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With China’s property market cooling after years of rapid growth, 2014 has seen real estate in the emerging markets come into focus. As the year draws to a close, we look back at an eventful 12 months for property sectors in frontier countries.

In Asia, China saw its real estate market hit a slump early in the year, with falling property prices and a drop in construction activity. However elsewhere in the region, the high growth seen in property markets in Southeast Asia in recent years continued throughout 2014, largely due to strong macroeconomic fundamentals.

In Indonesia, growth in the property sector continues to be fuelled by a rapidly expanding middle class, while in the Philippines, the real estate market benefited from sustained demand for commercial real estate from the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector.

Jose Romarx Salas, Head of Research and Consulting at Pinnacle Real Estate Consulting Services, recently told us that property prices in the Philippines hit pre-Asian crisis levels last year in nominal terms. “But this is not an indication that a bubble is forming as there is real demand for houses and real dollars coming from the BPO sector and overseas Filipino worker remittances. These are pushing up consumer demand for housing,” Salas said.

On the back of economic and political reforms, many emerging Asian real estate markets have caught the eye of international investors. Myanmar’s property sector has been characterized by strong demand outstripping supply, which has pushed up property prices, particularly in central Yangon. Meanwhile, the expansion of Sri Lanka’s tourism industry has opened up new opportunities for investors and developers alike, with arrivals rising nearly 10 percent in November this year.

New tax reforms have come into effect in Mexico, which has impacted on the country’s property market. For real estate sales, including land, there will be a maximum capital gains tax exemption. The sale of every property will have an exemption limit of 700,000 UDI, equating to around 3.6 million pesos. Elsewhere in Latin America, 2014 has seen an increasing number of real estate businesses in Colombia switch online. “The introduction of online property portals is enabling companies to expand their real estate marketing strategies and establish brand recognition,” said Guillermo Santamaría Alvarado, Administrative Director of property firm Julio Corredor y Cia.

In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia continues to grapple with its housing shortage. In March the Ministry of Housing announced a new scheme to address the shortfall, with about US$67 billion set aside to build 500,000 homes over the coming years. The shortage, which is largely due to rapid population growth in the Kingdom, has pushed up property prices, according to recent research into Riyadh’s residential market from global real estate firm Knight Frank.

After Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) was rebased, the country’s economy overtook South Africa’s as the largest in Africa. Similar results were seen in Kenya, where rebasing the GDP saw the economy increase in size by 25.3 per cent to claim middle income status. As Udo Okonjo, CEO of real estate agency Fine & Country West Africa, says: “The recent rebasing of Nigeria’s GDP …. has opened up conversations among serious investors locally and internationally. Nigeria is clearly a new frontier with opportunities that offer much better rates of return than most mature economies, albeit with mitigable risks.”

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