therefore, only a few different possible scenarios can be proposed: the pre-virus
one, for which we were preparing but was overcome by the events, a soft scenario and a pessimistic
one, the latter in which the unemployment rate could increase exponentially.
In such a changing scenario, such as the one marked by the current health and economic emergency
in progress, the only way to make predictions is to proceed by hypothesis.
In line with these perspectives, our aim is to provide a short and mid-run forecast of housing prices
in the Campania region (Italy), beyond the levels that can be estimated from cyclical housing market
downturns. Under a pandemic that exploded almost instantly, homeowners experience a dramatic loss
of real estate capital, a significant economic shock to the local and regional economy, negative health
impacts, and in many cases, forced evacuation and relocation during periods of decontamination and
disinfection (Giesecke et al. 2012).
We investigate the regional economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, taking into
account the ways in which the event might affect regional economic activity: reduction in effective
resource supply and behavioral changes in the perceptions of economic factors. Although a pandemic
causes no physical building damage, it generates a substantial short-run financial liquidity loss due to
businesses interruption. Not only that but also changes in fear and risk perception increase the supply
cost of resources, especially in the areas most affected, while simultaneously reducing demand for real
estate goods. We use results from different nationwide surveys on the current COVID-19 scenario to
implement a regressive model focused on real estate values and homeowners’ behavioral effects.
The effect of pandemics or health emergencies on housing markets is an unexplored topic in
international literature. For this reason, firstly, the few specific studies found are reported and, by
analogy, studies on the effects of terrorism attacks and natural disasters on real estate prices are
examined too. Subsequently, beginning from real estate dynamics and macroeconomic indicators of
the Campania region before the COVID-19 emergency, the current COVID-19 scenario is presented
(focusing on employment, personal and family income, real estate judicial execution, and real estate
dynamics). To predict possible changes in the mid-run of real estate judicial execution and real estate
dynamics, the economic model of Lotka–Volterra (also known as the “prey–predator” model) was
applied. Finally, a real estate pricing model is proposed, evaluating the short and mid-run effects on
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9, 114 3 of 18
2. Literature Review
The effect of pandemics or health emergencies on housing markets, as already mentioned, is an
unexplored topic. Only very few specific studies are found in the literature.
In 2008, Wong (2008) investigated how housing markets react to extreme events like the 2003 Hong
Kong Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic. A panel dataset of large-scale housing
complexes is used to exploit the cross-sectional variation in the spread of SARS to estimate the effect of
the disease on real estate prices and sales. Wong concludes that the average price declines by 1–3% if
a property is directly affected by SARS, and by 1.6% for all properties as a result of the outbreak of
the disease. Concerning the results, he also highlights that the absence of price overreaction is likely to
be related to housing market characteristics.
In 2019, Argyroudis and Siokis (2019) investigated the impact of the sub-prime loan crisis on
the real estate market of Hong Kong and, only marginally, identify periods where the underlying
dynamical structure of the real estate market was impacted by certain events like the SARS epidemic.
In 2020, Nicola et al. (2020) summarized the socioeconomic effects of COVID-19 on individual
aspects of the world economy. Again in 2020, the main findings of the Zillow Economic Research (2020)
on the 2003 Hong Kong SARS epidemic are: 1.75% loss in annualized Gross Domestic Product (GDP), or
5.1% monthly loss at peak, 1.3% increase in unemployment, statistically insignificant 1.9% fall in home
prices, recording a drop transactions by an average of 33% for the duration of the pandemic. The Zillow
Economic Research considers as inputs of its model the GDP, unemployment rate, residential real
estate prices, and real estate transactions.
By analogy, we have also examined studies related to the effects of terrorism attacks and natural
disasters on real estate prices in order to identify which approaches and tools can be adapted to a model
that aims to capture the real estate effects of pandemics or health emergencies events. Although,
apparently, natural disasters seem less comparable to the case of investigation, they may cause
widespread land contamination (as what happened in Fukushima in Japan in March 2011) or also toxic
spills (dioxins, petroleum products, etc.). These phenomena are certainly characterized by stigma
effects, evacuation of the inhabitants, and remediation works extended for many years.
Mills (2002) is the first scholar who studied, in a qualitative manner, the effects of terrorism on U.S.
real estate and urban development, proposing the first ideas about how private people and businesses
will perceive the risks and how quickly and decisively private parties will make adjustments.
Redfearn (2005) studies the relationship among land markets and terrorism, this in respect to
the uncovering perceptions of risk by examining land price changes following 9/11 attacks in U.S.
The attacks on 11 September 2001 offered an opportunity to identify the idiosyncratic influence of
perceived risk from terrorism. In this perspective, Redfearn performed an experiment to assess home
prices before and after the events in order to isolate price changes due to changes in expectations about
future attacks and their impacts on housing values. The hypothesis developed is that consumers have
altered their valuation of risk and this should be testable by examining the price gradient around
possible targets—prices closer to sites of greater perceived risk should become relatively less valuable.
Hazam and Felsenstein (2007) show an inverse relationship between neighborhood house values
and terror events in Jerusalem. They verify the hypothesis that fear is a central factor in understanding
human behavior in the face of terror. This claim is addressed in the context of behavior in the Jerusalem
housing market over the terror-stricken years in the city, 1999–2004. Using a unique data source
and the tools of spatial data analysis, the paper provides support for the above hypothesis in three
aspects. First, patterns of terror in the city are shown to be increasingly deconcentrated over the period
studied. Secondly, the types of terror with the sharpest effect on residential property prices are those
most associated with randomness. Thirdly, the effect of terror is less on purchasing prices than on
Dermisi (2007) identifies the cyclical patterns for the office market under potential terrorism threat
by comparing vacancy rates and rent per square foot trends before and after 11 September 2001. This
study goes beyond identifying general market trends and focuses specifically on the office market
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9, 114 4 of 18
trends in Chicago. The findings indicate that the real estate market was severely impacted by 9/11 and
did not recover until the end of 2005. In general, the Chicago office market cycles were estimated to be
between 6.4 and 13 years.
