The 10 most expensive cities around the world to buy property

Editor-at-Large · 2 March 2020
Want to know which cities are least affordable around the world? A new survey has crunched the numbers.

Housing affordability in Australia is always a hot topic but how do we compare with the rest of the world? The 16th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey crunched the numbers on 309 housing markets in metropolitan areas in eight countries (Australia, Canada, China [Hong Kong Only], Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States). It used something called a “Median Multiple” – which is the median house price divided by the median household income – to rate housing affordability.

The ratings are as follows:

Affordable: 3.0 and under

Moderately unaffordable: 3.1-4.0

Seriously unaffordable: 4.1-5.0

Severely unaffordable: 5.1 and over

Demographia also broke down the list to 92 “major” housing markets. The survey found that even though there has been moderation of house price increases in some of the least affordable major markets over the past year it wasn’t enough to really improve housing affordability.

It found that only Singapore and Ireland do not have severely unaffordable major markets and that for the sixth year in a row, the United States has the most affordable housing costs among major housing markets.

The 10 least affordable major cities around the world

So which major markets are the least affordable around the world? Spoiler alert: two Australian cities feature on the list. In both those cities median income households need at least three years’ more income to pay for the median priced house than in 2004, when the first Demographia Survey was published.

Let’s count back from 10…

10. London, UK

Big Ben and Westminster Bridge at dusk. Source: Bucchi Francesco (Shutterstock)

Median multiple: 8.2

Median price: £470,000 ($925,404)

Median household income: £57,300 ($112,794)

9. San Francisco, USA

The Painted Ladies of San Francisco. Source: ventdusud (Shutterstock)

Median multiple: 8.4

Median price: $US950,000 ($1,438,979)

Median household income: $US113,700 ($172,230)

8. San Jose, USA

Scenery of the shopping district in San Jose. Source: mTaira (Shutterstock)

Median multiple: 8.5

Median price: $US1,120,000 ($1,696,419)

Median household income: $US131,400 ($199,015)

Equal 6. Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland skyline. Source: DEKDOIZz (Shutterstock)

Median multiple: 8.6

Median price: $NZ830,000 ($794,145)

Median household income: $NZ96,000 ($91,860)

Equal 6. Toronto, Canada

Toronto skyline. Source: TRphotos (Shutterstock)

Median multiple: 8.6

Median price: $C726,000 ($828,091)

Median household income: $C84,800 ($96,725)

5. Los Angeles, USA

Famous Hollywood Boulevard. Source: f11photo (Shutterstock)

Median multiple: 9.0

Median price: $US687,000 ($1,040,467)

Median household income: $US76,500 ($115,869)

4. Melbourne, Australia

Flinders Street Station. Source: f11photo (Shutterstock)

Median multiple: 9.5

Median price: $843,000

Median household income: $88,700

3. Sydney, Australia

Sydney Harbour. Source: Rudy Balasko (Shutterstock)

Median multiple: 11.0

Median price: $1,080,000

Median household income: $97,900

2. Vancouver, Canada

Vancouver False Creek. Source: Songquan Deng (Shutterstock)

Median multiple: 11.9

Median price: $C905,000 ($1,032,435)

Median household income: $C75,800 ($86,474)

1. Hong Kong, China

View of Victoria Bay on Hong Kong. Source: Rad Radu (Shutterstock)

Median multiple: 20.8

Median price: $HK7,040,000 ($1,368,978)

Median household income: $HK338,000 ($65,726)

What about the rest of Australia?

It probably didn’t surprise many people that Sydney and Melbourne are very unaffordable but where do other cities rank? Of the 23 Australian locations that were considered in the survey 14 were rated as “severely unaffordable” as they had a median multiple of 5.1 and over. The Sunshine Coast (8.4) and Gold Coast (8.0) were close behind Sydney and Melbourne as least affordable.

Five areas fell into the “seriously unaffordable” range, three were “moderately unaffordable” and only one was considered “affordable” – Gladstone in Queensland. The table below shows the results for all the locations considered.


International Affordability Rank National Rank Housing market Rating Median price Median household income
276 17 Adelaide, SA Severely unaffordable (6.9) $472,000 $68,600
217 8 Albury-Wodonga, NSW-VIC Seriously unaffordable (4.8) $332,000 $69,800
174 5 Alice Springs, NT Seriously unaffordable (4.2) $455,000 $107,200
261 12 Ballarat, VIC Severely unaffordable (6.0) $397,000 $66,600
242 11 Bendigo, VIC Severely unaffordable (5.4) $358,000 $66,700
266 14 Brisbane, QLD Severely unaffordable (6.3) $546,000 $86,700
217 8 Bundaberg, QLD Seriously unaffordable (4.8) $265,000 $55,100
239 10 Cairns, QLD Severely unaffordable (5.3) $397,000 $74,300
266 14 Canberra, ACT Severely unaffordable (6.3) $692,000 $109,800
130 3 Darwin, NT Moderately unaffordable (3.8) $460,000 $120,500
269 16 Fraser Coast, QLD Severely unaffordable (6.5) $326,000 $50,300
286 19 Geelong, VIC Severely unaffordable (7.4) $551,000 $74,100
29 1 Gladstone, QLD Affordable (2.8) $261,000 $93,800
292 20 Gold Coast, QLD Severely unaffordable (8.0) $625,000 $77,700
279 18 Hobart, TAS Severely unaffordable (7.0) $497,000 $71,000
197 6 Mackay, QLD Seriously unaffordable (4.5) $358,000 $80,400
306 22 Melbourne, VIC Severely unaffordable (9.5) $843,000 $88,700
261 12 Perth, WA Severely unaffordable (6.0) $504,000 $84,600
103 2 Rockhampton, QLD Moderately unaffordable (3.5) $257,000 $72,700
296 21 Sunshine Coast, QLD Severely unaffordable (8.4) $593,000 $70,200
307 20 Sydney, NSW Severely unaffordable (11.0) $1,080,000 $97,900
206 7 Toowoomba, QLD Seriously unaffordable (4.6) $335,000 $72,400
147 4 Townsville, QLD Moderately unaffordable (3.9) $310,000 $80,000
Listed in alphabetical order. Source: 16th annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Study.

Main image source: Ivan Kruk (Shutterstock)

Currency conversions as of 26 February, 2020.

Canstar’s Editor-at-Large, Effie Zahos, has more than two decades of experience helping Aussies make the most of their money. Prior to joining Canstar, Effie was the editor of Money Magazine, having helped establish it in 1999. She is an author and one of Australia’s leading personal finance commentators, appearing regularly on TV and radio.


This article was reviewed by Editorial Campaigns Manager Maria Bekiaris before it was published as part of our fact-checking process.


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