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UBS Global Real Estate Bubble Index 2018

  • The UBS Global Real Estate Bubble Index 2018 report is produced by UBS Global Wealth Management’s Chief Investment Office and analyzes residential property prices in 20 developed market financial centers around the world.
  • Hong Kong faces the greatest risk of a housing bubble, followed in descending order by Munich, Toronto, Vancouver, Amsterdam, and London.
  • Stockholm and Sydney moved out of bubble risk territory this year, while Geneva moved closer to fair value. Chicago was once again the only undervalued city in the report.

Zurich, New York, Singapore, 27 September 2018 – The UBS Global Real Estate Bubble Index 2018 from UBS Global Wealth Management’s Chief Investment Office indicates bubble risk or a significant overvaluation of housing markets in most major developed market financial centers.

Bubble risk appears greatest in Hong Kong, followed by Munich, Toronto, Vancouver, London and Amsterdam. Major imbalances also characterize Stockholm, Paris, San Francisco, Frankfurt and Sydney. Valuations are stretched in Los Angeles, Zurich, Tokyo, Geneva and New York. By contrast, property markets in Boston, Singapore and Milan seem fairly valued while Chicago is undervalued.

Bubble risk soared in Munich, Amsterdam and Hong Kong over the last year. In Vancouver, San Francisco and Frankfurt, too, imbalances continued to grow. More broadly, index scores fell in no less than one-third of the cities. Stockholm and Sydney experienced the steepest drop and moved out of bubble risk territory. Valuations went down slightly in London, New York, Milan, Toronto and Geneva.

In contrast to the boom of the mid-2000s, however, no global evidence of simultaneous excesses in lending and construction exists. Outstanding mortgage volumes are growing half as fast as in the run-up to the financial crisis, limiting economic damage from any price correction.

“Although many financial centers remain at risk of a housing bubble, we should not compare today’s situation with pre-crisis conditions,” said Mark Haefele, Chief Investment Officer at UBS Global Wealth Management. “Nevertheless, investors should remain selective within housing markets in bubble risk territory such as Hong Kong, Toronto, and London.”

“The median total return on housing in the most important developed market financial centers was 10% annually over the past five years, accounting for an imputed rental income and book profits from rising prices,” said Claudio Saputelli, Head of Real Estate at UBS Global Wealth Management’s Chief Investment Office. “How appealing returns will be in the next few years is questionable. We recommend caution when buying residential real estate in most of the biggest developed market cities.”

In the past year, the house price boom in key cities lost intensity and scope. Inflation-adjusted city prices increased by 3.5% on average over the last four quarters, considerably less than in previous years but still above the 10-year average. They remained on an explosive uptrend in the largest Eurozone economic centers, as well as in Hong Kong or Vancouver. But the first cracks in the boom’s foundation have begun appearing: house prices declined in half of last year’s bubble risk cities – in London, Stockholm and Sydney by more than 5% in real terms.

Affordability crisis weighs upon outlook

The median price-to-income (PI) multiple of the cities in the study increased from 5.5 in 2008 to 7.5 today. Most households can no longer afford to buy property in the top financial centers without a substantial inheritance. As property became too pricy for citizens over the past five years in close to all cities additional regulations were introduced ranging from levying stamp duties to rent-control measures. Such regulations combined with tighter lending conditions can abruptly end a real estate boom, as the current example of Sydney shows. Overall, low affordability jeopardizes cities’ long-term growth potential and could cause investors to reassess their expectations about future capital gains.

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UBS Switzerland AG
UBS AG is a Swiss global financial services company, incorporated in the Canton of Zurich, and co-headquartered in Zurich and Basel. The company provides wealth management, asset management, and investment banking services for private, corporate, and institutional clients worldwide, and is generally considered to be a bulge bracket bank. In Switzerland, these services are also offered to retail clients. The name UBS was originally an abbreviation for the Union Bank of Switzerland, but it ceased to be a representational abbreviation after the bank's merger with Swiss Bank Corporation in 1998. The company traces its origins to 1856, when the earliest of its predecessor banks was founded.
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