Top cities for high-end homes have this in common


By Robert Frank


The luxury real estate market is slowing worldwide, with weakness in Europe and Russia weighing on prices, according to a new report. But as Chinese investors continue to seek investments outside of their home country, cities drawing interest from these buyers are outperforming the broader market.

The Knight Frank Prime Global Cities Index, which measures the market for the top 5 percent of real estate prices in 34 major cities, increased by just 1.9 percent in the first nine months of 2015.

That marks a deceleration from 7 percent growth during the first nine months of2013 and 4 percent for the first nine months of 2014. And while the index is still 34 percent above the low it hit during the financial crisis in 2009, “its annual rate of growth has slowed significantly,” according to the report.

The top city for luxury real estate over the past year is Vancouver, where prices surged 20.4 percent through September, according to the report. Supply of high-end homes is tight there, down 32 percent from the previous year. The city is also getting a boost from foreign buyers, many from China.

The No. 2-ranked city was Sydney, which has also been popular among Chinese buyers. It saw price growth of 13.7 percent, helped by the weak Australian dollar and strong local economy.

Vancouver, Canada.

Shanghai ranked third, with price increases of 10.7 percent. The report said that the reversal of strict housing policies and tax cuts and looser monetary policy have fueled demand, including among Chinese buyers.

The report said that despite China’s economic slowdown, wealthy Chinese continue to pour money into overseas real estate as a way to protect their wealth.

“Wealth from China will continue to flow into overseas property markets with the U.K., U.S., Canada and Australia being key target destinations,” the report said.

Yet the strength in China-driven markets was muted by weakness in Europe, Russia and other economies struggling with slower growth.

The worst-performing city was Singapore, which saw prices drop 7.9 percent in the first nine months due in part to a tax on foreign buyers. The second-worst market was Zurich, with a 5.1 percent decline, followed by Moscow with a 3.8 percent drop.

Cities in the U.S. ranked in the middle of the pack, according to the report. Miami was the top-performing U.S. city, with 5.9 percent growth over the past year. Los Angeles ranked just below it, with 5.8 percent growth.

Knight Frank said that while growth is slowing, the global wealthy still see luxury real estate as a good investment.

“As [quantitative easing] unwinds and a U.S. rate rise draws near, prime assets will remain on the radar of investors and high-net-worth individuals,” the report said.


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