Multi-Asset

Property Prices

Housing Affordability in Major Metropolitan Markets
April 2018

Risk Disclaimer 

Views and opinions expressed by individual authors do not necessarily represent those of BMO Global Asset Management and should not be considered to be a recommendation or solicitation to buy or sell any companies that may be mentioned.

At this time of year we like to highlight the work done by the Demographia group who compile valuable housing affordability statistics from several countries. Essentially they extract median income and median house-price data from many major population centres and by dividing one into the other can gain insight into affordability trends over time. The 14th annual survey was recently published utilising data as at the third quarter of 2017. We reproduce their findings below for the top 21 markets with populations exceeding 2 million.

Housing Affordability in Major Metropolitan Markets:

Over 2 million Population (covering Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, UK and USA). Data as at 3rd Quarter 2017 – top 21 markets ranked by median multiple

Risk Disclaimer 

Views and opinions expressed by individual authors do not necessarily represent those of BMO Global Asset Management and should not be considered to be a recommendation or solicitation to buy or sell any companies that may be mentioned.

Source: Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey (January 2018)

 

The information, opinions, estimates or forecasts contained in this document were obtained from sources reasonably believed to be reliable and are subject to change at any time.
 
As always investment values may fall as well as rise and capital is at risk.

Unsurprisingly, Hong Kong again tops the leader board with a staggering ratio of 19.4 (up from 18.1 last year). Demographia define any ratio above 5.1 as “severely unaffordable” so it is clear that Hong Kong is in an unaffordable band all on its own. Demographia lack definitive long-term historical Hong Kong data but they do quote from The Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Quality of Life Index which quotes a price-to-income ratio of 4.6 in 2002 but climbing to 15.7 in 2015 (based on a 430 square feet apartment). Research supports the view that Hong Kong’s house prices have been driven higher by restrictive land use regulation.

 

Sydney’s multiple of 12.9 looks modest in comparison but, in fact, is equally stunning. The multiple has more than doubled since 2001. Urban containment policies are to blame for the remarkable rise in the multiple – not just in Sydney but in all of Australia’s major population centres. In the late 1980s the median multiple was below 3.0 (as it was also in Canada, the US, Ireland, New Zealand and the UK).

 

Recent research by Australia’s central bank found that zoning rules cost the average Sydney home buyer almost A$490,000. That’s the premium imposed by government land-use regulations, above and beyond the marginal cost of land. The research suggests that zoning rules account for 73% of the cost of land, pushing the average price of a detached home in Sydney from A$671,000 to A$1.16 million. Interestingly, latest official data suggests that Sydney house prices have started to fall. Add another concern flagged by the central bank – interest-only loans make up about 40% of total loans and gradual conversion to interest plus principal commences later this year. That could put the cat among the pigeons.

 

In total, Demographia analyse data from 293 markets and find that Ireland and the US have the most affordable housing with a national median multiple of 3.7. Canada is third at 3.9 followed by Japan at 4.1, UK at 4.5, Singapore 4.8, New Zealand 5.8 and Australia 6.3 (all national multiples). “Affordable” is defined as 3.0 or less, moderately unaffordable 3.1 to 4.0, seriously unaffordable 4.1 to 5.0 and severely unaffordable 5.1 and over.

 

The ten affordable major housing markets (population more than 1 million) are all in the US. Rochester is the most affordable with a multiple of 2.5; Cincinnati and Cleveland sit at 2.7, Buffalo, Oklahoma City and Pittsburgh have multiples of 2.8, Detroit and St. Louis 2.9 whilst Grand Rapids and Indianapolis have multiples of 3.0.

 

So if you want to find housing that is not outrageously priced you know where to go. And if you want to risk your hard-earned dollars in bubble markets you also know where to go.

 

 

All information as at April 2018, unless stated otherwise

 

For professional investors only

 

Pyrford International is an independent investment boutique operating as part of BMO Global Asset Management.

 

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