When international property markets change, they change fast. A swift seismic or systematic shift will see cities that previously couldn’t move for investment opportunities dry up in a matter of months. And markets that most people would not have dipped the tip of their little toe into a year ago will suddenly become the next big thing.

When it comes to buying property, identifying growth markets early is the best route to a good deal. The trick is knowing where to look and, crucially, when to make a move. Here are seven of the cities you should be keeping a close eye on in 2017.

Lisbon: the start-up city

Cities to watch in 2017: Lisbon
Lisbon’s sweeping new MAAT Museum, designed by Amanda Levete

Why? Something has happened in the Portuguese capital over the last 18 months, firing up an almost cult-like following for all things Lisbon. Cheap property and a dedicated start-up district weaving through the cobbled streets – beneath the city’s answer to the Golden Gate Bridge – has seen it become one of the world’s trendiest new hotspots quicker than you can say pastéis de nata.
Best for: Affordable coworking spaces, restored residential property, street food in general and sardine BBQs in particular.
New to the cultural scene: Amanda Levete‘s new riverside icon, the MAAT Museum.

Montreal: the Canadian comeback kid

Cities to watch in 2017: view of Montreal's skyline
Photography: Taxiarchos228

Why? After a mass decamp of big business from Montreal to Toronto in the 1970s, commercial giants are following cheap rents back Québec’s largest city. The fact it has been named 2016’s most cost-competitive city in North America makes it all the more investment friendly.
Best for: Innovative but established businesses, couture fashion, Americans eyeing pre-President Trump emigration opportunities.
New to the cultural scene: Montreal is experiencing a city-wide restoration movement. It will welcome a $6m government windfall in 2017 to repair nine religious and cultural buildings, including the Canadian Centre for Architecture.

Austin: the San Fran alternative

Austin skyline during summer
Photography: Ed Schipul

Why? No state taxes? Job opportunities aplenty? A VC investor hotspot? It’s not hard to see why the Texan state capital is attracting 157 new people a day. And thanks to a tech boom, unemployment remains staunchly below 4% despite the influx.
Best for: Cheap alternatives to San Francisco and New York tech hubs; music lovers flocking for the cachet of living in the SXSW festival host city.
New to the cultural scene: Sounds dull but the city is currently reviewing its planning system CodeNEXT – specifically to allow for more music districts and creative spaces.

Accra: the next African powerhouse

Accra Business District, Ghana
Photography: Finnish Eye

Why? Demographics. Ghana’s population is growing exponentially and, with 38% under the age of 15, demand for homes is about to go through the roof – particularly in the capital where GDP is set to triple over the next decade. Throw an IMF-backed infrastructure deal worth $918m into the mix and you have yourself a future economic colossus to rival Lagos.
Best for: Residential investment – but most likely for medium to long term returns.
New to the cultural scene: The Accra-based YouTube serial An African City – hailed the ‘African culture zeitgeist of the moment’ by Time Out – is fuelling a Ghana-obsession.

Lima: the Hispanic hot-spot

Universidad de Ingeniería & Tecnologia in LIMA
RIBA’s ‘Best new building in the world 2016’, designed by Grafton Architects. Photography: Iwan Baan

Why? Following hot on the heels of the Peruvian food movement, bricks and mortar is now underpinning Lima’s reputation as one of South America’s hippest hotspots. Home to the UTEC university campus – named the RIBA’s ‘best new building in the world’ last month – the city is basking in its new found status as an architectural pioneer.
Best for: Education. Markham College is one of the most prestigious schools on the continent.
New to the cultural scene: Watch out for culinary legend Virgílio Martínez’s three new restaurants in 2017.

Cape Town: the last chance saloon

MOCAA in South Africa. Courtesy of Heatherwick Studio
Courtesy of Heatherwick Studio

Why? The depreciation of the Rand has fuelled foreign buyers’ interest in South African residential property. It’s no surprise that Cape Town – considered one of the most striking cities in Africa, if not the world – is at the top of the wish list. But get in quick. 2017 is likely to be the year this city graduates from ‘one to watch’ to ‘one you missed’.
Best for: Short-term investment, scenery, lifestyle.
New to the cultural scene: Heatherwick Studio’s Zeitz MOCAA.

Wroclaw: the cultural capital

Wroclaw market square
Photography: Krzysztof Bak

Why? Or, for that matter, where? The sign of a true up and comer, this city in Western Poland is still relatively unknown – despite just completing its tenure as European Capital of Culture 2016. One of the fastest growing cities in Poland, it is ripe for investment.
Best for: History, nightlife, restaurants. The ultimate city break destination – perfect for regular check-ups on your investment.
New to the cultural scene: Be sure to look out for the 163 anti-communist dwarves scattered throughout the city.

Read next: The 7 best websites for Modernist real estate

Emily Wright is Features and Global Editor of Estates Gazette, as well as a freelance writer for GQ and The Sunday Times

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