Limerick tops global property price affordability index for the second year in a row

The latest release of Demographia’s annual survey of house price affordability has created headlines for highlighting how chronically unaffordable property is in Hong Kong. Median property prices in the territory were a staggering 19 times median household incomes in the third quarter of 2015, a new record in the twelve years that the survey has been published. Hong Kong has beaten its own record set in 2014 of properties being valued at 17 times median incomes, which in itself beat the record it set in 2013 (14.9).

What hasn’t received quite so much attention is at the other end of the scale, properties which are affordable compared to median incomes. Remarkably, out of the 367 property markets tracked by the survey across nine countries over four continents, it is the property market in Limerick which is judged to be the most affordable.

The median property in Limerick in 2015 was €100,000, and with median household incomes in the area of €51,200, a typical house can be bought for less than two years’ worth of gross income, a fraction of the nineteen years’ worth of income a property in Hong Kong would cost.

Limerick’s house price multiple of 1.8 is the lowest multiple outside the United States over the period that the survey has ran, and even inside the United States the only markets with appreciably lower income multiples have been seen in the famously troubled real estate markets in Michigan (Flint, Detroit and Saginaw) in 2011 and 2012, and all have seen substantial rebounds since. In both 2014 and 2015, it has been the nearby market of Waterford which was the second most affordable property market, with an income multiple of 2.1 in 2015 (down from 2.2 in 2014).

The graph below shows a selection of house price multiples across the UK & Ireland. It is notable how, despite the ongoing boom in London property prices, compared to incomes they still haven’t reached the heights experienced in Belfast in 2007 (Belfast is the only Northern Ireland property market tracked by the survey).

UK & Ireland Property Prices

And to put these markets in a global context, this chart shows Belfast, London, Dublin and Limerick compared with New York, Sydney and Hong Kong.

Global Property Prices

Of course, these are all very different markets, and one might expect property prices relative to income to vary significantly across the world. However, it is a stark illustration of how crippling housing expenses are in many countries. Also, given price rises in countries with a significant exposure to the boom in China over the last decade (e.g. Australia), a slowdown or recession in China could see the property boom leading to a crash. See Ireland, both North and South, in the years following 2007 to see how this can prove problematic.

Demographia define any income multiple of less than 3 as “affordable”. Limerick and Cork are one of a handful of markets in the survey that this criteria. Whilst a property crash in places such as Hong Kong and Australia have the potential to cause plenty of problems for the wider world economy, there is an even bigger issue here.

If property prices remain so stratospherically high across much of the developed world, children will become a luxury that few will be able to afford, and the pace at which the population is ageing will quicken ever faster. Whose tax revenues will pay for Generation X’s health and care spending as they approach their dotage?


  • aquifer

    Deflating property prices by taxing vacant building land could help families struggling to pay for childcare and buying extra bedspaces.

  • NMS

    But would anyone voluntarily live in Limerick or Waterford?

    My abiding memory of Waterford (2.1 times median earnings) is a weekend spent in the town in the late 1970s and going for an early Friday afternoon pint in a pub on the quays. In the corner there was a “gentleman” eating tripe.

    In the case of Limerick, it remains “Stab City” to me.

  • Zig70

    I drove through Limerick a few years back. It’s not the best, though €50k average wage is not to be sniffed at.

  • John Collins

    Would anyone live in Limerick?
    I come from the Western end of County Limerick, 35 miles from the city, and I have lived away from the county for the past fifty years, I have gone there very frequently over that period to sample its night life, its tremendous range of sporting occasions, in my younger days to court some of its beautiful women and I have generally found its many attractions irresistible. If I was ever on my own I would return to live out my days among its splendid people in a heartbeat. As regards the ‘Stab City’ comment I have never even seen one pub fight there in all my years visiting the city.

  • Greenflag 2

    Of the 50 plus countries in Europe – Ireland is in the top 10 on a GDP per capita basis – the UK isn’t .

  • Greenflag 2

    You remind one of the Englishman who decided to visit France on holiday . He decided to write a diary /notebook while he was there . As the ferry docked at Calais he looked at a group of people on shore and he noticed a man with a hunched back alongside an old lady in a wheelchair . He immediately opened his notebook and wrote into it

    ;The French are a race of hunchbacks and cripples ‘

    Perhaps you should stop reading the Daily Mail /Sun or Indo or whatever toilet tissue rag it is that informs your opinions .

    Its 2016 not the 1970’s -Things have changed even if you haven’t .

