The Global House Price Boom Could Haunt The Recovery From Covid-19
Kanebridge News
Share Button

The Global House Price Boom Could Haunt The Recovery From Covid-19

Decreasing affordability raises both financial and political risks.

By Mike Bird
Mon, May 17, 2021 11:10amGrey Clock 3 min

The year of the pandemic saw the largest increase in global house prices since the U.S. housing boom of the mid-2000s. And there is no sign the rally is coming to an end.

That provides immediate economic support for the global recovery from Covid-19. But a prolonged house price upswing would mean big new problems for both financial stability. And it could result in economic strife if middle-class citizens accustomed to a one-way housing bet suddenly find the rug pulled out from beneath them down the line.

House prices rose by 4.91% across 16 economies monitored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas last year, the sharpest increase since 2006. The move was large by the standards of a normal year—but explosive in the context of a global economic contraction of around 3.3%.

And the trend shows little sign of abating. The U.S. housing market is millions of homes short of buyer demand. Prices have climbed in places as varied as the eurozone, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

Booming prices reflect a major difference between the liftoff from the financial crisis of 2008 and the nascent post-pandemic boom. The financial crisis emanated from a fragile, undercapitalized banking sector: The obvious postcrisis response was to lend much more conservatively. But at the beginning of last year, banks were far less overextended and, with greater government support, were much more rapidly able to pass on interest rate cuts to borrowers.

At the same time, banks are far more exposed to housing markets than they once were. Across 18 advanced economies, mortgage lending has grown from around a third of total bank lending in 1960 to very nearly 60%. The financial crisis seems to have only been a brief speed bump in this secular trend.

The experience of countries that didn’t have a major banking crisis in 2008 shows what could happen on a far larger scale now. Most countries with large run-ups in household debt during the last decade—China, South Korea, Thailand, Canada and Sweden—were places where banks didn’t suffer in 2008. And rather than the brief, one-off increase in leverage of the kind many analysts expect following the pandemic today, household borrowing climbed continually over the following decade.

Many such countries have attempted to slow down rapid increases in house prices. The Korean government has enacted dozens of individual tweaks to tax and lending regulations. The latest Canadian federal budget announced a tax on vacant and underused property owned by foreigners, following existing levies in Vancouver and Toronto. So far, few measures have had an impact large enough to stall the boom.

Earlier this year, Swedish central bank governor Stefan Ingves compared the household debt situation to sitting on a volcano. The analogy is apt, given how sensitive the health of economies is to increased leverage among households in particular. Economists Atif Mian, Amir Sufi and Emil Verner have published research demonstrating that burgeoning household debt tends to slow down economic growth.

That’s not to say there’s nothing to be done. There have been a small number of successes in controlling and preventing house price booms to note. They bear much closer examination for policy makers in the rest of the world.

Japan’s case is the most obvious. The country’s lack of zoning restrictions and rent controls are regularly credited with the country’s flat home prices, particularly in Tokyo where the total population is still increasing. All the same, making fair international comparisons is difficult because interest rates have been so much lower than other parts of the world for so much longer, and overall economic growth has been so weak.

According to a study published in the Journal of Housing Economics in 2018, Singapore’s flurry of efforts to cool house prices between 2009 and 2013 also seems to have helped to stall the country’s buoyant house price growth. The measures included higher taxes on home-flipping, higher deposit requirements for second-time buyers, longer residential loan terms, and caps on the amount of a borrower’s income that could be spent on home loan repayments. But Singapore is also an example of how difficult such progress is to defend: Prices jumped to a new record in the first quarter of the year. And Singapore’s market is unique in other respects—the lion’s share of housing is publicly developed for Singaporeans to purchase, and homeownership rates are among the highest in the world.

There are other areas to look at. Outright taxes on the value of houses, the land beneath them, or both are popular with economists but have yet to find their way into public policy in most parts of the world. Even without such radical steps, fixing other positive biases housing receives in tax systems around the world would be a good start.

Dealing with an asset that is a totemic symbol of middle-class security and the main source of household wealth but is also a major financial stability risk is an unenviable task for policy makers.

But with many parts of the world already in the foothills of a new house price boom, it’s an issue that must be considered urgently if they want to avoid the mistakes of the past.

