Dubai's housing market remains oversupplied despite prices having fallen by over a third since 2014

The UBS Global Real Estate Bubble Index 2019 analyzes residential property prices in 24 major cities around the world.

  • London moves out of bubble risk territory while rivals Paris and Frankfurt enter risk zone for the first time.
  • House prices in previous hotspots Vancouver and Sydney have fallen sharply.

Dubai: The UBS Global Real Estate Bubble Index 2019, a yearly study by UBS Global Wealth Management's Chief Investment Office, indicates bubble risk or a significant overvaluation of housing markets in half of all evaluated cities.

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

Included for the first time in this year's edition of the index, Madrid and Moscow are in overvalued territory while Dubai is fairly priced.

The property market in Dubai boomed between 2010 and 2014, supported by strong economic growth driven by high oil prices. To curb the boom, the authorities introduced higher transaction fees and tighter mortgage standards. Consequently, real prices have fallen by almost 35% since mid-2014, paral­leling the weakness in oil prices. Affordability has improved even though incomes have de­clined amid slower economic growth. Despite posting the strongest population growth among all cities in the study, the market re­mains oversupplied. Easier visa requirements and next year’s Expo should support the market.

Over the last four quarters, imbalances have soared particularly in the Eurozone, with Frankfurt and Paris the two most prominent new additions to the bubble risk zone when compared with last year. By contrast, valuations in Vancouver, San Francisco, Stockholm and Sydney have fallen sharply. London's property market has cooled down considerably, moving the financial hub out of bubble risk territory for the first time in four years. On the other hand, index scores in New York and Los Angeles are slightly lower than last year while Tokyo and Singapore remain almost unchanged.

Ali Janoudi, Head Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa at UBS Global Wealth Management, said: "After peaks in Dubai's housing market in 2008 and 2014, prices have fallen by almost 35%. We expect prices to find a bottom soon but we would still encourage all investors to be diligent in their real estate research."

Mark Haefele, Chief Investment Officer at UBS Global Wealth Management, said: "On a global level, economic uncertainty is outweighing the effect of falling interest rates on urban housing demand. However, in parts of the Eurozone, low rates have still helped to push real estate valuations into bubble risk territory."

On average, in cities analyzed, inflation-adjusted price increases have practically come to a standstill in the last four quarters. Residential property only appreciated markedly in Moscow, Boston and Eurozone cities. Frankfurt was the only city to see double-digit price increases, which were common globally in previous years. By contrast, there were corrections of over 5 percent over the previous year in Sydney, Vancouver and Dubai.

Claudio Saputelli, Head of Real Estate at UBS Global Wealth Management, said: "The worldwide collapse in interest rates will not come to the housing markets' rescue. Mortgage interest rates in many cities aren't the major challenge for house buyers anymore. Many households simply lack the funds required to meet the banks' financing criteria, which we believe poses one of the biggest risks to property values in urban centers."

Matthias Holzhey, lead author of the study and Head of Swiss Real Estate Investments at UBS Global Wealth Management, said: "Investors should remain cautious when considering housing markets in bubble risk territory. Regulatory measures to curb further appreciation have already triggered market corrections in some of the most overheated cities. Real prices in all four top-ranking cities in the 2016 edition of the UBS Global Real Estate Bubble Index have fallen, for instance. On average they are down by 10% from their respective peaks and we don't see this trend reversing."

Owning residential property in global cities has been a sure road to wealth accumulation. However, the absence of economic viability leads to a deterioration in many cities' attractiveness and favors a shift in jobs to the suburbs. Even though, the underlying factors favoring city properties, including urbanization, the digital revolution and artificial supply constraints, still hold good, real price appreciation can no longer be taken for granted.

Regional perspectives

Pivotal negative rates in Switzerland: In Zurich, ultra-low and still-falling financing costs have underpinned demand, as has robust economic growth in the area. Home prices decoupled further from the countrywide average but the strong local economy mitigated a rise in imbalances. Nonetheless, the market is in highly overvalued territory and Zurich exhibits the lowest rental yield of any of the cities in this report. Hence, negative interest rates are key to maintaining the willingness of buyers to pay for property at current levels.

Zurich has now surpassed Geneva both on its price and index score. After a high single digit correction be­tween 2013 and 2016, real prices in Geneva have stag­nated since then and remain below the last peak at the end of 2012. Geneva is overvalued, but as the market is undersupplied the high price level is supported well over the medium term. Geneva also continues to benefit from its international status and its stability in light of elevated polit­ical tensions across the world.

Europe: Index scores have increased in all cities within the Eurozone, driven by low interest rates. Paris and Frankfurt are now in bubble risk territory. In Madrid and Milan the housing market is recovering, but still appears to be at an earlier stage of the cycle. In contrast to their Eurozone counterparts, London and Stockholm's index scores have declined over the last year. London's housing market has left bubble risk territory as inflation-adjusted prices have been trending downwards since their mid-2016 peak.

US: Index scores have not risen in any of the US cities in our study for the first time since 2011. Regulatory changes and affordability issues have caused home prices in New York to lag the countrywide average. Similarly, affordability issues, trade tensions and diminishing foreign demand have capped price growth in San Francisco and Los Angeles for now. Boston is still in fair value territory and benefits from the appeal of the region for businesses and high income earners. Chicago is undervalued but continues to lag far behind given its increasing fiscal challenges.

United Arab Emirates: Dubai's house prices are highly volatile. Since the last peak in 2014, prices have fallen by almost 35% and the index value has declined sharply. Prices are expected to find a bottom soon. The market is in fair value territory.

APAC: The momentum in Hong Kong's red-hot property market has stalled. The weaker economic outlook has cooled residential buyer sentiment. However, the market remains firmly in bubble risk territory. By the end of the first quarter of 2019, prices in Sydney were 15% lower than at the peak, and credit growth for housing had reached an all-time low. Singapore's brief housing boom between mid-2017 and mid-2018 is over. Regulatory measures cap price growth expectations and keep the market in fair-valued territory.

About UBS

UBS provides financial advice and solutions to wealthy, institutional and corporate clients worldwide, as well as private clients in Switzerland. UBS' strategy is centered on our leading global wealth management business and our premier universal bank in Switzerland, enhanced by Asset Management and the Investment Bank. The bank focuses on businesses that have a strong competitive position in their targeted markets, are capital efficient, and have an attractive long-term structural growth or profitability outlook.

UBS is present in all major financial centers worldwide. It has offices in 52 countries, with about 34% of its employees working in the Americas, 34% in Switzerland, 18% in the rest of Europe, the Middle East and Africa and 14% in Asia Pacific. UBS Group AG employs approximately 61,000 people around the world. Its shares are listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

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