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Looking West: Chinese House Hunters Are Peeking at the U.S. Again

By Felipe Chacón | June 2, 2016
Chinese searches of U.S. homes are on the rise again, but searches out of India saw the biggest jump during the last year.

Less than a year after the Chinese stock market crash and its economy slumped, searches of U.S. properties from the Chinese mainland are on the rise – and the prices of properties they’re searching for are up too.

In Trulia’s semi-regular look at home searches by international house hunters, we’ve found that Canada still leads in the raw volume of search activity for for-sale homes in the U.S. from abroad, but the United Kingdom has closed the gap considerably. Meanwhile, Chinese for-sale search volume and the price of the homes they are looking at have largely rebounded, but still lag slightly when compared with all foreign searches.

The median price of homes searches from China tumbled from nearly $470,700 during the 3-months ending May 1, 2015 to $362,900 during the 3 months ending Nov. 1, 2015 as the Chinese stock market fell 25%. Since then though, while still down 4.8% from the previous year, the median price of homes searched has increased back up to nearly $448,300 during the 3 months ending May 1, 2016 despite a lack of recovery in its stock markets.

By comparison, the median price of the homes being viewed in all foreign searches for for-sale properties in the U.S. increased from $340,100 during the 3 months ending May 1 to $348,800 during the 3 months ending Nov. 1, 2015. It has since decreased slightly to $346,300 during the 3 months ending May 1, 2016, indicating a year-over-year increase of 1.8% from May 2015 to May 2016. Search volume for for-sale homes from China are down 10.7% from May 2015 to May 2016 while all foreign for-sale searches have increased by 13.8% during the same time.

Here are a few other highlights from our analysis:

  • The Chinese share of all foreign searches of for-sale homes has fallen from 1.0% last year to 0.8% this year. Rental search activity from China increased to 0.8% of rentals compared with 0.5% last year.
  • Canadian searches of for-sale properties make up 14.4% of all foreign searches compared with 17.9% last year. In rentals, Canada’s share is lower but growing at 11% compared with 9.0% the previous year.
  • Among the 10 countries with the most search activity on, traffic (for sale and rental) from India grew the most, by 47.0%, compared with last year. All international traffic grew by 13.8% during the same time.
  • Despite relatively low search volume, searchers from Yemen look at for-sale properties in Detroit at 42 times the rate you would expect them to given their national rate. Detroit also has 11,581 estimated Yemeni-born residents, or more than 1/4 of all Yemeni-born residents in the country.
  • Most home searchers from foreign countries search for places nearer to their home country geographically (thanks, Tobler). Searchers from Canada and Ireland do not follow this rule though, favoring areas in Florida and California, respectively.

During the 3-months ending May 1, 3.5% of all home searches (for-sale, rental and off-market) on came from outside the United States. This figure has been steadily decreasing since 2011 as domestic search activity has been growing more rapidly than international search activity. International search activity grew by 13.8% during the 3-month period ending May 1 when compared with the same period a year ago. This compares with roughly 38% growth from domestic users. Since we last analyzed traffic from abroad, the share of searches coming from Canada, which has always been the largest source of international activity, has continued to decline and the United Kingdom has nearly caught up. Most notably, for-sale search activity from Canada declined by 11.2% during the 3-months ending May 2016 while search activity from the U.K. increased by 11.4%, when compared with search volume for the same period a year ago.

Country Share of all foreign searches 2016 Share of all foreign searches 2015 Change in share 2015 to 2016
Canada 13.8% 16.8% -3.0%
United Kingdom 12.1% 12.1% -0.1%
Germany 5.4% 5.1% 0.2%
Brazil 4.1% 4.8% -0.7%
Australia 4.1% 3.5% 0.5%
Mexico 3.4% 3.3% 0.1%
India 2.8% 2.2% 0.6%
France 2.4% 2.7% -0.3%
Japan 2.2% 2.1% 0.1%
Italy 1.9% 2.0% -0.1%
Turkey 1.7% 1.5% 0.2%
Netherlands 1.7% 1.7% 0.0%
South Korea 1.6% 1.4% 0.2%
Russia 1.6% 1.5% 0.1%
Philippines 1.5% 1.2% 0.3%
Includes rental and for-sale home searches

Most foreign searchers using Trulia gravitate to homes in a handful of well-known and/or large metros. But many areas see a disproportionate number of searches from a country, given that country’s overall share of search activity nationally. The following map shows disproportionate search scores for the top the countries by overall volume as well as a few countries that have outlying search patterns.

The metros that receive the most searches from Mexico in order of search volume are San Diego, Los Angeles, New York, Miami, and Chicago. However, from the map, we see metros that are receiving the largest disproportionate share of searches from Mexico are El Paso, Texas, (23 times more than expected), San Diego (9.3), Tucson, Ariz., (5.4), San Antonio, Texas, (4.0), and Miami (2.9).


Searchers from South American countries on the other hand seem to really like the idea of living in Florida. All of Venezuela’s top 5 search locations are in Florida for example, with searches to Miami occurring at 22.7 times what you would expect given that county’s national search volume.


If you compare Detroit and Austin, Texas, two metros of similar size but different fortunes, Austin receives outsized attention from places like Zimbabwe (9.3), Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (8.5), Kenya (3.5), Saudi Arabia (2.5), and Qatar (2.5) while Detroit receives the most disproportionate interest from Yemen (42.1), Lebanon (12.7), Trinidad and Tobago (4.6), Hong Kong (4.4), and Israel (3.6). In Austin, there are about half as many expats from Kenya and Saudi Arabia as you would expect given their national expat population, possibly indicating shifting interests. Detroit, in addition to have a disproportionally bigger population of people from Yemen, also has one of the largest Lebanese populations in the U.S., possibly explaining their interest in the metro.


Looking at San Jose, Calif., it receives the most outsized interest from Taiwan (17.4), Vietnam (14.0), China (8.8), Algeria (7.3), and Hong Kong (6.8). In San Jose, more than 10% of the population identify as being from either Taiwan, Vietnam, China, or Hong Kong.

Compare that to Milwaukee where the most outsized interest comes from the Palestinian Territory (2.7), Albania (2.3), Romania (1.8), Saint Lucia (1.8), and Israel (1.43) and only Albanians have a have a disproportionally large population of expats living in the metro.



Search traffic is based on visits to active for-sale and for-rent properties on, Trulia mobile, and the Trulia app from February 1 to May 1, 2016. Year over year comparisons are use the same time frame. Search traffic volume from Nigeria and Bulgaria was highly volatile over the past eighteen months and was excluded from the analysis. Outsized search volumes by metro were calculated with the following formula: (expat_searchesmetro/all_searchesmetro)/(expat_searchesnational/all_searchesnational)

Using 5-year American Community Survey data, a similar formula was used to check if people from country X make up an outsized proportion of the population of metro Y: (expat_popmetro/all_popmetro)/(expat_popnational/all_popnational)