    But then some folks only see what they want to see and with their minds wide shut they manage to see it every time 🙁

  • Greenflag 2

    Your last sentence needs editing ! I take it you meant live not lie . I’m sure Limerick has it fair share of those who dabble in untruths just like anywhere else ;)?

  • Greenflag 2

    ‘ would anyone voluntarily live in Limerick or Waterford?”

    What a daft and utterly stupid question/ statement . The total population of both cities is approx 130,000 . I guess you imagine they have walls around each city to stop the people leaving or like Belfast have walls within the city to keep the locals from killing each other because of sectarian differences .

    ! wise up !

  • Tochais Siorai

    Why? Have you been stabbed there?

  • NMS

    Zig – It is very easy to wind people up! The €51,000 mentioned is an national figure for household income.

  • NMS
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  • NMS
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  • salmonofdata

    That’s not the case, the €51k median household income refers only to the Limerick area. The median household income in Waterford was €47.7k, in Dublin it was €59k, and in Belfast it was £30.6k (~€40k).

  • Greenflag 2

    Go to Saudi Arabia . Take pictures of Pakistani , Filipino , or Indonesian slaves .While you are at it take pictures of fat , very obese , and arrogant Saudis beating their servants and abusing them – You may not get as many smiles as you did in Limerick -In fact you be imprisoned and have your camera confiscated and your hands chopped off !

    Note there are poor folks everywhere. Some of them take exception to people coming to photograph them for purposes unknown . I guess you were lucky .

  • Robin Keogh

    Back in the day both Limerick and Waterford were pretty dismal places. However over the last twenty years both cities have thrived, in fact limerick is a fantanstic city to spend a weekend in for a treat. (I did so last summer and was amazed ) i think all Irish cities such as Limerick, Derry and even Kilkenny were a bit sloppy twenty years ago. Not so these days.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    While doing your research you should also look into the past participle of the verb: run.

  • Greenflag 2

    Closer to home heres a link to UK ‘bedroom tax ‘ with perhaps some good news for the poor and weak and not such good news for the rich and powerful in UK politics.

    Why the Tories don’t come out with a policy that builds WW2 POW corrugated tin dormitory camps for the poor and homeless in the UK who can’t afford market rates for rent -I don’t know – If they were good enough for German POW’s in 1940 why not for the UK homeless and lower income earners in 2016 ?

  • John Collins

    And I presume there are no criminals where you come from. They cut up a man with a chain saw last week in Dublin. I suppose that will be up in utube too

  • John Collins

    Where is the word lie in the last sentence above?
    I most certainly am not telling any lies about my experiences over many years visiting the city.

  • John Collins

    No it is not. The Mid West is the second most prosperous part of the ROI after the Dublin Reion, according to a Central Statistics Report, published a few years back.

  • John Collins

    Thanks for posting that. At least it gives a more balanced view.

  • Greenflag 2

    Salmon of Data

    “children will become a luxury that few will be able to afford, and the pace at which the population is ageing will quicken ever faster. Whose tax revenues will pay for Generation X’s health and care spending as they approach their dotage?’

    Who’s tax revenue will pay for Gen X ? Immigrants of course -if there are enough. The British , Americans , Germans , French and now the Irish have all stopped replacing their local populations with ‘natives ‘ and are relying on young immigrants and their children to make up the difference . If it were not for the immigrants ‘contribution ‘ these above populations would be in absolute decline . Eventually the children of immigrants will have fewer children also and the next generation will have to import even more immigrants but by then world wide birth rates will have reduced probably to current western european norms and then the developed countries will face Japanisation where the population is expected to reduce to 80 million from 125 million in the next 30 years . Japan has had a no immigrant policy for decades which is why their national debt is 200% of their GDP

    As my mother used to say – the rich have money and the poor have children . Which used to be the way of the world in Europe up to the 1950’s and beyond in some cases . Nowadays even the poor have fewer children and the rich fewer still and eventually the Rubicon will be crossed . How an economy will function with a stagnant , rapidly aging or declining population is not something that our politicians ever consider – Their career timespan is a decade or two or in a few cases more but ‘demographic’ effects and it’s economic and social impacts extend beyond the average human lifespan .

    Of course they could tax the rich or whatever is left of the middle and working classes . Better be careful with the immigrants though – they might resent paying high taxes to keep an elderly childless minority in the comfort to which they have been accustomed . And who could blame them given that their children will be an even greater luxury at that future time ?

  • Croiteir

    If an economy cannot afford to meet the fundamental needs of the people which it serves then one needs to question the economy, not the people.