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Hong Kong’s housing market is ‘least affordable’: survey

Monday, 20 Jan 2014 | 10:30 PM ET
The most unaffordable cities to buy property
Tuesday, 21 Jan 2014 | 2:10 AM ET
According to the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey, Hong Kong was ranked the most unaffordable city to buy property. CNBC's Julia Wood reports.

Hong Kong and Vancouver are two of the most unaffordable cities to buy property, according to the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey published Tuesday.

In the 2014 survey, Hong Kong was branded the most unaffordable, followed by Vancouver and San Francisco. Australia's Sydney and Melbourne followed in the fourth and fifth positions.

The Demographia survey looked at 360 cities in nine countries: Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, the U.K. and the U.S. Using a median multiple – a World Bank and United Nations evaluation method – it determined whether they fell into one of four categories: severely unaffordable, seriously unaffordable, moderately unaffordable and affordable.

(Read more: Hong Kong luxury home buyers queue amid talk of last hurrah)

Hong Kong's average home price rose to 14.9 times gross annual median household income from 13.5 times in 2013, the highest ever level recorded by the survey in its ten-year history.

Jerome Favre | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Many analysts have warned that a bubble is forming in Hong Kong's red hot property market, where home prices have more than doubled since 2009, as strong demand from mainland China and record-low mortgage rates have driven growth.

Warnings have also been sounded about Canada and Australia, where low interest rate environments and strong demand from Asia has also fueled record demand there as well. Canadian home prices are up nearly 100 percent since 2000.

(Read more: In space-starved Hong Kong, the elderly struggle for shelter)

According to the survey, homes in Vancouver rose to 10.3 times income, and San Francisco's median multiple was clocked at 9.2, a sharp deterioration from last year's 7.8.

Demographia said they were concerned about the sharp deterioration in home price affordability in California, where 11 of the most unaffordable markets in the U.S. are located.

Hong Kong's housing affordability problem
Paul Louie, Managing Director, Asia Ex-Japan Property Research at Barclays says Hong Kong's housing affordability is a problem and expects property prices to drop by 30%.

"There are indications of a substantial worsening housing affordability situation in California, which was the core of the U.S. housing bust of the last decade that precipitated the Great Financial Crisis. House prices in the six major markets of California have risen nearly 40 percent relative to incomes since bottoming out in 2009," read the report on the survey findings.

The survey also looked at the affordability of countries' overall property markets, as well as focusing in on major cities.

(Read more: Hong Kong's property developers locked in a price war)

Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong were classified as "severely unaffordable." While at the other end of the scale, the most affordable geographies were Ireland, the U.S. and Japan, each of which had a 'moderately unaffordable' rating between 3.1 and 4.0.

The survey measured housing affordability using the "median multiple" – a World Bank and United Nations evaluation method, except in Japan, where data for estimating medians is not readily available, and instead average multiple data was used (average house price divided by average household income).

By CNBC's Katie Holliday: Follow her on Twitter @hollidaykatie

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