Later, Abadie and Dermisi (2008) apply property-level data on vacancy and rents to investigate
the impact of terrorism risk following 9/11 on the office market in downtown Chicago. The 9/11 attacks
induced a large increase in the perception of terrorist risk in the Chicago Central Business District,
which includes the tallest building in the U.S. (the Sears Tower) and other landmark buildings, which
are potential targets of large-scale terrorist attacks. Results suggest that economic activity in the Central
Business Districts can be greatly affected by changes in the perceived level of terrorism.
Arbel et al. (2010) present new findings on the economic cost of terror. In particular, the paper
provides evidence of changes in house prices in the Gilo neighborhood of Jerusalem in the wake of
the 2000 Second Palestinian Intifada, using a real estate sample of 555 housing transactions from the Gilo
neighborhood of Jerusalem over the 1997–2008 period. Results indicate that shooting events result in
a lagged 12% reduction in Gilo house values. However, as evidenced in the impulse response functions,
those effects are largely reversed within 18 months of the terror event. Again, highlighted is an
average quality-adjusted house price decline of about 10% among “frontline” relative to “non-frontline”
dwellings in Gilo in the aftermath of the outbreak of hostilities; moreover, much of that effect persisted
some five years subsequent to the cessation of violence.
Besley and Mueller (2012) exploit data on the pattern of violence across regions and over time
to estimate the impact of the peace process in Northern Ireland on house prices. After establishing
a negative correlation between killings and house prices, they estimate the parameters of a Markov
switching model with conflict and peace as latent states, and this model is used to estimate the size of
the peace dividend, as captured in house price changes.
Dormady et al. (2014) provide a model for the economic analysis of the potential consequences of
a simulated anthrax terrorism attack on real estate within the Seattle metropolitan area. In particular,
they have spatially disaggregated the impacts on the median sales price of residential housing within
the Seattle metro area, simulating an attack on the central business district, and found that the median
sales price could decline by as much as 280,000 USD, and by nearly 100,000 USD in nearby communities
(i.e., from 86.80% to 30.99%, approximately).
Concerning the economic effects of natural disasters, Hallstrom and Smith (2005) propose a model
in order to measure, in the Florida counties, the impacts on housing prices of Hurricane Andrew, also
comparing these effects with the hurricane’s direct path. Two regression models, based on repeat
sales prices as the dependent variable, have been implemented. In the case study of Hallstrom and
Smith, housing prices declined by 19% in the surrounding flood hazard areas, with homebuyers and
sellers strongly influenced by information or events in the areas adjacent to directly impacted areas by
With similar aims, Smith et al. (2006) apply some regression models in order to analyze how
people and housing markets respond to Hurricane Andrew impacts in Dade County, Florida. The study
highlights that economic circumstances of a household are more significant factors than housing
prices, in regard to Hurricane Andrew effects. Moreover, recalling the study of Hallstrom and Smith,
the authors also highlighted some significant social effects—since the housing prices are lower in flood
areas, after Hurricane Andrew, the population grew faster in these areas. This due to the different
financial capacities of homebuyers. Lower-income households moved into highly damaged areas due
to better affordability, while middle-income households moved out of those same areas, favored by
their financial ability to do so.
Differently, Zhang and Peacock focused their work on how quickly housing values recovered to
their pre-disaster levels before of Hurricane Andrew (Zhang and Peacock 2009). Although housing
sales increased after the hurricane and floods, the real estate values slowed significantly. A noteworthy
aspect of the study is how the abandonment rate by homeowners has influenced the number of
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9, 114 5 of 18
Almost all of the above studies evaluate the changes in housing prices with respect to the event
distance from the urban context involved. This to verify if real estate values and perception of risk
change with the distance from a possible terrorism event or natural disaster. Even if the distance
was used as a proxy variable about assessing the risk perceived by people, its combination with local
economic and demographic factors may condition significantly the housing values.
3. Real Estate Dynamics of the Campania Region before the COVID-19 Emergency
The latest available real estate data from EUROSTAT—European Statistics (2020) on nominal
house prices refer to the third quarter of 2019 and show for the E.U., in terms of annual trend variations
(third quarter of 2019 compared to the third quarter of 2018), an increase of around 4.1% in the euro area.
In Italy too, house prices, in the third quarter of 2019 (latest update available), show a positive
trend rate (+0.4%). The increasing trend is mainly attributable to the prices of new homes which
accelerated, on a trend basis, from +0.5% in the second quarter to +1.3% in the third quarter of 2019.
Additionally, the prices of existing homes, after ten quarters of consecutive drops, show a slight
positive change of +0.1%.For the main Italian cities, the current slowdown in housing sales is confirmed.
Compared to the same quarter last year, the large Italian metropolises recorded an average contraction
in the real estate transactions of more than 3% (Italian Revenue Agency 2019).
House sales in the Campania region were equal to 35,048 in 2018 and 35,602 in 2019 (the last update
available specifically referred to the Campania region and was provided in 2020 by the Real Estate
Market Observatory of Italian Revenue Agency), marking for 2019, a +1.4% in transactions compared
to 2018, an increase more contained than last year (+4.2% in 2018, with respect to 2017 year), but which
confirms the general positive trend of the residential sector since 2014. In 2019, the overall growth
observed at the regional level shows that it is higher in the provincial capitals (+6.4%), compared to
sales in the entire provincial market (+4.2%), while the provincial distribution of housing transactions
confirms the main role of Naples’ province, with 54.4% of regional transactions. For the provincial
capitals, there was a slight decrease (−0.8%), in contrast with the sales in the entire provincial markets;
the province of Naples confirms its main role with 54.2% of regional transactions.
