These Global Cities Show the Highest Real Estate Bubble Risk
Housing bubbles are a tricky phenomenon. As a market gathers steam and prices increase, it remains a matter of debate whether that market is overvalued and flooded with speculation, or it’s simply experiencing robust demand.
Of course, once a bubble bursts, it’s all obvious in hindsight.
One common red flag is when prices decouple from local incomes and rents. As well, imbalances in the real economy, such as excessive construction activity and lending can signal a bubble in the making.
The map above, based on data from the Real Estate Bubble Index by UBS, examines 25 global cities, scoring them based on their bubble risk.
In the 2022 edition of the Real Estate Bubble Index, nine of the cities covered were classified as having extreme bubble risk (1.5 or higher score).
|Rank||Risk Category||City||Bubble Index Score|
|#5||🔴||🇭🇰 Hong Kong||1.71|
|#8||🔴||🇮🇱 Tel Aviv||1.59|
|#11||🟠||🇺🇸 Los Angeles||1.31|
|#17||🟠||🇺🇸 San Francisco||0.78|
|#20||🟠||🇺🇸 New York||0.57|
|#23||🟢||🇧🇷 Sao Paulo||0.20|
Canada’s largest city finds itself at the top of a ranking no city wants to end up on. Toronto’s home prices have been rising steadily for years now, and many, including UBS, believe that the city is now firmly in bubble territory.
Vancouver also finds itself in a similar position. Both Canadian cities have a high quality of life and have thriving tech industries.
Notably, none of the U.S. cities analyzed find themselves in the most extreme bubble risk category. The closest scoring U.S. city was Miami, which sits firmly in overvalued territory (0.5-1.5 range) with a score of 1.39.
Examining the Trends
In recent years, low interest rates helped push home prices and incomes further apart.
For cities in the bubble risk zone, prices have climbed by an average of 60% in inflation-adjusted terms over the past decade, while rents and real incomes increased by just 12%. And, while COVID-19 briefly put a dent in urban demand, rents in the cities analyzed rose at around the same pace as pre-pandemic times.
As a result, all but three of the cities saw positive price growth over the past year from a nominal price perspective:
U.S. cities occupy a number of spots at the top of this chart. Miami, in particular, is seeing strong internal migration patterns, as well as renewed interest from foreign investors.
Hong Kong experienced the biggest one-year nominal drop of all the cities analyzed. The report notes that since around 2019 Hong Kong “has broadly stagnated as the lack of affordability, economic woes, and pandemic restrictions all took a major toll on demand.”
Prices can’t rise forever. According to UBS, most cities with high valuations, price corrections have already begun, or could be right around the corner.
Ranked: The World’s 50 Top Countries by GDP, by Sector Breakdown
This graphic shows GDP by country, broken down into three main sectors: services, industry, and agriculture.
Visualized: The Three Pillars of GDP, by Country
Over the last several decades, the service sector has fueled the economic activity of the world’s largest countries. Driving this trend has been changes in consumption, the easing of trade barriers, and rapid advancements in tech.
We can see this in the gross domestic product (GDP) breakdown of each country, which gets divided into three broad sectors: services, industry, and agriculture.
The above graphic from Pranav Gavali shows GDP by country, and how each sector contributes to an economy’s output, with data from the World Bank.
Drivers of GDP, by Country
As the most important and fastest growing component of GDP, services make up almost 60% of GDP in the world’s 50 largest countries. Following this is the industrial sector which includes the production of raw goods.
Below, we show how each sector contributes to GDP by country as of 2021:
|🇰🇷 South Korea||57.0||32.4||1.8||8.8||$1.8|
|🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||46.5||44.7||2.7||6.1||$0.8|
|🇭🇰 Hong Kong||89.7||6.0||0.1||4.3||$0.4|
|🇿🇦 South Africa||63.0||24.5||2.5||10.0||$0.4|
Industrial sector includes construction. Agriculture sector includes forestry and fishing. *Data as of 2019.
In the U.S., services make up nearly 78% of GDP. Apart from Hong Kong, it comprises the highest share of GDP across the world’s largest economies. Roughly 80% of American jobs in the private sector are in services, spanning from healthcare and entertainment to finance and logistics.
Like America, a growing share of China’s GDP is from services, contributing to almost 54% of total economic output, up from 44% in 2010. This can be attributed to rising incomes and higher productivity in the sector as the economy has grown and matured, among other factors.
In a departure from the top 10 biggest countries globally, agriculture continues to drive a large portion of India’s GDP. India is the world’s second largest producer of wheat and rice, with agriculture accounting for 44% of the country’s employment.
While the services sector has grown in India, it makes up a greater share in other emerging economies such as Brazil (58%), Mexico (59%), and the Philippines (61%).
Services-led growth has risen faster than manufacturing across many developing nations, underpinned by productivity growth.
This structural shift is seen across economies. In many countries in Africa, for instance, jobs have increasingly moved from agriculture to services and trade, where it now accounts for 42% of jobs.
These growth patterns are supported by rising incomes in developing economies, while innovation in tech is lowering barriers to enabling service growth. As the industrial sector makes up a lower share of trade and economic activity, the service sector is projected to make up 77% of global GDP by 2035.
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