The Definitive Guide to Buying Your First Home

This is the most unaffordable city in the world to buy a home


Housing prices in Paris, Hong Kong and Vancouver have increased by 150% since 2000, according to UBS's 2019 Global Real Estate Bubble Index. The median price-to-income ratio now stands at seven, compared to five a decade ago.

UBS's report tracks the risk of property price bubbles in global cities. It also looks at the cost of living around the world, and where professionals "need to work the longest" to afford an apartment in their city. And while cities across the world are seeing sky-high real estate prices, Hong Kong stands above them all: There, a worker earning twice the city's average income "would struggle to afford" to buy a 650-square-foot apartment.

"Prices have outpaced incomes by far in recent years," reads the report, and that could pose an existential threat for the cities themselves. "If employees cannot afford an apartment with reasonable access to the local job market, the attractiveness and growth prospects of the city in question drop."

Some good news, at least for buyers: The report notes that average price growth has paused for the first time since 2012.

Here's how long it takes the average skilled worker to buy a 650-square-foot apartment in some of the biggest cities in the world, according to UBS.

11 years: New York, Tokyo and Tel Aviv

"Buying a [650-square-foot] apartment exceeds the budget of people who earn the average annual income in the highly skilled service sector in most world cities," notes the report.

Though prices in New York specifically are still below their 2006 peak, the city remains unaffordable for most.

"Even a highly skilled worker needs to toil for more than 10 years — the most for inhabitants of any North American city" to afford to buy a 650-square-foot apartment near the city center.

12 years: Singapore

That is actually a decrease from 2009, when UBS estimates it would have taken 14 years of work to buy an apartment.

"The Singapore housing market is one the few among those we cover in which private housing affordability has improved in the last 10 years," reads the report. "Current prices are similar to those in 2008 while household incomes have climbed by 20%."

Still, it takes over a decade for the average skilled worker to afford to buy a home.

14 years: London

London is still unaffordable for many, but its real estate bubble risk is on the decline, per the report.

"The London housing market boom is over," reads the report. "Inflation-adjusted prices have been trending downward for a while. They are off 10% since their mid-2016 peak, almost 4% alone in the last four quarters, with no turnaround in sight."

That said, first-time buyers still spend more than half of their income on mortgage payments on average.

15 years: Paris

Unlike London, Paris has entered real estate bubble territory this year and is the most unaffordable European city.

"Real housing prices in the French capital have reached a new all-time high after a 5% increase in the last four quarters," reads the report.

21 years: Hong Kong

The least affordable city isn't in North America or Europe — Hong Kong takes that crown.

"Fueled by strong investor demand, general positive sentiment and the fear of missing out on capital gains, the real price level in Hong Kong more than doubled between 2008 and 2018," reads the report.

Workers earning twice the city's average income "would struggle to afford" a 650-square-foot apartment, though that might be changing. According to the report, housing prices are expected to fall over the next year.

Don't miss: Here's how much money you have to make a year to afford an 'average' home in the hottest US cities

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