The trend of the Market Intensity Indicator (so called “IMI—Indice del Mercato Immmobiliare”)
follows the sales and purchases, highlighting growth in all territorial areas. The analysis of the historical
series shows a gradual rise from 2014. It should also be noted that the main cities are the ones driving
The most active regional real estate markets are those in the provincial capitals, in the hinterland
of the Naples metropolitan area and in the tourist areas of the coastal strip.
At the regional level, the average surface of the houses sold is equal to 110.1 sqm (approximately
+0.4 sqm compared to 2018) and to 102.0 sqm in the provincial capitals. More than 70% of the market
concerned housing units between 50 and 145 sqm. Although, with different percentages, the order of
preference does not change if the distribution in the main regional cities is observed.
Analyzing the market trend rates in 2019 compared to 2018, by housing size classes, growth
emerges in all the real estate segments, in particular, for units with a surface between 115 and 145 sqm
(+1.4%), or over 145 sqm (+3.2%). In the provincial capitals, a general contraction is recorded for all
the dimensional classes of housing, except for housing between 85 and 145 sqm.
The housing market data collected by the Real Estate Market Observatory of the Italian Revenue
Agency show, for the year 2019, as regards the entire regional territory, a decrease in the average
property prices for main cities (−0.6%) and stationary data for the rest of the provinces. It should be
noted that, despite the long-run period of crisis in the real estate market, in 2019, the average regional
prices are still 16% higher than those of 2004. As regards the differentials of the average housing
prices with respect to the national average price of housing, the highest prices in Campania are mainly
achieved, in addition to Naples and Salerno, in the municipalities on the regional coast, where average
prices are 1.5 to 5 times higher than the national average (Italian Revenue Agency 2019).
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9, 114 6 of 18
4. Regional Economic Indicators before the COVID-19 Emergency
In the last fifteen years, the Campania region has gone through cyclical economic phases. The long
recession that began in 2008, which continued uninterruptedly until 2013, was followed by a recovery
that has gradually lost strength in recent years. The partial recovery from 2007 activity levels risks
being significantly compromised by the most serious pandemic of the last century, despite the spread
of the coronavirus and the incidence of deaths attributed to the virus in Campania being much lower
than in the epicenter regions of the infection.
The Campania economy was immediately affected by stringent measures of physical distancing
and limiting the mobility of citizens, aimed at limiting contagion. These interventions, which
initially concerned the areas where the first outbreaks emerged, have been extended nationally with
the lockdown, and the closure of all activities considered non-essential (from 26 March 2020). In
Campania, the impact of these measures was less extensive: 58.6% of the employees of the local units
in the region remained active, representing 60.5% of the turnover, both values above the average
estimated for the Italy. The employment rate, which remained substantially stable in 2019 at 41.5%,
drop to 40.9% in the first quarter of 2020 (Economie Regionali—L’economia Della Campania 2020).
According to the latest statistics provided in 2020 by the Bank of Italy regarding the regional
economy of Campania, employment decreased in 2019 (−1.0%), confirming the interruption of
the expansion phase recorded from 2015, while it continued to grow, albeit with a slower route, in
the Italian average (0.6%) and in the southern average (0.2%). Overall employment in Campania has
returned, already since 2017, to the levels recorded at the beginning of the global economic crisis,
however, despite the recovery of recent years, it remains even lower for industry in the strict sense and,
above all, for building sector.
Significant differences are also found within the region between local work systems, characterized
by different employment dynamics in response to the crisis and subsequent recovery. The global
economic crisis has in fact affected the local systems of the areas north and west of the Campania
region, which however, show different dynamics of recovery in terms of duration of the recession and
recovery of employment levels.
The job offers declined (−1.4%) in 2019, due not only to the reduction in the number of employed,
but also the effect of people looking for employment (−3.1%). The activity rate of the population
between 15 and 64 years old decreased by 0.4% (to 52.2%) and the unemployment rate by 0.4% (to
Over the past five years, the share of families in Campania who value their economic situation
has improved and the share of those who consider their economic resources to be at least adequate
has gradually increased. In 2017, the last year of reference for the territorial economic accounts,
the disposable income of consumer households was equal to 13,150 EUR per capita in Campania (18,500
EUR in Italy). In 2018 and 2019, disposable income slowed down, reflecting the drop in employment.
In the economic recovery phase, employee income mainly contributed to the income dynamics,
making up more than half of the disposable income of Campania families. The dynamics of property
income provided a tendentially negative contribution. The per capita earnings, measured at constant
prices, increased slightly.
According to Istat (Italian National Institute of Statistics) data, in 2019, in Campania, the share of
families in relative poverty, i.e., with a monthly expenditure lower than the average in the country,
was 21.8%; in Italy the incidence stood at 11.4%. The “irregular” worker rate, according to Istat data,
was equal to 19.8% (13.1% in Italy) in 2017, the last year available; the share of residents who, by not
accessing economic support actions, need other income support measures to tackle the risk of poverty,
has sharpened due to the health emergency (Economie Regionali—L’economia Della Campania 2020).
The region is characterized not only by a significant incidence of poverty, but also by an inequality
of work income higher than the average of the Italian regions
The well-being of Campania families is affected not only by economic gaps but also by those
in the quality of local public services and in the other dimensions of fair and sustainable well-being.
