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Vancouver “overvalued,” warns UBS in housing bubble study

Vancouver is being ranked among the top four overvalued housing markets in the world in a report from UBS that takes aim at how unaffordable the city has become.

The UBS Global Real Estate Bubble Index points to Vancouver as a “significantly overvalued” market, but stops shy of declaring that it’s in full-blown bubble risk territory.

That dubious honour is reserved for the top two cities on the list, London and Hong Kong, while Sydney ranks third on the bubble index

“Cities at or near the bubble risk zone face a higher risk of a large price correction,” UBS writes in the report.

  

 

In Vancouver, “valuations look very stretched today.”

Vancouver’s high price-to-rent ratio suggests an “undue dependence on housing prices on low interest rates.” And unaffordable housing, the report says, “points to high dependence on foreign demand.”

Foreign ownership has been a hot-button topic in Vancouver, with some blaming Chinese investors for driving up prices and putting homes out reach for the middle class.

UBS notes home prices in Vancouver are up 25 percent since 2006, when prices were already high.

Strong Asian demand for the city’s real estate “amplified the rise,” but UBS warns “unpredictable foreign demand” clouds the current outlook.



The thing about bubbles, UBS concedes, is that they’re hard to prove – until they burst.

The UBS report makes no mention of Toronto, where sky-high home prices have Canada’s housing agency warning of correction risks.

“The continued rise in (Toronto) house prices has not been matched by growth in economic and demographic fundamentals, giving rise to strong evidence of overvaluation,” Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., wrote Thursday in its quarterly Housing Market Assessment.

Vancouver, meanwhile, doesn’t appear to have the agency all that worried.

The CMHC says there’s only “moderate” evidence of overvaluation in that market.

“Overheating, acceleration in house prices and overbuilding are not a concern in” Vancouver, it concluded.

It appears bubbles are in the eye of the beholder. In an earlier Tweet on all this, I wrote these two seemingly opposing reports left me “so confused” – and I’m only half joking.

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