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The World’s Biggest Real Estate Bubbles in 2021

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Ranked: The World’s Biggest Real Estate Bubbles in 2021

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Ranked: The World’s Biggest Real Estate Bubbles in 2021

Identifying real estate bubbles is a tricky business. After all, even though many of us “know a bubble when we see it”, we don’t have tangible proof of a bubble until it actually bursts.

And by then, it’s too late.

The map above, based on data from the Real Estate Bubble Index by UBS, serves as an early warning system, evaluating 25 global cities and scoring them based on their bubble risk.

Reading the Signs

Bubbles are hard to distinguish in real-time as investors must judge whether a market’s pricing accurately reflects what will happen in the future. Even so, there are some signs to watch out for.

As one example, a decoupling of prices from local incomes and rents is a common red flag. As well, imbalances in the real economy, such as excessive construction activity and lending can signal a bubble in the making.

With this in mind, which global markets are exhibiting the most bubble risk?

The Geography of Real Estate Bubbles

Europe is home to a number of cities that have extreme bubble risk, with Frankfurt topping the list this year. Germany’s financial hub has seen real home prices rise by 10% per year on average since 2016—the highest rate of all cities evaluated.

housing bubble index 2021

Two Canadian cities also find themselves in bubble territory: Toronto and Vancouver. In the former, nearly 30% of purchases in 2021 went to buyers with multiple properties, showing that real estate investment is alive and well. Despite efforts to cool down these hot urban markets, Canadian markets have rebounded and continued their march upward. In fact, over the past three decades, residential home prices in Canada grew at the fastest rates in the G7.

Despite civil unrest and unease over new policies, Hong Kong still has the second highest score in this index. Meanwhile, Dubai is listed as “undervalued” and is the only city in the index with a negative score. Residential prices have trended down for the past six years and are now down nearly 40% from 2014 levels.

Note: The Real Estate Bubble Index does not currently include cities in Mainland China.

Trending Ever Upward

Overheated markets are nothing new, though the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the dynamic of real estate markets.

For years, house price appreciation in city centers was all but guaranteed as construction boomed and people were eager to live an urban lifestyle. Remote work options and office downsizing is changing the value equation for many, and as a result, housing prices in non-urban areas increased faster than in cities for the first time since the 1990s.

Even so, these changing priorities haven’t deflated the real estate market in the world’s global cities. Below are growth rates for 2021 so far, and how that compares to the last five years.

housing bubble price increases 2021

Overall, prices have been trending upward almost everywhere. All but four of the cities above—Milan, Paris, New York, and San Francisco—have had positive growth year-on-year.

Even as real estate bubbles continue to grow, there is an element of uncertainty. Debt-to-income ratios continue to rise, and lending standards, which were relaxed during the pandemic, are tightening once again. Add in the societal shifts occurring right now, and predicting the future of these markets becomes more difficult.

In the short term, we may see what UBS calls “the era of urban outperformance” come to an end.

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Visualizing $97 Trillion of Global Debt in 2023

Global debt has soared since the pandemic. Which countries have the biggest stockpile of debt outstanding in 2023?

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Visualizing $97 Trillion of Global Debt in 2023

Global debt is projected to hit $97.1 trillion this year, a 40% increase since 2019.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, governments introduced sweeping financial measures to support the job market and prevent a wave of bankruptcies. However, this has exposed vulnerabilities as higher interest rates are amplifying borrowing costs.

This graphic shows global debt by country in 2023, based on projections from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Debt by Country in 2023

Below, we rank countries by their general government gross debt, or the financial liabilities owed by each country:

CountryGross Debt (B)% of World TotalDebt to GDP
🇺🇸 U.S.$33,228.934.2%123.3%
🇨🇳 China$14,691.715.1%83.0%
🇯🇵 Japan$10,797.211.1%255.2%
🇬🇧 UK$3,468.73.6%104.1%
🇫🇷 France$3,353.93.5%110.0%
🇮🇹 Italy$3,141.43.2%143.7%
🇮🇳 India$3,056.73.1%81.9%
🇩🇪 Germany$2,919.33.0%65.9%
🇨🇦 Canada$2,253.32.3%106.4%
🇧🇷 Brazil$1,873.71.9%88.1%
🇪🇸 Spain$1,697.51.7%107.3%
🇲🇽 Mexico$954.61.0%52.7%
🇰🇷 South Korea$928.11.0%54.3%
🇦🇺 Australia$875.90.9%51.9%
🇸🇬 Singapore$835.00.9%167.9%
🇧🇪 Belgium$665.20.7%106.0%
🇦🇷 Argentina$556.50.6%89.5%
🇮🇩 Indonesia$552.80.6%39.0%
🇳🇱 Netherlands$540.90.6%49.5%
🇵🇱 Poland$419.40.4%49.8%
🇬🇷 Greece$407.20.4%168.0%
🇹🇷 Türkiye$397.20.4%34.4%
🇷🇺 Russia$394.80.4%21.2%
🇦🇹 Austria$393.60.4%74.8%
🇪🇬 Egypt$369.30.4%92.7%
🇨🇭 Switzerland$357.70.4%39.5%
🇹🇭 Thailand$314.50.3%61.4%
🇮🇱 Israel$303.60.3%58.2%
🇵🇹 Portugal$299.40.3%108.3%
🇲🇾 Malaysia$288.30.3%66.9%
🇿🇦 South Africa$280.70.3%73.7%
🇵🇰 Pakistan$260.90.3%76.6%
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia$257.70.3%24.1%
🇮🇪 Ireland$251.70.3%42.7%
🇵🇭 Philippines$250.90.3%57.6%
🇫🇮 Finland$225.00.2%73.6%
🇳🇴 Norway$204.50.2%37.4%
🇨🇴 Colombia$200.10.2%55.0%
🇹🇼 Taiwan$200.00.2%26.6%
🇸🇪 Sweden$192.90.2%32.3%
🇷🇴 Romania$178.70.2%51.0%
🇧🇩 Bangladesh$175.90.2%39.4%
🇺🇦 Ukraine$152.80.2%88.1%
🇨🇿 Czech Republic$152.20.2%45.4%
🇳🇬 Nigeria$151.30.2%38.8%
🇦🇪 UAE$149.70.2%29.4%
🇻🇳 Vietnam$147.30.2%34.0%
🇭🇺 Hungary$140.00.1%68.7%
🇨🇱 Chile$132.20.1%38.4%
🇩🇰 Denmark$126.70.1%30.1%
🇮🇶 Iraq$125.50.1%49.2%
🇩🇿 Algeria$123.50.1%55.1%
🇳🇿 New Zealand$115.00.1%46.1%
🇮🇷 Iran$112.10.1%30.6%
🇲🇦 Morocco$102.70.1%69.7%
🇶🇦 Qatar$97.50.1%41.4%
🇵🇪 Peru$89.70.1%33.9%
🇦🇴 Angola$79.60.1%84.9%
🇰🇪 Kenya$79.10.1%70.2%
🇸🇰 Slovakia$75.40.1%56.7%
🇩🇴 Dominican Republic$72.10.1%59.8%
🇪🇨 Ecuador$65.90.1%55.5%
🇸🇩 Sudan$65.50.1%256.0%
🇬🇭 Ghana$65.10.1%84.9%
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan$60.70.1%23.4%
🇪🇹 Ethiopia$59.00.1%37.9%
🇧🇭 Bahrain$54.50.1%121.2%
🇨🇷 Costa Rica$53.90.1%63.0%
🇭🇷 Croatia$51.20.1%63.8%
🇺🇾 Uruguay$47.00.0%61.6%
🇯🇴 Jordan$46.90.0%93.8%
🇸🇮 Slovenia$46.80.0%68.5%
🇨🇮 Côte d'Ivoire$45.10.0%56.8%
🇵🇦 Panama$43.50.0%52.8%
🇲🇲 Myanmar$43.00.0%57.5%
🇴🇲 Oman$41.40.0%38.2%
🇹🇳 Tunisia$39.90.0%77.8%
🇷🇸 Serbia$38.50.0%51.3%
🇧🇴 Bolivia$37.80.0%80.8%
🇹🇿 Tanzania$35.80.0%42.6%
🇺🇿 Uzbekistan$31.70.0%35.1%
🇿🇼 Zimbabwe$30.90.0%95.4%
🇧🇾 Belarus$30.40.0%44.1%
🇬🇹 Guatemala$29.10.0%28.3%
🇱🇹 Lithuania$28.70.0%36.1%
🇸🇻 El Salvador$25.80.0%73.0%
🇺🇬 Uganda$25.30.0%48.3%
🇸🇳 Senegal$25.20.0%81.0%
🇨🇾 Cyprus$25.20.0%78.6%
🇱🇺 Luxembourg$24.60.0%27.6%
🇭🇰 Hong Kong SAR$23.50.0%6.1%
🇧🇬 Bulgaria$21.70.0%21.0%
🇨🇲 Cameroon$20.60.0%41.9%
🇲🇿 Mozambique$19.70.0%89.7%
🇵🇷 Puerto Rico$19.60.0%16.7%