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9, 114 7 of 18
The use of a mortgage loan is the main source of financing for families for the acquisition of residential
properties. In Campania, positive housing purchase conditions have benefited over time by the drop
in house prices and interest rates, especially in the first part of the last decade.
5. Post COVID-19: What Scenarios?
Our model to estimate real estate price changes resulting from the current COVID-19 scenario
derives from a shock of regional economic outputs. That shock, focused on the main regional economic
and real estate outputs, allows us to predict the effects on housing prices in Section 6. The choice of
variables (economic and real estate) to be included in our model is made on the basis of the literature
review carried out previously in Section 2.
Under current COVID-19 effects, the value of each regional economic and real estate variable
considered in the statistical model subsequently implemented is prefigured in this section.
The drop in employment was partially offset by the suspension of layoffs for economic reasons
and the strengthening of a “Wages Guarantee Fund”, which in April 2020 alone recorded more than
twice the number of hours authorized in respect to 2019. The Campania employment structure makes
the regional labor market particularly exposed to the effects of adverse shocks; in 2019, a significant
share of workers was employed in the commerce, hotels and restaurants sector, most affected by
restrictions on mobility, and was part of categories more at risk from the point of view of stability of
the employment relationship, such as self-employed workers and employees with fixed-term contracts.
In the presence of a relatively wide spread of irregular work in Campania, the share of residents who
cannot access social security contributions and for whom specific income support measures are needed,
made even more necessary by the health emergency that has worsened, is also significant.
That said, there are possibly 420,000 fewer employees in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is what emerges from the update made in March by Unioncamere (organization which federates
the Italian Chambers of Commerce) through its forecast model of the employment needs of private
companies in industry and services which, taking advantage of all the information available to
the system of the Chambers of Italian Commerce, allows the carrying out of a first study for the year
2020 characterized by the emergency COVID-19. This is an unprecedented crisis scenario, in which
the national and international economy has been hit by a shock of huge proportions on both the demand
and supply sides (Unioncamere 2020).
The first estimates consider an intermediate scenario of progressive exit from the crisis and
recovery of economic activities by May, without however, taking into account the possible effects of
the measures to support the economy which will be activated at the national and European level, since
they are still being defined.
In 2020, net of the workers who will benefit from the unemployment benefit, it is estimated that
the stock of employed persons in the private sectors of industry and services, on an annual average, is
422 thousand units compared to 2019 (−2.1%). In fact, a reduction of 190 thousand units (−3.4%) and
for private employees of 232 thousand units (−1.6%) is expected for the self-employed or independent
workers ones (Unioncamere 2020).
The analysis of the main production sectors shows an estimated decrease of 113 thousand units in
industry and around 309 thousand in services. Tourism is the sector with the greatest difficulty, with
an estimated drop in 2020 of 220 thousand employees, but large declines in the stock of employees
are also estimated in the construction sectors (−31 thousand units), fashion (−19 thousand units),
metallurgy (−17 thousand units), mechatronics (−10 thousand units) and the rubber and plastics
industries (−10 thousand units). As far as services, over the tourism sector, there are important
reductions in the number of people employed in commerce (−72 thousand units), in cultural, sports
and other services for people (−24 thousand units) and in transport and logistics (−18 thousand units).
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9, 114 8 of 18
The economic sectors for which a positive balance can be expected are those of healthcare (+26
thousand units), ICT services (+8 thousand units) and the pharmaceutical industries (+1200 units).
Estimations of changes in employees in the private sectors of industry and services are obtained
through the implementation of an econometric model that estimates the evolution of the stock of
average annual employees (from (Italian National Institute of Statistics (2020)), considering GDP as
exogenous variable. About the forecasts, a specific model was implemented in order to take into
account the shock deriving from the health emergency following the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic
and the different impacts in the production sectors. The scenario of contraction of GDP in 2020 is
a scenario based on the available assessments of the Chambers of Commerce system and of the major
national research institutes.
5.2. Household and per Capita Income
The workers employed in sectors subject to lockdown live in families that for more than 36%, have
dependent children and for more than 40%, are single-income; for these workers, without any state
intervention, the closure of their work sectors result a significant reduction of income (see Table 1).
Table 1. Workers affected by the Italian legislative measures issued after the lockdown (Italy).
% in families with children 36.60%
% in single-income families 40.74%
% in families with 2 income receivers 42.24%
% in families with 3 income receivers or more 13.35%
With respect to an average 33% reduction in gross income for the entire population, due to the effect
of the Italian legislative measures, the compensatory measures could lead to an average reduction in
disposable income of 12%. It is interesting to note how the so called “Cura Italia” Italian decree (Italian
Law Decree No. 18 2020) has a strong redistributive effect: for example, 20% of the poorest families,
faced with a loss of market income of over 40%, should bear a net loss of disposable income of less
From the ratio between the increase in the net benefits provided by the “Cura Italia” Decree
and the reduction in market income after tax, it is possible to define the degree of compensation for
the support measures for families implemented by the Italian Government. Considering the income
of a single month, Table 2 highlights how the first measures have a potentially disruptive impact on
the probability of falling into poverty of all the families concerned and that the D.L. manages to limit
its effects only partially (Report Insubria University 2020).
Table 2. Poverty rate before and after the health COVID-19 crisis (Italy).
