THE BLOG

International House Hunters Shifting from Vacation Areas to Urban Neighborhoods

06/20/2014 04:31 pm ET | Updated Aug 20, 2014

The top countries for foreign home searches in the U.S. are Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Brazil.

Nationally, 4.0% of the home searches on Trulia.com between January and May 2014 came from outside the U.S. That's a slight decline from the same period last year, when foreign searches accounted for 4.2% of Trulia's web search traffic. Canada, the United Kingdom, and Germany remain the top three countries outside the U.S. for home searches. But Brazil has pushed up to 4th place, jumping ahead of India, Mexico, and Australia. Brazil accounted for 4.1% of foreign search traffic in 2014 versus 2.9% in 2013.

# Country Share of all foreign searches, 2014 Share of all foreign searches, 2013 Change in share, 2014 vs 2013
1 Canada 18.5% 19.1% -0.6%
2 United Kingdom 10.6% 9.9% 0.6%
3 Germany 5.5% 5.5% 0.0%
4 Brazil 4.1% 2.9% 1.3%
5 India 3.7% 3.5% 0.1%
6 Mexico 3.0% 2.9% 0.1%
7 Australia 3.0% 3.3% -0.3%
8 France 2.7% 2.7% 0.0%
9 China 2.1% 2.2% -0.1%
10 Japan 2.0% 2.1% -0.1%
11 Italy 1.9% 1.9% 0.0%
12 Netherlands 1.6% 1.5% 0.1%
13 Russia 1.6% 1.5% 0.1%
14 Philippines 1.5% 1.6% -0.1%
15 South Korea 1.3% 1.2% 0.2%

The most striking change in foreign search patterns over the past year is that the foreign search share is rising in dense, urban neighborhoods but falling in vacation areas. In general, these two types of places tend to get more foreign interest than the U.S. overall does: foreign searches accounted for 4.0% of searches for U.S. homes overall, 4.7% of searches in vacation areas, and 9.4% of searches in the densest urban neighborhoods. But these two trends are moving in different directions, as the chart shows.

ShareUSHomeSearches_Graph

Note: "dense urban neighborhoods" are ZCTAs (ZIP Code Tabulation Areas, the Census approximation of ZIP codes) with at least 5,000 housing units per square mile. "Vacation areas" are ZCTAs where at least 25% of homes are for seasonal or occasional use.

Underneath these broad trends lie big differences among foreign countries and across U.S. metros neighborhoods. On to the details.

Canadians Lean Toward Vacation Homes, While Brazilians Want Urban Real Estate

Canada is the top foreign country with U.S. home searches, with 19% of all foreign search traffic in 2014 (through May). Relative to other countries, Canadians are also the most drawn to U.S. vacation areas: 11% of Canadian searches were for homes in vacation areas. This is higher than any other country with significant search activity on Trulia. Canada also stands out for its love of Phoenix, which was among the top metros for homes viewed by Canadians but not by searchers from any other country.

In contrast with Canadians, Brazilians tend to look in urban neighborhoods. One quarter of the searches from Brazil were in dense, urban neighborhoods, higher than any other country in the top six for search activity overall. Urban areas were even more popular among house hunters in Australia, France, Italy, and Russia.

Just as house hunters from different countries look in different types neighborhoods, they also look at different types of homes. Among countries with the most search traffic, Australians look at the most expensive for-sale homes, with a median asking price of $625,000. The Dutch, British, and French also tend to look at for-sale homes priced over half a million, while Canadians and Mexicans typically look at quarter-million-dollar homes. However, searchers from Nordic countries look at the most expensive homes, with Finns, Swedes, and Danes all looking at for-sale homes with a median price above one million dollars.

# Country Share of country's searches in vacation areas Share of country's searches in dense urban neighborhoods Median price of for-sale homes viewed, $
1 Canada 11% 13% $249,000
2 United Kingdom 6% 22% $588,000
3 Germany 5% 14% $310,000
4 Brazil 6% 25% $339,000
5 India 3% 14% $326,000
6 Mexico 4% 11% $245,000
7 Australia 4% 27% $625,000
8 France 5% 29% $525,000
9 China 2% 17% $409,000
10 Japan 3% 12% $270,000
11 Italy 4% 26% $350,000
12 Netherlands 5% 24% $599,000
13 Russia 4% 27% $299,000
14 Philippines 3% 12% $298,000
15 South Korea 2% 12% $290,000
Note: Countries ranked based on their share of foreign home searches on Trulia. Median prices rounded to the nearest $1000.

Foreigners Love Miami and Los Angeles, and, Increasingly, New York

Miami remains the metro with the highest share of searches from outside the U.S., widening its lead over Los Angeles - thanks in part to the increase in interest from Brazil and elsewhere in Latin America. Foreign searches account for 16.0% of all searches for homes in Miami and 14.5% in Los Angeles - well ahead of other major metros. The top 10 metros for foreign search traffic were in Florida and the West.

