Global Real Estate prices
Floor to ceiling
Our latest round-up shows that prices are on the rise in most markets
THIS time last year global real estate prices were a sea of negative numbers. That was then. Of the 20 markets tracked in the last year, only four still posted year-on-year declines and only Ireland’s property catastrophe has worsened. (America’s FHFA index, which excludes real estate that was financed with large mortgages, was also down, but the country’s Case-Shiller national and ten-city indices rose modestly.)
Asia’s price rises lead the way, as they did when the data were last published in July. Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia boast the gaudiest year-on-year price increases, even if the rate of appreciation is down a bit from the summer. Real Estate prices in China rose by 9.1% in the year to September, compared with a 12.4% rise in May. That is still too fast for the government, which unexpectedly raised interest rates on October 19th and has outlined more measures to cool the market in recent weeks, including higher down-payment requirements and the introduction of a property tax in some cities.
My analysis of “fair value” in real estate, which is based on comparing the current ratio of real estate prices to rents with its long-run average, suggests that China has less to worry about than the likes of Australia, which is again the most overvalued of the markets we track. That makes it all the more surprising that Australia’s central bank opted not to increase its benchmark interest rate this month.
Europe shows a familiar split between core countries and peripheral ones. Ireland, Spain and Italy continue to suffer year-on-year price declines; German and French homes have shown big gains in value over the past year, a particular turnaround for France since our previous round-up. The British housing sector’s talent for defying gravity may be on the wane. The pace of annual appreciation in the country’s property market has slowed over the summer. British housing is still overvalued—outright falls may loom.
America’s real estate market, almost alone among those which experienced a big bubble, is more or less fairly valued at this point, at least according to price-to-rent ratios. But price rises may not last for long. Earlier gains were driven by substantial reward programmes and government subsidies, many of which have now lapsed. America’s overhang of housing inventory may get worse if concerns over lenders’ foreclosure processes jam up sales. The temptation for the country’s 11m underwater borrowers to walk away is another threat (see Economics Focus). And being at or below fair value is no guarantee of a bounce in prices: Japanese housing fell by 4% in the year to the end of the first quarter, despite being stuck far below its long-run price-to-rents ratio.