Housing: What $500K can get you around the world

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Home ownership - once one of life's rites of passage – is becoming more and more unattainable, as price rises push many out of the market.

In the first quarter of this year, global house prices rose by 0.6 percent, according to Knight Frank's Global House Price Index. This was down from 1.2 percent over the previous quarter, but still marked the eighth consecutive quarterly increase – and the real estate firm expects the index to strengthen in the second quarter.

When it comes to purchasing a place to call one's own, a budget of half a million U.S. dollars might sound attractive - but how much does it actually buy? CNBC goes around the world to find out what this amount will get you in some of the world's hottest cities.

By CNBC's Alice Tidey.


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Average house prices in the U.K. capital rose 19.3 percent year-on-year in June, according to the Office for National Statistics. Although there are now signs of a Bank of England-engineered slowdown, analysts warn the housing market remains one of the main risks to the U.K. recovery.

With the average cost of a house in capital totaling £499,000 ($830,589), it is difficult to find a central London property for £300,000 ($500,000), but not impossible if space - or the lack thereof - is not an issue.

Within this budget, one would likely end up with a small flat on an ex-public housing estate, probably below 35-40 square meters in size. Private company Pocket Living is working with local councils to build one-bed flats and studios for about £285,000, designed specifically for singles and couples on low to moderate incomes.


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Since the housing boom of the early 2000s – when house prices in South Africa rose by an annual average of 20 percent – price growth in the country has slowed significantly. According to the FNB House Price Index, house price growth should reach 7.3 percent in 2014, before slowing to expand by 5.7 percent in 2015.

But $500,000 still goes a long way in Johannesburg. Someone after a flat should be able to bag a 3-bedroom apartment with parking for two cars and… its own swimming-pool. For house hunters, the South African capital is packed with villas and townhouses with wonderful vistas and up to 500 square meters in floor space for this budget.


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Properties in the Russian capital have the ninth-highest price per square meter ratio in the world, according to Knight Frank, with prospective homeowners needing to shell out between $20,900 and $25,600 per square meter. And prime house prices are continuing to rise, growing by 2.1 percent in 2013.

However it's still possible to find a newly-renovated 60-square-meter, two-bed apartment right in the city center, less than a mile away from the Kremlin for around half a million dollars.

New York

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In New York, the old adage "location, location, location" certainly holds true. According to the online real estate website Trulia, the median sales price of a residential property in New York between May and August 2014 stood at $1.16 million, a 6.1 percent increase on the year.

Indeed, while $500,000 could buy you a three-bed townhouse in Brooklyn, it will get you just a one-bed apartment in the Upper East side – although it might come with building amenities including a full-time doorman, landscaped roof-terrace, swimming pool and fitness center.


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In 2013, prime residential property prices in Beijing rose 17.1 percent, according to Knight Frank, as the city continues to attract the attention of more and more ultra high net worth individuals.

It's been a popular place to buy property for some time, with residential price growth of 83 percent since March 2009. As a result, a $500,000 budget will get a wannabe home-owner a near-100-square-meter, 3-bed flat in the Old City.

Rio de Janeiro

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House price growth in Rio de Janeiro peaked at 40 percent in 2010, and while it has slowed since – prices rose by 15 percent in 2013 - prospects for a substantial downward price correction seem "relatively remote", according to real estate agent Savills.

Armed with $500,000, a house hunter would be able to move into a flat of several hundred square meters, boasting three bedrooms, a dining room and video room, in a building overlooking the world-famous Copacabana beach.


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Dubai's real-estate bubble may have burst in 2008, and although prices have not yet returned to pre-crash levels, they have recovered well. In fact, according to Knight Frank, house prices in Dubai posted the fastest year-on-year rise of any of the world's major markets for the fourth consecutive quarter in the first three months of the year, with growth of 27.7 percent.

If you're too impatient buying off-plan – a Dubai specialty – a $500,000 check will get you a large 2-bed apartment in one of the city's ubiquitous skyscrapers, a stone throw away from the impressive Palm Islands.


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Planning on buying in Sydney? The good news is you'll be living in the world's seventh-most liveable city, according to rankings in The Economist. Unfortunately, the same magazine named the Australian city the world's fifth most expensive, according to its Cost of Living index.

Half a million U.S. dollars here will get you a cosy studio apartment close to the Sydney Opera House - but if you're willing to move one or two miles away from the iconic building, you'll be able to afford a larger, modern, one-bed apartment.

Hong Kong

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When it comes to buying luxury property, Hong Kong is one of the toughest places out there. According to Knight Frank, one square meter of prime residential property in the Chinese city will cost between $43,700 and 53,500.

But if you're not looking for luxury, then $500,000 will get you significantly more. This budget could bag you a (still relatively small) 25- to 30-square-meter one-bed flat close to the business district on Hong Kong Island, facing Victoria harbor.