🇳🇵 Nepal$19.30.0%46.7%
🇱🇻 Latvia$18.90.0%40.6%
🇮🇸 Iceland$18.70.0%61.2%
🇵🇾 Paraguay$18.10.0%40.9%
🇱🇦 Lao P.D.R.$17.30.0%121.7%
🇭🇳 Honduras$15.70.0%46.3%
🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea$15.70.0%49.5%
🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago$14.60.0%52.5%
🇦🇱 Albania$14.50.0%62.9%
🇨🇬 Republic of Congo$14.10.0%97.8%
🇦🇿 Azerbaijan$14.10.0%18.2%
🇾🇪 Yemen$14.00.0%66.4%
🇯🇲 Jamaica$13.60.0%72.3%
🇲🇳 Mongolia$13.10.0%69.9%
🇧🇫 Burkina Faso$12.70.0%61.2%
🇬🇦 Gabon$12.50.0%64.9%
🇬🇪 Georgia$11.90.0%39.6%
🇲🇺 Mauritius$11.80.0%79.7%
🇦🇲 Armenia$11.80.0%47.9%
🇧🇸 Bahamas$11.70.0%84.2%
🇲🇱 Mali$11.00.0%51.8%
🇲🇹 Malta$11.00.0%54.1%
🇰🇭 Cambodia$10.90.0%35.3%
🇧🇯 Benin$10.60.0%53.0%
🇲🇼 Malawi$10.40.0%78.6%
🇪🇪 Estonia$9.00.0%21.6%
🇨🇩 Democratic Republic of Congo$9.00.0%13.3%
🇷🇼 Rwanda$8.80.0%63.3%
🇳🇦 Namibia$8.50.0%67.6%
🇲🇬 Madagascar$8.50.0%54.0%
🇳🇪 Niger$8.30.0%48.7%
🇲🇰 North Macedonia$8.20.0%51.6%
🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina$7.70.0%28.6%
🇲🇻 Maldives$7.70.0%110.3%
🇬🇳 Guinea$7.30.0%31.6%
🇳🇮 Nicaragua$7.20.0%41.5%
🇧🇧 Barbados$7.20.0%115.0%
🇹🇬 Togo$6.10.0%67.2%
🇰🇬 Kyrgyz Republic$6.00.0%47.0%
🇲🇩 Moldova$5.60.0%35.1%
🇹🇩 Chad$5.40.0%43.2%
🇰🇼 Kuwait$5.40.0%3.4%
🇲🇷 Mauritania$5.10.0%49.5%
🇭🇹 Haiti$5.10.0%19.6%
🇬🇾 Guyana$4.90.0%29.9%
🇲🇪 Montenegro$4.60.0%65.8%
🇫🇯 Fiji$4.60.0%83.6%
🇹🇲 Turkmenistan$4.20.0%5.1%
🇹🇯 Tajikistan$4.00.0%33.5%
🇧🇼 Botswana$3.90.0%18.7%
🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea$3.80.0%38.3%
🇸🇷 Suriname$3.80.0%107.0%
🇸🇸 South Sudan$3.80.0%60.4%
🇧🇹 Bhutan$3.30.0%123.4%
🇦🇼 Aruba$3.20.0%82.9%
🇸🇱 Sierra Leone$3.10.0%88.9%
🇨🇻 Cabo Verde$2.90.0%113.1%
🇧🇮 Burundi$2.30.0%72.7%
🇱🇷 Liberia$2.30.0%52.3%
🇽🇰 Kosovo$2.20.0%21.3%
🇸🇿 Eswatini$2.00.0%42.4%
🇧🇿 Belize$1.90.0%59.3%
🇱🇨 Saint Lucia$1.80.0%74.2%
🇬🇲 Gambia$1.70.0%72.3%
🇩🇯 Djibouti$1.60.0%41.8%
🇦🇬 Antigua and Barbuda$1.60.0%80.5%
🇸🇲 San Marino$1.50.0%74.0%
🇬🇼 Guinea-Bissau$1.50.0%73.9%
🇱🇸 Lesotho$1.50.0%61.3%
🇦🇩 Andorra$1.40.0%37.7%
🇨🇫 Central African Republic$1.40.0%50.1%
🇸🇨 Seychelles$1.30.0%60.8%
🇻🇨 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines$0.90.0%86.2%
🇬🇩 Grenada$0.80.0%60.2%
🇩🇲 Dominica$0.70.0%93.9%
🇰🇳 Saint Kitts and Nevis$0.60.0%53.2%
🇻🇺 Vanuatu$0.50.0%46.8%
🇰🇲 Comoros$0.50.0%33.3%
🇸🇹 São Tomé and Príncipe$0.40.0%58.5%
🇸🇧 Solomon Islands$0.40.0%22.2%
🇧🇳 Brunei Darussalam$0.30.0%2.3%
🇼🇸 Samoa$0.30.0%36.2%
🇹🇱 Timor-Leste$0.30.0%16.4%
🇵🇼 Palau$0.20.0%85.4%
🇹🇴 Tonga$0.20.0%41.1%
🇫🇲 Micronesia$0.10.0%12.5%
🇲🇭 Marshall Islands$0.10.0%18.1%
🇳🇷 Nauru<$0.10.0%29.1%
🇰🇮 Kiribati<$0.10.0%13.1%
🇹🇻 Tuvalu<$0.10.0%8.0%
🇲🇴 Macao SAR<$0.10.0%0.0%
🌐 World$97,129.8100%93.0%

