Apartment blocks stand in the Sheung Wan area of Hong Kong. (Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg)

The Cities Around the World Most at Risk of Property Bubbles

(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong is the city most at risk of a property bubble, according to a ranking from UBS Group AG.

Munich, Toronto, Vancouver, Amsterdam and London are the next most vulnerable in the bank’s Global Real Estate Bubble Index of 20 major centers for 2018.

Prices rising at an average of 35 percent in major cities over the past five years have contributed to a “crisis of affordability,” the bank said. “Most households can no longer afford to buy property in the top financial centers without a substantial inheritance.”

The Cities Around the World Most at Risk of Property Bubbles

Still, the risks are more contained than in the run-up to the global financial crisis, since mortgages are growing more slowly than during that period, and there’s no evidence of “simultaneous excesses” in lending and construction, the bank said.

Investors “should remain selective within housing markets in bubble-risk territory such as Hong Kong, Toronto, and London,” Mark Haefele, chief investment officer at UBS Global Wealth Management, said in a statement.

The first cracks in the global housing boom have appeared, the report said, citing price declines in four of the eight cities listed as bubble risks in 2017: Sydney, Stockholm, London and Toronto. Tighter lending and interest-rate increases brought a price rally to an abrupt end in Sydney, the report said. The Australian city and Sweden’s capital both exited the “bubble risk” category.

Overall, prices in most of the 20 cities grew “considerably” less in the past four quarters than in previous years, the report said. However, an “explosive uptrend” was evident in the largest euro zone economies, as well as Hong Kong and Vancouver. New York was among centers deemed over-valued. Only Chicago was rated as under-valued.

Hong Kong also topped the rankings for the number of years that a skilled service worker needs to work to be able to buy a 650 square foot (60 square meter) apartment near the city center. The 22 years required compared to 15 years in London, the runner-up.

UBS assesses bubble risks by looking for signs such as prices decoupling from local incomes and rents, and imbalances in economies, such as excessive lending and construction activity, it said.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.