The Hottest International Housing Markets

Even as the value of residential real estate around the developed world continued its multi-year plunge in the second quarter, some countries bucked the trend. In seven national markets, housing values rose by more than 5% in the second quarter compared to the second quarter of 2010. In two countries, prices rose nearly 20%. 24/7 Wall St. has identified the countries where real estate values are soaring.

These countries have several financial and economic factors in common. Each had relatively rapid GDP growth in 2010. Each is a medium-sized economy based on GDP. Most have highly literate populations and are substantial exporters. They have, in other words, the foundations of economic strength in a period of global weakness.

In its analysis, 24/7 Wall St. looked at data from the Global Property Guide for second quarter real estate values around the world. According to the data, values in the U.S. dropped by 9.05% in the period. Predictably, Greece, Spain, Ireland, and Portugal are the other nations with deep housing value problems. In Greece, property values fell 9.9% in the second quarter of this year from the second quarter of 2010. That drop was 15% in Ireland. Each of these European nations has deep deficit problems and has instituted austerity packages, which have tended to hurt growth and employment. Also, each is in the process of being financially bailed out by other nations in the EU.

In addition to the inflation adjusted data from the Global Property Guide for the 39 countries, 24/7 Wall St. added GDP and GDP growth rates from the CIA Factbook. GDP rank is out of 190 countries.

These are the hottest international housing markets.

1. Hong Kong
> Pct. housing increase: 19.76%
> GDP growth (2010): 6.8%
> GDP (2010): $325.8 billion (37th highest)

Hong Kong continued its rapid growth last year, with its economy expanding 6.8%. Hong Kong is a major export gateway for China. The geographic size of the city and its surroundings is small so new construction is difficult. Real estate values may have peaked after it reached extraordinary highs. MarketWatch recently quoted David Faulkner, Colliers International’s head of valuation in Asia and an expert on the Hong Kong real estate: “This market has had a pretty good run, and a lot of people feel it’s quite highly priced, not necessarily at the top, but pretty fully priced.”

2. Brazil- Sao Paulo
> Pct. housing increase: 19.5%
> GDP growth (2010): 7.5%
> GDP (2010): $2.17 trillion (9th highest)

Inflation in Brazil has been relatively high over the last two years because sharp rises in wages. Demand for goods and services by the rapidly increasing middle class has contributed to inflationary pressures. Growth in real estate prices could actually accelerate soon, especially in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s most populous city. “Mark Sharp, CEO of the Association of International Property Professionals, explained that real estate prices in Brazil are expected to rise significantly over the coming five years, in part due to the international sporting events being hosted by the nation”, Property Showrooms, a website that tracks property values around the world, wrote.

3. Thailand
> Pct. housing increase: 7.75 %
> GDP growth (2010): 7.8%
> GDP (2010): $586.9 billion (25th highest)

Thailand’s relatively strong GDP growth is only one of the reasons for the nation’s thriving real estate market. The central government is another. The government has established several official programs to further this cause. “One of these is the much-publicized zero percent interest loans that are being made available through the Government Housing Bank”, Stock Markets Review writes.

4. Taiwan
> Pct. housing increase: 6.43%
> GDP growth (2010): 10.8%
> GDP (2010): $821.8 (19th highest)

Taiwan’s ongoing prosperity continues to be based on the nation’s capacity to design and manufacture advanced electronics. The country is known as one of the “Four Asian Dragons,” which include Singapore, South Korea, and Hong Kong. Each has had sustained growth and strong trade balances over the past several years. One of the reasons that property values are up in Taiwan is the high concentration of population in the capital Taipei. Taipei is home to four million of the country’s 23 million people. They live in a relatively small area of 105 square miles, which limits the number of homes per capita.

5. Norway
> Pct. housing increase: 5.93%
> GDP growth (2010): 0.4%
> GDP (2010): $255.3 billion (47th highest)

Norway may be a large country geographically, with 150,000 square miles, but a third of its five million people live in its five largest cities. Norwegians have the second highest GDP per capita of the 39 countries we analyzed. To a large extent, this is because of the nation’s tremendous oil reserves and balance of trade. Taxes are high, but public services create a safety net for different social services such as medical costs and other variable household expenses. This leaves people in Norway with relatively high discretionary earning, which helps drive real estate values up.

6. Israel
> Pct. housing increase: 5.4%
> GDP growth (2010): 4.6%
> GDP (2010): $219.4 (52nd highest)

Israel is the tech and biotech center of the Middle East. Income per capita is high. Tourism also adds a great deal to the nation’s GDP. Israel’s population is also largely concentrated in several cities. This tends to drive values higher in those areas. Israel has 7.6 million residents. Over 2.6 million people live in or around Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa.

7. Singapore
> Pct. housing increase: 5.27%
> GDP growth (2010): 14.5%
> GDP (2010): 291.9 billion (41st highest)

Singapore’s property values are influenced by its GDP growth, which is among the fastest in either the developed or developing worlds. GDP per capita is high in the country because Singapore has a number of thriving industries that tend to pay well, including financial services, gambling, and refining. Singapore is one of the world’s most densely populated areas. It has five million people who live in only 268 square miles.

8. Estonia-Tallinn
> Pct. housing increase: 4.94%
> GDP growth (2010): 3.1%
> GDP (2010): $24.69 billion (113th highest)

Talliin, Estonia’s capital city, saw an increase in housing prices recently – a major turnaround from last year’s decrease of 0.66%. However, the turnaround could have been larger considering how healthy the housing market has been in the past. The country joined the eurozone earlier this year and the transition to the euro has caused mass inflation. This has held the market back, writes Peep Sooman, chairman of the Estonian association of real estate companies, in Estonian newspaper Äripäev.

9. France
> Pct. housing increase: 4.65%
> GDP growth (2010): 1.5%
> GDP (2010): 2.145 trillion (10th highest)

Housing prices in France dropped 1.71% last year, before this year’s increase of 4.65%. France’s real estate market has fared much better than other European nations, such as Spain and Portugal, throughout the debt crisis. This increased demand for property higher, what should continue to drive up prices. According to English news site Mindful Money, interest rates are currently low in France and many banks are wiling to lend, making it a good time for French real estate.

10. Switzerland
> Pct. housing increase: 2.19%
> GDP growth (2010): 2.6%
> GDP (2010): $324.5 billion (38th highest)

According to Global Property Guide, there are a number of reasons why the Swiss housing market has done well. These include low interest rates, which spurred strong real estate demand and the fact that Switzerland is perceived as being a “safe haven” by wealthy foreigners. In addition, over the past four years net migration totaled 330,000 people, and as the GPG put it, “after the collapse of house prices in other countries, Swiss citizens and residents moved their investments back to the domestic housing market which is relatively more stable.”

Douglas A. McIntyre

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