Which Cities Have Bubble Risk in Their Property Markets?
Buoyed by low interest rates for the last decade, many property markets have seen substantial price growth since 2010. Experts warned that real estate bubbles—in which the price of assets moved up far beyond their intrinsic value—were forming.
The UBS Global Real Estate Bubble Index analyzes the real estate market of 25 major cities across the globe and assigns them a score between -0.5 to 2.0 to convey bubble risk. The higher the score, the more imbalanced the market is, with those above 1.5 in “bubble-risk” territory.
We visualize the data in the above map, along with charting the real property price changes in the last year.
Ranking Bubble Risk by City
At the top of UBS’ findings is Switzerland’s financial capital Zurich, with a 1.71 score, putting the city firmly in the bubble-risk zone. With its high-income earners and the country’s low interest rates, the city has been steadily climbing the real estate bubble-risk rankings, 5th in 2021, to 3rd in 2022, to the top spot this year.
Unlike many of its former peers in the risky territory, local prices adapted to increased mortgage rates this year, and have stayed elevated.
Here’s the full rankings for bubble risk in all 25 property markets:
|6||🇭🇰 Hong Kong||1.24||Overvalued|
|9||🇺🇸 Los Angeles||1.03||Overvalued|
|11||🇮🇱 Tel Aviv||0.93||Overvalued|
|18||🇺🇸 New York||0.47||Fair-Valued|
|22||🇺🇸 San Francisco||0.27||Fair-Valued|
|24||🇧🇷 São Paulo||0.09||Fair-Valued|
Tokyo (1.65) is the second and final entry in the real estate markets with immediate bubble risk. This is a decrease from nine total cities in that category last year.
In fact the other seven real estate markets which scored above 1.5 in 2022 have all seen significant real property price drops, many of them in the double-digits, which has moved them into “overvalued territory.”
These include: Frankfurt (-15.9%), Toronto (-14.7%), Amsterdam (-14.0%), Munich (-13.8%), Vancouver (-10.6%), Hong Kong (-7.1%), and Tel Aviv (-0.7%).
The key driver of these price drops across the board are the aggressive interest rate hikes to counter rising inflation, which pushed many housing markets into unaffordability, forcing sellers to lower their prices.
However, a few cities have seen real property price increases, including the aforementioned Tokyo and Zurich.
Here’s UBS’ full ranking of real property price changes between 2022–2023.
Price Growth (YoY)
|4||🇺🇸 New York||+3.2%|
|8||🇧🇷 São Paulo||+1.4%|
|10||🇮🇱 Tel Aviv||-0.7%|
|13||🇺🇸 Los Angeles||-3.7%|
|14||🇭🇰 Hong Kong||-7.1%|
|19||🇺🇸 San Francisco||-10.6%|
A significant outlier within this group, Dubai, has registered double-digit growth property price growth. This was fueled by expanding household incomes—thanks to an economic boom from oil prices—as well as increased immigration by wealthy individuals.
Ranked: Cities With Rising Rental Prices
However, even as property prices have cooled in the majority of the analyzed real estate market, the rental market for many cities, like Vancouver (+10.7%) and Toronto (+6.0%) has moved swiftly in the opposite direction.
In this case, inflation is a key reason as well—pushing up incomes, in turn leading to rising rents. Furthermore, owners-occupants with tenants seek to pass on higher mortgage costs in an effort to reduce their financial burden.
Mapped: What You Need to Earn to Own a Home in 50 American Cities
What does it take to own a home in the U.S. in 2023? Here’s a look at the salary needed for home ownership in the top 50 metro areas.
What You Need to Earn to Own a Home in 50 American Cities
Once a fundamental part of the American dream, the ability to own a home is drifting farther and farther away for many Americans.
Between skyrocketing prices, stagnating wages, and now rising interest rates, the deck seems to be increasingly stacked against home ownership.
Using May 2023 data tabulated by Home Sweet Home, we map out the annual salary needed to afford a 30-year mortgage (at 6.37%) to buy a home in America’s 50 most populous metropolitan areas.
The monthly minimum mortgage payment includes taxes and insurance as well, and is capped at roughly one-third of the income. This analysis also assumes that the homeowner will put down a 20% down payment.
The Least and Most Affordable American Cities to Own a Home
At the top of the list, and at the very west of the country, San Jose is the least affordable city to own a home for the average American.
One would have to earn at least $374,000 a year to afford a $1.6 million dollar home in the city.
To put those numbers into perspective, the median American annual income is $75,000, about one-fifth what’s required to buy a home in San Jose.
Here’s a look at the annual earnings needed to afford a home in all 50 largest cities in the U.S., ranked from least to most affordable.
|Rank||Metro Area||State||Median Home Price||Annual Salary|
|7||New York City||New York||$577,300||$160,233|
|15||Salt Lake City||Utah||$522,700||$122,717|
Other Californian cities, San Francisco (ranked 2nd), San Diego (3rd), and Los Angeles (4th) all require an annual income of at least $180,000 to attempt home ownership within their metropolitan boundaries.
Boston (ranked 6th) and New York (ranked 7th) represent unaffordability on the East Coast, both requiring at least $160,000 a year to buy homes there.
It’s not just the coasts that are expensive however. To buy a home in Denver (ranked 8th) and Salt Lake City (15th) means earning more than $120,000 a year.
However, cities in the Midwest and South, like Pittsburgh, Detroit, Oklahoma City, and Louisville, are far more affordable, requiring less than $63,000 a year to buy a home.
Interest Rates Rock Home Ownership Chances
Aside from the obvious price differences in housing markets, a key factor that has elevated income requirements across the board is the rapid rise in interest rates in the last year. In fact the average 30-year mortgage has pushed past 7%, the highest it’s been since the 2000s.
This means that while the median price of a house in San Jose has actually come down between 2022 and 2023, the minimum monthly payment has increased from $7,717 to $8,720 this year.
|Rank||Metro Area||State||Median Home Price||Monthly Payment|
|7||New York City||New York||$577,300||$3,739|
|15||Salt Lake City||Utah||$522,700||$2,863|
So to afford a median-priced home in the country, an American needs to earn closer to $100,000 a year, up from $75,500 in 2022. And even then, they would be priced out of owning a home in nearly half of the 50 largest cities in the country.
As a result Americans may yet further delay home ownership. Renting is now a far more attractive option, thanks to the biggest difference between rent and mortgages in over 50 years.
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