Categories Before COVID-19
With First Italian
D.P.C.M. Measures But
without Law Decree
With First Italian
D.P.C.M. Measures and
Law Decree “Cura
(i) Individuals in closed
sectors 12.53% 67.97% 28.15%
(ii) Individuals in closed
sectors and in
22.13% 80.49% 43.71%
(iii) The whole
population 19.07% 38.41% 27.28%
(iv) Under 18 years old 23.27% 49.63% 36.34%
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9, 114 9 of 18
The crisis, even with the compensatory tools of the Decree, determines an increase in the risk of
poverty of about 8% for the overall population and of more than 13% among minors, based on their
On monthly basis, the effect on incomes is only for the first month, or only from the introduction
of the Italian Government measures, regardless of the possible savings that families can draw on in
the short term. It is also clear that families have overall reduced their consumption as a result of
the lockdown and that a complete analysis of the economic hardship of Italian families will have
to jointly consider the effect of the crisis on income and consumption. However, it is clear that
the economic shock caused by COVID-19 is asymmetrical, particularly strong from an economic point
of view for some families and less for others, even in the presence of the compensatory measures
implemented by the Italian Government.
5.3. Judicial Procedures of Real Estate Execution
The Law Decree n. 18/2020 (“Cura Italia”), subsequently modified at the end of April 2020,
suspended all real estate execution procedures in Italy for six months (Italian Law Decree No. 18
2020). For almost all of the year 2020, therefore, a substantial block of all real estate procedures both in
progress and new is expected.
In 2019, the number of real estate auctions increased by 24% in the first half of the year compared
to the same period of 2018. In fact, 152,708 lots of properties published in auction in 2019 (in the first
half of 2018, there were 128,000) in the 140 Italian courts from 1 January to 30 June were calculated by
the Astasy Scientific Committee, a Gabetti group company that deals with real estate executions (Astasy,
Organization of Gabetti Group 2020). According to the Astasy survey, in 2018, the total auctions were
Astasy found that the Lombardy region maintains the primacy of the region with the most
properties at auction (19.05%), while Campania absorbs only 6.22% of the total lots.
The average of monthly real estate auctions in Campania, for the year 2019, is 1061 (total number
of auctions equal to 12,738); compared to 2018, there was a decrease of 20.65%.
The largest number of real estate executions in Campania is concentrated in the most populous
provinces (Naples and Salerno, with 8375 auctions, equal to 4.06% on national basis).
Table 3 shows the distribution of real estate executions for the five provinces of the Campania
region in the year 2019.
Table 3. Number of real estate auctions in the provinces of the Campania region (year 2019).
Province Inhabitants No. ofMunicipalities
No. of Real
3 Naples 3,084.890 92 5307 2.59%
10 Salerno 1,098.513 158 3005 1.47%
14 Caserta 922.965 104 1744 0.85%
46 Avellino 418.306 118 1564 0.76%
76 Benevento 277.018 78 1118 0.55%
On a national basis, due to the auction rebates, the properties undergo an average price decrease
of −56%. In a relevant aspect, 51% of the property values are concentrated in only 5.6% of the assets
put into execution and these are often particular situations.
Although the durations of the Italian courts have clearly improved (an average of 289 days less
than in 2018), the average time of Italian justice is still very high, estimated at four years with very
high percentage reductions on the award value of the properties.
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9, 114 10 of 18
About 95% of the total properties represent the so called “granular” or properties with an average
value of approximately 85,000 EUR, often attributable to residential properties, with maximum values
of the order of 500,000 EUR.
All that said, to predict possible change in the medium term of the growth rate of real estate
execution procedures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic model of Lotka–Volterra (also
known as the “prey–predator” model) was applied. The applicability of this model is motivated by
the fact that the real estate execution procedures, upon their resumption, will undergo a probable
increase (“preys”), which will attract many real estate speculators (“predators”) in this specific market
segment. The two categories of operators, therefore, will tend to interact with each other.
The Lotka–Volterra equations, also known as the “predator–prey” model, consisting of two
first-order nonlinear differential equations, are useful to describe the dynamics of biological systems in
which only two species interact, one as a predator and the other as prey (Freedman 1980; Brauer and
Castillo-Chavez 2012; Lotka 1925; Volterra 1926; Volterra 1931).
This mathematical modeling was proposed independently by Alfred J. Lotka (1925) and Vito
Volterra (1926). Say y(t) is the number of predators present at time t, and x(t) that of the prey,
the equations have the following form: dx/dt = Ax−Bxy (prey equation); dy/dt = −Dy + Cxy (predator
equation). In these equations, the derivatives dx/dt and dy/dt are the growth rates over time of
the populations of prey and predators, while the letters A, B, C and D are positive parameters that
describe the interaction between the two species considered. In particular: A is prey growth rate,
B is prey’s destroy rate by predators, C is predator growth rate consuming preys, D is predator
death rate. The study of the dynamic system defined by this system of differential equations allows
the identification of all the types of evolution that can be had starting from any initial situation.
The Lotka–Volterra system of equations is a particular example of a Kolmogorov model, which is
a more general framework that can model the dynamics of ecological systems with predator–prey
interactions, competition, disease, and mutualism (Freedman 1980; Brauer and Castillo-Chavez 2012).
The resolution of the Lotka–Volterra equations provides as output a growth rate increase in real
estate executions of 3.86% compared to the value referred to in year 2019. With specific reference to
the Campania region context, the inputs elaborated from us and taken as reference in the model are
the following: term A equal to 7.48% (average growth rate of real estate executions); term B equal to
65.67% (success rate of real estate executions for year); term C equal to 7.48% (estimated growth rate of
new real estate speculators, equal to average growth rate of real estate executions); D equal to 28.88%
(success rate of executive procedures at the first auction round).
