New York City has always been an international city and its real estate has long been watched by those abroad seeking a place to live in the cultural and financial capital of the world. More recently however, the city’s real estate has turned into a potential asset class — a market in which investors seek to diversify against risky stock markets, currencies, and regulations. Given the recent turmoil in China’s stock markets, which has stoked fears that that economy’s decades-long expansion might be coming to a halt, comes the question: Are New York City real estate listings gaining more interest from anxious investors?
To answer that question, we used Google Analytics and page views on the StreetEasy website to identify the geographic location of viewers over time. The results, plotted in the graph below, show that while traffic from all countries varies over time, page views from China jumped in July 2015.
Historically, China represents a relatively small share of all foreign-based page views on StreetEasy. Page views from Canada and the United Kingdom together account for roughly 3 of 5 of all foreign-based page views. By looking at the year-over-year percentage change in page views for the countries, however, we see a rather dramatic jump in page views from China. The stock market performance in China has been well documented, but perhaps some key events can be identified as instigators for the sudden uptick in page views. From the week beginning July 13, traffic initially increased almost 100 percent from the prior week. That very week, major shareholders and executives were banned from selling shares in listed companies for six months. Those restrictions may have been the impetus to look for assets abroad, assets such as real estate in New York City. The peak in page views on Aug. 10 may have an explanation, too. On Aug. 11, the yuan was devalued, making purchases in USD (such as property in New York City) more expensive literally overnight.
Will New York City real estate continue to be popular with shoppers from China? It is still too early to tell, as page views from China on StreetEasy are down by nearly half from their August peak, but that amount is still nearly twice the pre-July 2015 level.