2020 will go down as the year when global house prices should have crashed as Covid-19 sent the world hurtling into recession but somehow didn't.
A combination of monetary stimulus, near-zero interest rates and steady demand helped underpin the market, sustaining prices and activity.
Incredibly, the worldwide house price boom even accelerated in many countries across Europe, Asia-Pacific, the US and Canada, according to Globalpropertyguide.com. It found that prices rose in 45 out of 55 housing markets for the 12 months to September 30, and fell in just 10.
Transaction volumes are also healthy, as the lockdown persuaded growing numbers to exchange cramped urban life for outdoor space and gardens, with homeowners moving to the suburbs or further out.
Property price growth in Turkey, Vietnam, New Zealand and Germany all topped 12 per cent, while Austria, the Netherlands, Taiwan and Canada grew between 6 and 7 per cent.
Prices in the Gulf region fell, though, with Saudi Arabia falling 3.51 per cent and Dubai edging down 4.88 per cent. Egypt fared worst of all major markets, posting a 22.31 per cent drop, the Globalpropertyguide study shows.
So what about Dubai? Knight Frank forecasts another price fall next year, of a modest 2 per cent.
However, Arran Summerhill, company director at Holo Mortgage Consultants, is more optimistic. He says the Dubai property market was bottoming out before the pandemic, as buyers took advantage of low prices and cheap finance. Read more about mortgages in Dubai.
The Central Bank of the UAE’s decision in March to let banks increase LTVs by 5 per cent for first-time buyers has further boosted activity, he adds.
There is now an influx of first-time buyers, the majority of whom are targeting villa or townhouse properties rather than apartments, Mr Summerhill says.
He has seen signs of price growth in recent weeks, too. “Reports of bidding wars in prime areas suggest a lack of availability and high demand.”
Any buyer who can cover a 20 per cent down payment and transaction fees should find this a good moment to buy, he adds. "Property prices are their lowest for 10 years, interest rates are the lowest ever, and there are still deals to be done.”
UAE-based buyers must factor in these costs and keep an eye on government announcements as the main stamp duty holiday could be extended due to a massive backlog in activity, says Islay Robinson, chief executive officer at Enness Global. “We are also waiting to see whether the surcharge on overseas investors will actually be introduced. All this makes market timing vital.”
Despite the UK's troubles, its property market is holding firm, particularly in prime areas, says Aaron Strutt, product and communications director at international mortgage broker Trinity Financial. "People have been predicting a crash ever since the last financial crisis, but demand continues to outstrip supply.”
Many international investors consider residential property to be crisis-resistant and remain keen to buy affordable apartments and single family houses, Dr Nicole Lux, senior research fellow at City, University of London’s Business School (formerly Cass), says.
“It is important not to buy at overpriced market values, while some European markets are expected to recover quicker than others. While today might be a good time to invest in Germany or the UK, it might not be the right time to invest in, say, Greece or Poland.”
As always, where you buy property is a personal decision, and may depend on factors such as where you come from, and where you plan to retire.
Analysts have been predicting a global property market crash for the past 15 years, but so far it hasn't happened.
The days of “flipping” properties for a fast profit might be over, though, as the global economy takes a massive hit from the pandemic. Interest rates cannot go any lower, and one day they may even rise. Make sure you can still afford to service your mortgage if they do.