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Hottest real estate market? Might be Norway

When it comes to hot real estate markets, Norway wouldn't be the first place to pop into the thoughts of most investors. Not that it isn't wealthy enough. Big oil revenues and fiscally responsible policy makers have provided a terrific cushion against the tide of troubles afflicting so much of Europe. But it's a small country with only a couple of publicly traded property firms.

Yet when I ask a top analyst, Jan Willem Vis, the Dutch-based chief investment officer of global real estate with BNP Paribas Investment Partners, to name his favourite under-the-radar market in the world, he doesn't hesitate.

"That's a country that's underestimated. Oslo is a market that not a lot of people know, but where you can find value. If you have a [property] company that has access to the CBD [central business district], where enough demand is coming in and there's hardly any supply, that's a market worth looking into. A lot of our competitors don't believe in that market. It's a small market. But once it's picking up, then it can grow really fast. You get rental increases of 10-15 per cent per annum. In a tight market, that's where you want to be."

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If you're looking for opportunities elsewhere in Europe, steer clear of most of the euro zone, apart from Finland and Austria. Spain's battered property market will take years to recover. But when asked to name the one spot that worries him most right now, it's China, where he has witnessed near-bubble conditions building. Others say it's already a bubble ... and it's set to burst any time.

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