Global house prices rising buy many markets overvalued says IMF report

Housing markets around the world are recovering but real estate in many countries is still overvalued, according to the latest global house price index from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The index increased in the second quarter of 2013 to its highest level since the end of 2008, propelled by stronger residential real estate markets from Turkey to Hong Kong and recording the sixth quarterly rise in a row.

Leading the growth was Hong Kong where prices increased by 14.6% compared with the second quarter of 2012. Prices in Ukraine increased by 11.7%, by 10% in the Philippines and by 8.8% in New Zealand and Colombia.

The weakest housing markets were in Hungary, Netherlands and Greece all of which saw prices fall by 11%.

In other key markets, the United States saw prices rise by 6.1%, and overall house prices rose in 32 of the 51 advanced and emerging market economies in the IMF’s Global House Price Index, compared with increases in nine countries in the second quarter of 2009, when the housing crisis was in full swing.

‘The variety of experiences across countries is really the story,’ said Prakash Loungani, the report’s co-author and an adviser to the IMF’s research department, adding that the global rise in home prices wasn’t entirely tied to stronger economic growth or asset performance.

Many markets are overvalued, according to Loungani. These are topped by Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Belgium, Australia, Finland, the UK, Sweden and Spain. Markets regarded as undervalued include Japan, Greece, Germany, Portugal and Slovenia.

Loungani also said that prices reflect people’s feelings about their permanent income. ‘In countries where home price appreciation risks creating a bubble, policy makers can respond with macroprudential tools that help tighten credit availability and take some of the fizz out of the market,’ he explained.