5.4. Housing Sales and Real Estate Offer (IMI Index)
In this case also, to valuate, in the medium term, change in the real estate dynamics of the Campania
region (IMI index, a specific market intensity indicator provided by Italian Revenue Agency, obtained
as the ratio between the number of houses sold and the available stock of houses on the real estate
market), the economic model of Lotka–Volterra was used (Freedman 1980; Brauer and Castillo-Chavez
2012; Lotka 1925; Volterra 1926; Volterra 1931). The output of Lotka–Volterra equations is a growth rate
increase in IMI index of 2.88% compared to the value referred to in year 2019. The inputs elaborated
from us and taken as reference in the model are the following: term A equal to 0.96% (average growth
rate of residential inventory or stock available in the Campania region); term B equal to 1.32% (average
growth rate in home sales/inventory ratio for the Campania region); term C equal to 4.18% (estimated
growth rate of new real estate speculators, not related to the market segment of real estate judicial
execution); D equal to 1.32% (rate of abandonment of the Campania housing market by economic
operators who have saturated their demand).
6. Specification of the Real Estate Pricing Model
Our model to estimate real estate price changes resulting from the COVID-19 scenario derives
from a shock of regional economic and real estate factors above discussed.
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9, 114 11 of 18
As mentioned before, COVID-19 affects real estate values both through housing market and
economic variables. Starting from a discussion about datasets consisting of differentiated economic
variables (see above), the housing prices are driven, to a large extent, by specific extrinsic and intrinsic
factors: preferences, characteristics inherent to the specific location, requirements, dimension, etc., as
well as also the social context in which the property is located (Saaty and De Paola 2017; Del Giudice et
al. 2019). Social and regional factors are the real estate market drivers that are most altered by a specific
We utilize regional data as our unit of analysis because it enables us to make both
community-specific and region-specific assessments of the macroeconomic drivers of real estate
prices, while avoiding the large quantity of property-specific and exogenous information that may
otherwise provide noise in our model.
Our unit of analysis for time scale is semesters from 2005 to 2019. This time range is important for
the region-specific history of the Campania region, incorporating periods with several events, such as
recessions, on a local or national scale. The data used for this analysis come from a variety of both
public and private sources. We provide a detailed explanation in Table 4 and Figure 1.
Table 4. Descriptive statistics of regional economic variables.
Parameter AHP AHI UNEMP PI IMI JEX
Mean 2158.49 24,670.17 340.41 16,363.36 0.0132 9311.13
Std. Error 36.68 156.55 22.26 229.98 0.0009 1162.15
Median 2119.37 24,732.00 378.00 16,364.00 0.0124 6387.00
Std. Deviation 142.06 606.31 86.20 890.71 0.0035 4500.98
Kurtosis −1,34 −0.58 −1.88 0.35 0.0980 −1.81
Asymmetry 0.12 −0.21 −0.18 −0.68 0.9584 0.38
Interval 443,96 2108.61 228.00 3250.17 0.0110 11,096.00
Minimum 1920.30 23,497.00 215.00 14,337.00 0.0091 4880.00
Maximum 2364.25 25,605.61 443.00 17,587.17 0.0201 15,976.00
The dependent variable of this analysis is average housing price (AHP). It is measured at regional
and provincial levels, and it varies semesterly across our 15-year panel. The method for elaborating
these data is a multiple regression analysis (Del Giudice et al. 2017), similarly to other studies in
the literature (Zillow Economic Research 2020; Dormady et al. 2014). This model is given by:
Average Housing Price = β1 × YEAR × β2 ×AHI + β3 ×UNEMP + β4 × PI + β5 × IMI + β6 × JEX + uz.
where: AHP is the average housing price (dependent variable); YEAR is the year indication (the
years are counted retrospectively from the present moment); AHI is the average household income
(expressed in euros); UNEMP is the number of unemployment; PI is the per capita income (expressed
in euros); IMI is a real estate market index depending on the number of housing transactions and
the number of housing stock offered for sale (expressed in percentual terms); JEX is the number of
judicial foreclosures or real estate judicial execution; uz is a term related to fixed but unobservables
The regressors included in this equation are both the fundamentals of the local and regional
macroeconomy, as well as the fundamentals of the local and regional housing market (see Figure 1).
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9, 114 12 of 18
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9, x FOR PEER REVIEW 12 of 18
(a) Average Household Income (Year; EUR)
(b) Number of Unemployed (Year; Number x 103)
(c) Per capita income (Year; EUR)
Figure 1. Cont.
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9, 114 13 of 18
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9, x FOR PEER REVIEW 13 of 18
Figure 1. Graphical trend of the macroeconomic regressors (our elaboration on data provided by
Italian National Institute of Statistics, Italian Agency of Revenue, Bank of Italy, Astasy, and other
private sources): (a) Average Household Income (AHI); (b) Number of Unemployed (UNEMP); (c)
Per Capita Income (PI); (d) Real Estate Market Intensity Index (IMI); (e) Number of Real Estate Judicial
Executions (JEX). The reference year is always indicated on the x axis. Bold line contains the observed
values of variables, dash line represents the trend line.
7. COVID-19′s Impacts on Housing Prices of the Campania Region
The COVID-19 pandemic affects housing values through several channels. This includes
temporary or permanent closing of entire neighborhoods or cities in which the COVID-19 emergency
is endemic, fear of diffusion in a wider area, concern about long-run contagion/distrust of the
effectiveness of sanitation efforts, general economic decline, and factors specific of housing markets.
Home sale declines would likely stem from the demand side, through both income effects and
psychological (stigma) effects, and the latter would be attributed to the areas most affected by the
health emergency. Considering past natural hazards or terrorism events (e.g., 9/11 attacks in U.S.),
both domestically and in other developed nations, it can also be assumed that there would be at least
a modest degree of capital influx and subsidization stemming from relief efforts and political support,
which would have medium to long-run impacts that are similarly exogenous to our analysis.
