What $1 million buys you in global real estate

Tracking luxury real estate
Tracking luxury real estate

If you're looking for good value for your real estate millions, you might want avoid Monaco and head to South Africa.

The Wealth Report 2016, released Wednesday by real estate firms Knight Frank and Douglas Elliman, looked at what $1 million can buy around the world.

According to the report, Monaco remained the world's most expensive residential real estate market on a square-meter basis, with $1 million buying only 17 square meters, or 183 square feet. That means for $1 million you can get a 12-by-15-foot room, likely overlooking a water-treatment plant the rather than the marina.

Hong Kong was the second most-expensive market, with $1 million buying 20 square meters, or 215 square feet. London ranked third with 22 square meters, or 236 square feet.

New York once again ranked as the most expensive U.S. city on a per-meter basis, with $1 million buying 27 square meters, or roughly 290 square feet.

The least expensive cities on the list, which looked only at "prime" real estate (in other words, the top segment of each market) were Cape Town, South Africa, and Sao Paulo, Brazil. Brazil's economic crisis means that $1 million now buys 203 square meters, or 2,185 square feet of prime real estate. That compares with 142 square meters, or around 1,500 square feet, last year. In Cape Town, $1 million buys 255 square meters, or 2,745 square feet.

The most expensive luxury real estate markets, however, weren't the ones that saw the biggest price gains. According to the report, Vancouver saw the most substantial lift, with prices up 25 percent. Sydney ranked second by this metric, with prices rising 15 percent. Shanghai ranked third, with 14 percent growth.

All three markets have at least one thing in common: Chinese buyers. Brokers and real estate experts say China's economic slowdown has actually increased overseas property buying by wealthy Chinese, and they expect that wealth flight to continue or even accelerate in 2016.

"Demand from Chinese buyers is stronger right now than it was last year," said Howard Lorber, chairman of New York-based Douglas Elliman.

In the U.S., San Francisco experienced the biggest growth, with prices up 11 percent in 2015. Miami ranked second among U.S. cities, with 6 percent price growth, followed by Los Angeles at 5 percent. New York prices were up a little more than 2 percent.

The markets that saw that biggest price gains in 2015, however, aren't likely to repeat in 2016. According to London-based Knight Frank, Sydney will top the list in 2016, with prices expected to rise 10 percent. New York and Monaco are expected to tie for second, with anticipated price growth of 5 percent. Shanghai prices are projected to rise 4 percent.

The Wealth Report said sales and prices are expected to slow worldwide in 2016, as wealth creation slows on the back of weaker growth in China and other emerging markets, as well as volatile financial markets. What's more, prices in the top cities have gone up so far so fast, they may be reaching a ceiling.

"If you look at places like New York, London or Hong Kong and other sort of key markets, they are starting from a very high level of pricing at the current time," said Liam Bailey, global head of research for Knight Frank. "So I think we should expect slower price growth at best over the next few years compared to the past five years."

"Secret Lives of the Super Rich" premieres March 30th at 10:30 p.m. Eastern.

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