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Real estate transparency at a city level

Global Real Estate Transparency Index, 2020

Real estate transparency plays a crucial role in a city’s success by attracting new investment and business activity, enabling sound long-term planning, enhancing community well-being and safeguarding the environment. Understanding differences in transparency between cities is also essential for investors and corporate occupiers as they look to understand the nuances of transparency, market openness and risk across competing cities. 

In GRETI 2020 we have extended coverage to 163 city metropolitan areas across the globe to complement national-level coverage, in recognition of the material differences in transparency within some national territories.

The World’s 20 Most Transparent Cities

Anglophone cities dominate the top global positions

London once again takes top spot as the world’s most transparent real estate market and remains the most active cross-border real estate investment market. Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sydney and Washington DC round off the global top 5. Notably, the global top 20 includes several small-to-mid sized second-tier cities that have been punching above their weight as real estate investment destinations in the recent upcycle. They include Seattle, Denver, Brisbane and Manchester.

Paris is the notable non-Anglophone city in the top 20. The city particularly excels on sustainability transparency, supported by ambitious governance targets including plans to become a carbon-neutral city by 2050.

Within-country differences

The Index also confirms that in most 'Highly Transparent' and 'Transparent' countries, intra-national differences in transparency are relatively marginal. This is the case in the UK and Germany for example, as well as the more geographically dispersed cities across Australia and Canada. Differences are greater in the U.S., where a patchwork of state and municipal governments has led to differences in transaction disclosure rules and taxation, compounding the effects of distinct market practices and data availability across metropolitan areas.

Yet the largest variation in transparency is found in China. While Hong Kong SAR remains head and shoulders above Mainland China, Shanghai and Beijing have been steadily catching up over recent surveys and have nudged into the 'Transparent' category for the first time in 2020. Meanwhile, Mainland China's second and third-tier cities remain in the 'Semi-Transparent' category, though notably they did record similar rates of improvement to the first-tier cities.