Into the short-run COVID-19 scenario, we inserted into the model, beyond the time variable
(referred at June 2020), the other independent regional economic variables applied differentially;
unemployment, real estate judicial execution and real estate market intensity index are kept constant,
as the current health emergency has in fact actually “frozen” these indicators, while household
income and per capita income vary in accordance with the indications provided in Section 5.2, for a
duration ranging from the start of the lockdown (early March 2020) until the first half of May 2020
(beginning of the slow restart of the economic recovery). In correspondence with these inputs, the
(d) Real Estate Market Intensity Index (Year; %)
(e) Real Estate Judicial Executions (Year; Number)
Figure 1. Graphical trend of the macroeconomic regressors (our elaboration on data provided by Italian
National Institute of Statistics, Italian Agency of Revenue, Bank of Italy, Astasy, and other private
sources): (a) Average Household Income (AHI); (b) Number of Unemployed (UNEMP); (c) Per Capita
Income (PI); (d) Real Estate Market Intensity Index (IMI); (e) Number of Real Estate Judicial Executions
(JEX). The reference year is always indicated on the x axis. Bold line contains the observed values of
variables, dash line represents the trend line.
7. I -19′s I acts o o si g rices of t e a a ia egio
The COVID-19 pandemic affects housing values through several channels. This includes temporary
or permanent closing of entire neighborhoods or cities in which the COVID-19 emergency is endemic,
fear of diffusion in a wider area, concern about lo g-run contagion/distrust of the effectiveness of
sanitation efforts, general economic decline, and factors specific of housing markets.
o e sale ecli es o l likely ste fro t e e a si e, t ro g bot i co e effects a
sychological (stigma) effects, and the latter would be attributed to the areas most affected by the health
emergency. Considering past natural hazards or terrorism events (e.g., 9/11 attacks in U.S.), both
domestically and i other developed nations, it can also be assumed that there would be at least
a o est egree of ca ital i fl x a s bsi izatio ste i g fro relief efforts a olitical s ort,
ic o l a e e i to lo -r i acts t at are si ilarl exo e o s to o r a al sis.
I t t e s rt-r I -19 sce ari , e i serte i t t e el, e t e ti e aria le
(referre at J e 2020), t e t er i e e e t re i al ec ic aria les a lie iffere tiall ;
e l e t, real estate j icial exec ti a real estate ar et i te sit i ex are e t co sta t,
as the current health emergency has in fact actually “frozen” these indicators, while household income
and per capita income vary in accordance with the indications provided in Section 5.2, for a duration
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9, 114 14 of 18
ranging from the start of the lockdown (early March 2020) until the first half of May 2020 (beginning of
the slow restart of the economic recovery). In correspondence with these inputs, the housing price
decreases are quantified in −4.16% (−2.93% neutralizing the time variable) for the Campania region.
For the mid-run COVID-19 scenario (end 2020–early 2021), all the independent variables (both
economic and real estate) are applied differentially in accordance with the indications provided in
Section 5—the inputs thus entered are certainly valid for the second half of 2020 until the beginning of
2021. The mid-run scenario is “soft”, assuming that current government actions of economic recovery
can have their effective validity in the medium term, but it cannot be excluded that this scenario is
much more “hard”. In correspondence with the hypothesized mid-run scenario, the housing prices
decrease are quantified in −6.49% (−4.03% neutralizing the time variable) for the Campania region.
Concerning these results, it is noteworthy to highlight that the real estate cycle of the years
2000–2019 shows, in Campania, a honeycomb structure where both the real estate markets for major
cities and those of intermediate cities move in the same direction, albeit with some differences. The main
housing markets record a greater loss of value of the home compared to the intermediate ones, but in
intermediate cities, however, there is a higher loss of market share. In such a changing scenario, such
as that marked by the current health and economic emergency underway, the effects on housing prices
are certainly more pronounced in larger cities than in intermediate ones.
The results of the real estate pricing model are provided in Table 5.
Table 5. Output of real estate pricing model.
Parameter Coefficients StandardError Stat t
Intercept −1880.76 2453.97 −0.77 0.47 −7539.62 3778.09
Year 49.59 26.08 1.90 0.09 −10.65 109.63
Income 0.05 0.05 0.94 0.38 −0.07 0.17
Unemployment −0.64 0.66 −0.96 0.37 −2.17 0.90
Per Capita Income 0.20 0.12 1.64 0.14 −0.08 0.47
IMI index −31,773.78 11,400.76 −2.79 0.02 −58,063.97 −5483.59
JEX −0.01 0.01 −1.12 0.30 −0.03 0.01
The regression is robust overall because the model has strong fitness measures, indicating that
a proper set of both economic and real estate variables has been included. From the statistical point
of view, the determination index is equal to 0.924 (corrected determination index equal to 0.866) and
the F-test is significant for a 95% confidence level (F-test = 4.51 × 10−4).