With $33.2 trillion in government debt, the U.S. makes up over a third of the world total.

Given the increasing debt load, the cost of servicing this debt now accounts for 20% of government spending. It is projected to reach $1 trillion by 2028, surpassing the total spent on defense.

The world’s third-biggest economy, Japan, has one of the highest debt to GDP ratios, at 255%. Over the last two decades, its national debt has far exceeded 100% of its GDP, driven by an aging population and social security expenses.

In 2023, Egypt faces steep borrowing costs, with 40% of revenues going towards debt repayments. It has the highest debt on the continent.

Like Egypt, several emerging companies are facing strain. Lebanon has been in default since 2020, and Ghana defaulted on the majority of its external debt—debt owed to foreign lenders—in 2022 amid a deepening economic crisis.

Global Debt: A Regional Perspective

How does debt compare on a regional level in 2023?

RegionGross Debt (B)% of World TotalDebt to GDP
North America$36,451.837.5%117.6%
Asia and Pacific$34,257.435.3%92.5%
Europe$20,123.420.7%79.1%
South America$3,164.93.3%77.2%
Africa $1,863.61.9%65.2%
Other/Rest of World$1,269.11.3%31.4%

We can see that North America has both the highest debt and debt to GDP compared to other regions. Just as U.S. debt has ballooned, so has Canada’s—ranking as the 10th-highest globally in government debt outstanding.

Across Asia and the Pacific, debt levels hover close to North America.

At 3.3% of the global total, South America has $3.2 trillion in debt. As inflation has trended downwards, a handful of governments have already begun cutting interest rates. Overall, public debt levels are projected to stay elevated across the region.

Debt levels have also risen rapidly in Africa, with an average 40% of public debt held in foreign currencies—leaving it exposed to exchange rate fluctuations. Another challenge is that interest rates are also higher across the region compared to advanced economies, increasing debt-servicing costs.

By 2028, the IMF projects that global public debt will exceed 100% of GDP, hitting levels only seen during the pandemic.

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