Property rental: What should expats expect in 2024?

Expat news
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Published on 2024-01-16 at 12:55 by Asaël Häzaq
Many countries are currently faced with a property crisis with serious economic and social consequences. With mortgage rates on the rise, more and more households are turning to property rental. There has been a surge in demand, supply is not keeping pace, and prices are soaring. At the same time, governments are relying on immigration to overcome major labor shortages. But how can you move abroad to work when you can't find proper and affordable accommodation? What should expats expect in 2024?

Are we shifting towards a global property collapse?

Uncertainty reigns over real estate, already in crisis since 2023. Should we fear its collapse? Countries are facing soaring interest rates, pressuring households and preventing home ownership. Persistent inflation is undermining purchasing power and driving up the cost of raw materials. Property developers are not keeping up. The entire construction sector is stuck. Globally, the situation is also a source of concern, with Ukraine still at war and the Israel-Hamas war continuing.

Canada, China, the United States, France, Germany, Argentina, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Portugal, etc. are just some of the countries impacted. How are they coping with the property crisis? And how does this whole situation impact expats and prospective expats?


In Argentina, the first measures taken by the ultraliberal Javier Milei are not going down well. His "deregulation" has led to "liberated" rents that are even higher than before. In December 2023, Milei rushed to repeal a 2020 law regulating rents for greater "freedom" between landlords and tenants. However, landlords prefer to convert their accommodation into short-term rentals for foreigners paying in dollars. Unable to pay the high rents, locals are being forced to leave their households.

In the first few days of the Milei presidency, an already uncontrollable inflation rate soared from 12.8% in November to 25.5% in December, for a total of +211% over the year. At the end of December, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Diana Mondino, posted on her X account about the possibility of paying rent in cryptocurrency, kilos of beef, or liters of milk. Joke or not, the announcement did not go down well. In Argentina, food has also become unaffordable.


Rental pressure is exploding in France as well. In 2023, the rise in mortgage rates has put a damper on buyers. As brokers predict a drop to below 4%, and even beyond, borrowers remain cautious. With home ownership on the wane, people are turning to renting. According to the 2024 study by the Observatory, a leading player in the rental market, the hurdles faced in 2023 will continue this year.

In 2023, rents averaged €718 per month, including service charges, for a 43.6 m² property rented for an average of €16.48 per m². Rent per square meter has already risen slightly in 2023 (+1.7%). This is less than the inflation rate, estimated at +5% in 2023. Unsurprisingly, the study reveals significant disparities between regions. Paris has the highest price per m² (37.12 euros). This compares with an average of just €14.15 in the other regions. However, these regions recorded a more marked rise in price per m² (around +3.8%), compared with +1.7% in Paris. Paris is only the 4th city with the highest rental pressure. It is followed by Annecy, Lyon and Rennes, the student city. Bordeaux, Angers, Lille, Montpellier, Strasbourg and Caen round out the top 10 cities where it is difficult to find rental accommodation.

How are immigration laws affecting housing benefits granted to foreigners?

The most vulnerable groups, mainly foreign and local students, are particularly hard hit by these increases. They have to manage with a still inadequate supply of CROUS (Centres régionaux des œuvres universitaires et scolaires) and social housing and are often forced to fall back on private accommodation—difficulties for foreign and national workers who, even on good incomes, are under pressure to rent.

Foreign nationals have suffered another blow: the adoption of a tougher version of the Immigration Act in December 2023, which restricts access to housing benefits (APL). From now on, foreign nationals will have to be legally resident in France for 5 years before they can claim APL. The period is reduced to 3 months for foreign nationals who are working. However, this measure does not apply to international students. According to the experts, however, it will take some time to be applied.


In Germany, too, soaring interest rates, high inflation, and a shortage of new homes (slow construction, labor shortages, rising raw materials costs, etc.) are creating a chaotic situation. In 2023, building permits decreased by 27.8% compared to the previous year. When it came to power in 2021, the Scholz government had pledged to build 400,000 new homes yearly. This promise was not kept in 2022 when only 295,000 new homes were built, and there was still too little social housing, although demand is exploding. The country only has around one million social housing units for 11 million eligible households. The decrease in the number of social housing units since 2006 is still far from being resolved. In 2023, Germany will even see a drop in new housing construction, with only 250,000 new homes being built. The figure is set to fall below 200,000 this year. To get by, more and more people are turning to shared accommodation.

Huge increase in rents

Property developers are going bankrupt all the time, leaving buyers with half-finished homes and mortgages. The situation is even more critical considering that the housing shortage is taking a toll on growth prospects. Faced with a labor shortage, Germany has reformed its immigration law to attract more foreign workers. But they still need to find accommodation. At a time when rents are skyrocketing, squeezing the purchasing power of local residents even further, the government is considering subsidies, particularly for students and apprentices, but also to boost home ownership.

In 2023, there was a lack of around 700,000 homes in Germany. The situation is particularly difficult in the big cities. Berlin, with 85% of its population renting, is bearing the brunt of inflation, with rents rising steadily. In Munich, rents have jumped by 60% in 10 years in certain districts. In August 2023, a study by the broker Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) estimated that rental contracts in Berlin had reached an average of €17.50 per m². In Munich, they jumped to 22.50 euros per m².


In December 2023, Beijing set out its economic recovery policy for 2024. With the housing crisis worsening, the government wanted to strike hard while reassuring investors. But the spiral is not over. The debt of the former Chinese property giant Evergrande and that of Country Garden represents 500 billion dollars. Many construction sites remain at a standstill. As the property giants fall, so do all the other players in the sector. At the end of the chain, buyers without homes are strangled by loans they cannot honor, and tenants are faced with soaring rents.

As in Germany, more and more people are opting for shared accommodation. In China, the unemployment rate is reaching record levels, especially among young people. According to the government, it reached 21.3% in June 2023. The effects of Covid-zero's unemployment policy are still weighing on the economy, weakened by the alarmingly rising property prices. A pillar of Chinese growth, the sector usually accounts for around a third of GDP. This is much higher than the real estate sector in the United States (17%) or France (11%). In China, the real estate bubble bursting has put a severe brake on growth. According to China's National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), GDP is expected to rise laboriously to 4.9% in 2023.

Shenzhen, Beijing, Dalian, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Suzhou and Tianjin are among the most expensive cities in China. Disparities between large urban centers and smaller towns remain wide.

United States

In the United States, there is a tendency towards stabilization of the rental market, although there are still significant disparities between states and cities. Stabilisation had already been observed in 2023, after a year of great tension in 2022, mainly due to construction delays following COVID-19. Inflation remains persistent, however, and continues to affect not only buyers but also property developers. Soaring raw material costs are hampering progress.

As the presidential primaries get underway, the business world is closely monitoring trends. To address the housing shortage and anticipate future demand, it is estimated that the country will need to produce at least 4.3 new homes by 2035. Also faced with labor shortages, the United States is reforming certain visa rules to welcome more foreign professionals. These professionals will have to find somewhere to live. But at what price? In 2023, the ECA International study, which specializes in cost of living research, estimated that New York is the world's most expensive city for expatriates. San Francisco ranked 11th, ahead of Los Angeles (15th) and Chicago (20th). The study explained these positions in particular as a result of the significant increase in rents due to high demand since the health crisis.