Global house prices: Searching for solid ground | The Economist
Aug 18th 2012 | from the print edition
AFTER years of dizzying ascents, a big dose of gravity has hit residential-property markets around the world. According to The Economist’s latest round-up, year-on-year prices are now falling in 12 of the 21 countries we track; in five of the other nine, prices are rising at a slower rate than they were a year ago.
Earthbound prices are returning many markets to “fair value”, defined as the long-run average ratio of house prices to disposable income and to rents. Housing is now around or below its fair value in eight countries. But reaching this mark does not mean prices will stop falling. After dropping by a third from their 2006 peak, prices in America now stand at 19% below fair value. The bottom of the market is close, however. The month-on-month Case-Shiller index of 20 cities increased for the fourth consecutive time in May, by 0.9%. Housing sales are picking up, although they remain below their long-run average, and the number of mortgages in foreclosure has fallen to its lowest level for three years. Financing is cheap, too: real 30-year fixed mortgage rates are at 30-year lows.