The correlation indexes are shown in Table 6. The degree of correlation between the explanatory
variables does not require particular corrections since the matching of the model with the observed data
is high. In fact, it does not reduce the predictive power or reliability of the model as a whole, at least in
the dataset, for purposes—we emphasize—exclusively predictive of the dependent variable. In the case
of any collinearity, validity can affect individual predictors and not the final result, however, in the case
under examination, there is plausibility in the signs and in the amounts of the parameters which do
not require the search for additional tools to deal with possible effects of collinearity. Concerning
the “strength” of the correlation coefficient (which has no transitive measure), it must not be confused
with its statistical significance. In fact, with the same correlation coefficient, the significance varies
according to the number of data samples. Certainly, the reduced sample size leads, in the case in
question, to obtaining limited results for some individual predictors. In general, a correlation that
exceeds the 0.8 threshold (positive or negative) is considered “strong”, but obviously, we must also
refer to the subject of investigation and the nature of the data; for example, it is clear that the calculation
of correlation between the number of Real Estate Judicial Executions and Personal Income (as for
Unemployment also) variables that, by their nature, are completely different from each other, can
provide an index that has only purely descriptive validity but no statistical significance. The correlation
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9, 114 15 of 18
index can provide a perception of the “effect size”, but must be read in conjunction with the p-value
also: if a correlation is not significant (p-value greater than 0.05), we cannot say much about that
relationship; instead, if it is significant (p-value less than 0.05) at that point, we can go on to evaluate if
it is a weak, medium or strong correlation.
Table 6. Correlation indexes between economic and real estate variables.
Variable AHI UNEMP PI IMI JEX AHP
AHI 1000 −0.283 0.285 0.136 0.004 0.257
UNEMP −0.283 1000 0.738 −0.704 0.875 −0.609
PI 0.285 0.738 1000 −0.793 0.846 −0.190
IMI 0.136 −0.704 −0.793 1000 −0.617 −0.070
JEX 0.004 0.875 0.846 −0.617 1.000 −0.588
AHP 0.257 −0.609 −0.190 −0.070 −0.588 1000
For completeness, Table 7 shows the Variance Inflation Factors (VIF) for economic and real
Table 7. Variance Inflation Factor (VIF) for economic and real estate variables.
In the model, the variables’ coefficients directly express the marginal prices: the intercept is related
to specific fixed or unobservables effects of context and has a negative sign, it is equal to 1880.76 EUR;
for the “YEAR” variable, the marginal price is 49.59 EUR for each year retrospectively from the present
moment; for the “AHI” variable, the marginal price is 0.05 EUR for every unit variation of average
household income; for the “UNEMP” variable, the marginal price (negative sign) is 0.64 EUR for every
unit variation of unemployment; for the “PI” variable, the marginal price is 0.20 EUR for every unit
variation of average per capita income; for the “IMI” variable, the marginal price (negative sign) is
31,773.78 EUR for every unit variation of this real estate market intensity index; for the “JEX” variable,
the marginal price (negative sign) is 0.01 EUR for every unit variation of the number of real estate
judicial executions. All expected signs of the variables are consistent with current Campania housing
The t-test is passed 98% for the “IMI” variable, 91% for “YEAR” variable, 86% for “PI” variable,
63% for “UNEMP” variable, 62% for “AHI” variable, and 53% for intercepts and “JEX” variables.
Therefore, all variables are statistically significant enough.
The per capita income demonstrated to have the strongest effect on real estate prices, as holding
all other variables constant, a 1% variation of PI would change housing prices by 0.25%. That effect is
higher than other variables: 1% variation of the unemployment variable would change house sale
prices by 0.12%. Lower is the effect of the average household income—only a change of 0.09% in
housing prices, varying 1% of this economic factor.
However, logically, also real estate variables (IMI and JEX) are robust indicators of the health of
local and regional real estate markets. IMI index represents a measure of real estate market intensity,
and its 1% change would vary housing prices by 0.19%. While judicial execution procedures signal to
homeowners that housing demand may be in decline and are often both a cause and a consequence of
a depressed real estate market: forecasts of our model indicate that a 1% change in JEX variable can
induce only a 0.07% of variation in housing price. About that, it is noteworthy that increases in housing
inventory have historically provided a supply-side effect that has led to declines in housing prices. In
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9, 114 16 of 18
other words, as the supply of available housing increases, the price of housing relative to demand
declines. In a post COVID-19 scenario, we logically hypothesize that there would be a proportionally
small effect in the opposite direction.
The Italian real estate sector is facing an unprecedented situation with potentially
Household investment prospects will change. Housing demand, which is always long-lasting, will
only grow after 2021 and will need products (new or recovered) suitable for the times—high-quality
properties capable of offering a safe and healthy living and working environment.
The COVID-19 emergency highlighted that domestic spaces have become obsolete from a functional
point of view, especially in current times of smart-working and minors being forced into social and
home isolation due to unpredictable health emergencies. Residential and office real estate sectors,
once distinct, today tend to overlap with each other. Therefore, new market segments appear to be
identified and studied in their main components and characteristics.
Even if the expected reduction in housing prices is apparently limited, 4.16% in short-run and
6.49% in mid-run, results in line with the forecasts provided by independent research institutes or real
estate ads websites (Nomisma 2020; Scenari Immobiliari 2020; Idealista 2020), “predatory” housing
prices can occur in the short-run and this phenomenon may well change the national and local
In these perspectives, the greatest danger for the national and local economy is the income
impoverishment that will arise as an effect induced by forced inaction.
The model proposed may be useful to evaluate different scenarios in real time about the effects
of pandemics or health emergencies on real estate markets, as well as any natural or anthropic event
that may have a relevant effect on housing prices and local economic factors (as per capita income,
household income, unemployment).
This article highlighted the potentialities of a statistical model, simple but very effective, analyzing
the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Campania housing market.
In any case, our results are intended to be illustrative about the vulnerability of local real estate
markets rather than to provide a precise framework for possible recovery actions formulation at this
time for the Campania housing market.
Author Contributions: Conceptualization, P.D.P.; data curation, P.D.P.; formal analysis, P.D.P.; methodology, P.D.P.
and F.P.D.G.; supervision, V.D.G. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.
Funding: This research received no external funding.
Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest.
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article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution
(CC BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). 学霸联盟