Global housing fears return as prices drop

House prices are sliding in many countries, according to the latest Knight Frank Global Index

House prices are sliding in countries around the world, reviving concerns of another property downturn.

Forty-one per cent of the countries tracked by the Knight Frank Global House Price Index reported negative growth in the fourth quarter of last year.

That compares with 31 per cent in the second quarter, when many analysts were hailing signs of a recovery in property prices.

"It looks increasingly likely that Asian markets will escape a crash in prices, but in many of the previously hot markets price falls later this year seems a realistic assumption," Liam Bailey, the head of residential research at Knight Frank, said in the report.

Hong Kong continues to lead the world's property markets, showing a 20 per cent increase from the fourth quarter of 2009. But the growth from the third quarter was a relatively modest 3.7 per cent after the government enacted several measures designed to cool the market, Knight Frank found.

Data was not available from Dubai for the fourth quarter but prices fell 10.1 per cent from the first quarter to the third quarter, the largest drop of the 49 countries tracked by Knight Frank.

Overall global prices rose by 2.8 per cent for the year, with the Asia-Pacific region posting 7.5 per cent growth for the year. The laggard was North America, which saw no change in values last year, according to Knight Frank's data.

The end of stimulus incentives in the US and Europe slowed enthusiasm for housing purchases, Mr Bailey said.

"Across Europe and the US the lack of bank lending is likely to extend the recent period of price reversals," he added.

A rise in interest rates and continued restrictions on lending could also dampen any signs of recovery, Knight Frank noted.

"Outside of the luxury markets in the global city hubs, it is difficult to see what could bring about a rapid improvement in the housing markets of the developed economies," Mr Bailey said.