Global housing market downturn gathering pace

The world's housing downturn is gathering momentum, according to the latest world-wide survey of house price indices prepared by the Global Property Guide. During 2011, house prices fell in 22 countries, of the 35 countries for which Q4 house price statistics are available, and rose in only 13 countries. Similarly, 21 housing markets performed worse during 2011 than last year, while only 14 countries performed better.

The figures for the 4th quarter of 2011 are somewhat worrying, with quarterly price rises in only 10 countries, but price falls in 25 countries. On the other hand, the apparent trend towards recovery in the US is positive.

The slow pace of the global economic recovery, strengthening sovereign debt concerns, weak consumer confidence and high unemployment all continue to weigh on residential property markets.

The Global Property Guide's statistical presentation uses price-changes after inflation, giving a more realistic picture than the more upbeat nominal figures usually preferred by real estate agents.

India and Brazil: world's strongest housing markets
India and Brazil seem unstoppable, and remain the best performing housing markets in the world.

In 2011, house prices in Delhi soared 25.26%, with a rise of 6.62% during the latest quarter. Yet demand is still expected to pick up, because the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), in its Q3 review of Macroeconomic and Monetary Developments, signaled a pause in monetary policy tightening, in order to fuel economic growth.

The world's second strongest house price rise occurred in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where house prices surged by 19.79% in 2011. Good weather, relatively inexpensive cost of living and strong capital appreciation are some of the reasons why Brazil is seen as a good choice for property investment. During the 4th quarter, house prices rose by 3.93%.

European housing markets still heading down
Most countries whose housing markets experienced accelerated downturns in 2011 are located in Europe, including Finland (-2.22% down in 2011), United Kingdom (-3.39%), Sweden (-5.29%), Netherlands (-5.77%), Slovak Republic (-6.88%), Portugal (-7.78%), Spain (-9.27%), Athens, Greece (-10.43%), and Warsaw, Poland (-10.55%).

Unhappy Ireland still holds the title of 'world's weakest housing market', with house prices plummeting by 18.08% in 2011. With low transactions, constrained mortgage lending, and an uncertain economic environment, Irish house prices are likely to continue falling in 2012.

European countries which saw smaller house price falls this year than the previous year include Turkey (-1.73%), Croatia (-3.26%), Lithuania (-4.21%) and Bulgaria (-8.99%).

However, several European countries actually enjoyed house price rises in 2011. The highest house price climb in Europe was in Tallinn, Estonia, whose property market has been recovering since the second half of 2010. Over the past twelve months, house prices in Tallinn rose 8.36%.

Other strong European housing markets in 2011 included Norway (+7.01%) and Switzerland (+4.90%).

Housing markets in the Ukraine and Iceland finally bounced back in the final quarter of 2011. In Kiev, apartment prices climbed by 5.29% (in nominal terms) from a year earlier, after falling 9.47% the previous year. Likewise, house prices in Iceland rose 1.84% year-on-year, after falling 4.18% the previous year.

In Germany and Latvia (Riga), housing markets had modest increases in 2011, with 1.53% and 0.53% rises, respectively.

House price boom in Asia now over
Almost all Asian housing markets in the survey performed more poorly in 2011, than during the previous year.

House prices in Hong Kong were up 5.32% on the year, after rising 18.87% the previous year. House prices in Singapore rose a mere 0.28%, after a rise of 13.06% the previous year. In both Hong Kong and Singapore there were price-falls in the final quarter of 2011, as a result of cooling measures, coupled with the uncertainties in the global economy. Hong Kong house prices fell 5.24% during the quarter, and

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