Metros with the Highest Foreign Search Share
# U.S. Metro Foreign share of searches, 2014 Foreign share of searches, 2013 Change in foreign share, 2014 vs 2013
1 Miami, FL 16.0% 14.9% 1.2%
2 Los Angeles, CA 14.5% 14.4% 0.1%
3 Fort Lauderdale, FL 11.2% 11.7% -0.5%
4 Honolulu, HI 9.1% 9.5% -0.4%
5 San Francisco, CA 8.9% 9.7% -0.7%
6 West Palm Beach, FL 8.8% 9.6% -0.8%
7 Orlando, FL 8.7% 8.9% -0.2%
8 Las Vegas, NV 7.6% 8.0% -0.4%
9 Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL 7.3% 8.3% -1.0%
10 Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL 7.3% 8.2% -0.9%
11 Detroit, MI 7.0% 7.4% -0.4%
12 New York, NY-NJ 6.9% 6.5% 0.4%
13 El Paso, TX 6.7% 7.0% -0.3%
14 Seattle, WA 6.4% 7.0% -0.6%
15 San Jose, CA 6.3% 6.4% -0.1%

The broader trend of foreigners searching more in urban neighborhoods and less in vacation areas has favored some metros over others. Among the top metros for foreign searches, the share of foreign home searches increased most in Miami and New York, which are both dense, urban metros. Meanwhile, the largest decreases were seen in Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Lakeland-Winter Haven, and West Palm Beach -- three Florida markets with a high share of vacation homes.

Top Neighborhoods and Vacation Areas for Foreign House Hunters

While foreigners account for just 4.0% of all searches nationally, foreigners account for more than one-third of home searches in a handful of neighborhoods in metro Los Angeles and New York. Bel Air and Beverly Hills - thanks in part to global name recognition - get a higher share of search traffic from outside the U.S. than anywhere else in the country. Several neighborhoods in Lower Manhattan and Midtown Manhattan also make the top 20 list of neighborhoods with high foreign interest, as do oceanfront neighborhoods in Miami and Miami Beach.

Neighborhoods with the Highest Foreign Search Share
# Zip code Neighborhood U.S. Metro Foreign share of searches
1 90077 Bel Air Los Angeles, CA 45%
2 90210 Beverly Hills Los Angeles, CA 40%
3 90069 West Hollywood / Sunset Blvd Los Angeles, CA 36%
4 10013 Tribeca / Little Italy New York, NY-NJ 35%
5 10007 World Trade Center / City Hall New York, NY-NJ 34%
6 90265 Malibu Los Angeles, CA 33%
7 91302 Calabasas Los Angeles, CA 32%
8 10065 Lenox Hill / East 60's New York, NY-NJ 31%
9 90049 Brentwood Los Angeles, CA 31%
10 90046 West Hollywood / Laurel Cyn Los Angeles, CA 30%
11 90068 Hollywood Hills Los Angeles, CA 29%
12 10019 Midtown / West 50's New York, NY-NJ 29%
13 10012 SoHo / Washington Square New York, NY-NJ 29%
14 33131 Brickell Ave / Brickell Key Miami, FL 29%
15 10021 Upper East Side / East 70's New York, NY-NJ 28%
16 33149 Key Biscayne Miami, FL 27%
17 33132 Biscayne Blvd Miami, FL 27%
18 90024 Westwood Los Angeles, CA 27%
19 33139 Miami Beach / South Beach Miami, FL 26%
20 33140 Miami Beach / Mid-Beach Miami, FL 26%

Two of the zip codes with the highest share of foreign home searches are vacation areas: Key Biscayne and Miami Beach's Mid-Beach. In fact, many of the vacation areas with the highest foreign search share are in Florida, including Hollywood Beach and Palm Beach in South Florida; and Celebration, Williamsburg/Sea World, and Davenport in Central Florida. The Palm Springs area east of Los Angeles, including Indian Wells, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, and La Quinta, gets strong foreign interest, as do several neighborhoods in the Hamptons on Long Island. Many of the vacation areas with high foreign search shares are expensive and world-famous, like the Hamptons, Aspen, and Pebble Beach.

Vacation Areas with the Highest Foreign Search Share
# Zip code Neighborhood or town U.S. Metro Foreign share of searches
1 33149 Key Biscayne Miami, FL 27%
2 33140 Miami Beach / Mid-Beach Miami, FL 26%
3 34747 Celebration / Four Corners Orlando, FL 22%
4 33896 Davenport Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL 21%
5 33019 Hollywood Beach Fort Lauderdale, FL 19%
6 33897 Davenport Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL 19%
7 92210 Indian Wells Riverside-San Bernardino, CA 18%
8 33062 Pompano Beach Fort Lauderdale, FL 17%
9 81611 Aspen west of Denver, CO 16%
10 92264 Palm Springs Riverside-San Bernardino, CA 15%
11 32821 Williamsburg / SeaWorld Orlando, FL 15%
12 11976 Water Mill Long Island, NY 15%
13 92270 Rancho Mirage Riverside-San Bernardino, CA 14%
14 33480 Palm Beach West Palm Beach, FL 14%
15 92211 Palm Desert Riverside-San Bernardino, CA 13%
16 11968 Southampton Long Island, NY 13%
17 11937 East Hampton Long Island, NY 12%
18 93953 Pebble Beach Salinas, CA 11%
19 34102 Naples Naples-Marco Island, FL 11%
20 92253 La Quinta Riverside-San Bernardino, CA 11%

But if you're looking for a less global vacation spot, there are plenty of popular vacation areas that get little interest from foreign house hunters, such as Cape Cod, MA; Ocean City-Cape May, NJ; Panama City Beach, FL; and Myrtle Beach, SC. Most vacation areas - like most neighborhoods in general - get relatively low shares of foreign search traffic. Foreign interest in U.S. real estate remains highly concentrated in mostly urban neighborhoods, particularly in Miami, Los Angeles, and New York, and is increasingly shifting toward high-density urban areas and away from vacation spots.

Note: search traffic is based on properties views on Trulia.com from January to May 2014. Search traffic volume from Nigeria was highly volatile over the past eighteen months and was excluded from the analysis.