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: May 8, 2021



MOST POPULAR

Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Related Stories
Property
Hong Kong Takes Drastic Action to Avert Property Slump
By ELAINE YU 01/03/2024
Property
The Australian capitals experiencing world-class price growth in luxury real estate
By Bronwyn Allen 29/02/2024
Property
Futuristic Sydney-Area Home of Late Australian Businessman Lists for A$9 million
By Kirsten Craze 28/02/2024
Hong Kong Takes Drastic Action to Avert Property Slump

The city’s real-estate market has been hurt by high interest rates and mainland China’s economic slowdown

By ELAINE YU
Fri, Mar 1, 2024 3 min

Hong Kong has taken a bold step to ease a real-estate slump, scrapping a series of property taxes in an effort to turn around a market that is often seen as a proxy for the city’s beleaguered economy.

The government has removed longstanding property taxes that were imposed on nonpermanent residents, those buying a second home, or people reselling a property within two years after buying, Financial Secretary Paul Chan said in his annual budget speech on Wednesday.

The move is an attempt to revive a property market that is still one of the most expensive in the world, but that has been badly shaken by social unrest, the fallout of the government’s strict approach to containing Covid-19 and the slowdown of China’s economy . Hong Kong’s high interest rates, which track U.S. rates due to its currency peg,  have increased the pressure .

The decision to ease the tax burden could encourage more buying from people in mainland China, who have been a driving force in Hong Kong’s property market for years. Chinese tycoons, squeezed by problems at home, have  in some cases become forced sellers  of Hong Kong real estate—dealing major damage to the luxury segment.

Hong Kong’s super luxury homes  have lost more than a quarter of their value  since the middle of 2022.

The additional taxes were introduced in a series of announcements starting in 2010, when the government was focused on cooling down soaring home prices that had made Hong Kong one of the world’s least affordable property markets. They are all in the form of stamp duty, a tax imposed on property sales.

“The relevant measures are no longer necessary amidst the current economic and market conditions,” Chan said.

The tax cuts will lead to more buying and support prices in the coming months, said Eddie Kwok, senior director of valuation and advisory services at CBRE Hong Kong, a property consultant. But in the longer term, the market will remain sensitive to the level of interest rates and developers may still need to lower their prices to attract demand thanks to a stockpile of new homes, he said.

Hong Kong’s authorities had already relaxed rules last year to help revive the market, allowing home buyers to pay less upfront when buying certain properties, and cutting by half the taxes for those buying a second property and for home purchases by foreigners. By the end of 2023, the price index for private homes reached a seven-year low, according to Hong Kong’s Rating and Valuation Department.

The city’s monetary authority relaxed mortgage rules further on Wednesday, allowing potential buyers to borrow more for homes valued at around $4 million.

The shares of Hong Kong’s property developers jumped after the announcement, defying a selloff in the wider market. New World Development , Sun Hung Kai Properties and Henderson Land Development were higher in afternoon trading, clawing back some of their losses from a slide in their stock prices this year.

The city’s budget deficit will widen to about $13 billion in the coming fiscal year, which starts on April 1. That is larger than expected, Chan said. Revenues from land sales and leases, an important source of government income, will fall to about $2.5 billion, about $8.4 billion lower than the original estimate and far lower than the previous year, according to Chan.

The sweeping property measures are part of broader plans by Hong Kong’s government to prop up the city amid competition from Singapore and elsewhere. Stringent pandemic controls and anxieties about Beijing’s political crackdown led to  an exodus of local residents and foreigners  from the Asian financial centre.

But tens of thousands of Chinese nationals have arrived in the past year, the result of Hong Kong  rolling out new visa rules aimed at luring talent in 2022.

MOST POPULAR

Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Related Stories
Money
The Six Months That Short-Circuited the Electric-Vehicle Revolution
By MIKE COLIAS 15/02/2024
Money
Iron ore prices boost profits as ASX earnings season gets underway
By Bronwyn Allen 23/02/2024
Money
Tech That Will Change Your Life in 2024
By JOANNA STERN, Nicole Nguyen and Christopher Mims 02/01/2024
0
    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop