Europe property downturn “continues to surprise” as US continues to recovery


The world's housing markets posted mixed signals during the full year to Q3 2012, according to the latest survey by Global Property Guide, and Europe is at the eye of the storm.

Indeed, while the US property market continues to recovery, the scale of the European downturn, the sheer size of the downward pressure, "continues to surprise", admits the report.

Of the 44 countries for which quarterly house price figures are available, house prices fell in 23 countries, and rose in 21 countries during the year ending in the third quarter of 2012, again in inflation-adjusted terms. 

America is the brightest sport on the real estate map. The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) seasonally-adjusted purchase-only house price index rose by 2.31% year-on-year in Q3 2012, the highest growth seen since Q2 2006. The nationwide seasonally-adjusted S&P/Case-Shiller home price index also rose by 1.92% during the year to Q3 2012, in sharp contrast with its 7% year-on-year decline seen in Q3 2011.

Dubai, UAE, has also rebounded strongly. The price index for all residential properties surged by 14.43% during the year to end-Q3 2012, as compared to a meagre year-on-year increase of 0.96% seen in the same period last year.

Pacific housing markets are now recovering too. New Zealand's median house price rose by 5.19% during the year to end-Q3 2012, in sharp contrast with the 4.39% year-on-year decline in Q3 2011. Likewise, Australia's housing market is also improving, with house prices in its eight major cities falling by just 1.57% year-on-year in Q3 2012, the lowest decline since Q4 2010.

Meanwhile, there is some positive news for individual European housing markets. House price falls in Ireland may be decelerating. Ireland's residential property price index fell by 13.17% year-on-year in Q3 2012, the lowest decline since Q1 2011. In addition, house prices have risen significantly in Austria, Turkey, Latvia, Germany, Iceland and Finland.

But many European housing markets remain extremely depressed, and continue their rapid spiral downwards. House price falls are accelerating in Greece, Spain, Netherlands, Portugal, Croatia and Lithuania. Of the 23 European countries included in the survey, 14 countries recorded house price falls while only 9 countries have seen house price increases. The nine weakest housing markets in the global survey are all in Europe.

Other bad news can be found in Asia, where the housing market surge has weakened. Seven of the 10 Asian housing markets included in the Global Property Guide survey performed more poorly this year than the previous year. Nonetheless, Asia's biggest housing market, China, is recovering, judging by the latest quarter's figures.

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