America, meet your newest neighbors: the Nigerians

Hello, New York!
Hello, New York!
Image: Reuters/Gary He
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The Russians are coming to America—and the Nigerians, too.

Potential home buyers or investors from those two countries and the Philippines account for the fastest growth in international searches on Trulia, the big real estate information site, in the year ending on March 31. Nigerians did more home browsing online—3% of all international searches—than Chinese or Brazilian buyers, Trulia reported. Nigeria also showed the largest gain in home search traffic, 37%,  just ahead of the 35% growth in Russian and Filipinos’ US home searches. After China, Nigeria has the largest number of migrants, 15 million, who would like to move to the US.

Homebuyers are growing more diverse, so investors from traditional places like Germany or Canada represent a smaller share of international investors contemplating an apartment on Miami or a home in Hollywood.

“We’re seeing more interest from low- to midde-income countries,” said Jed Kolko, Trulia’s chief economist and author of the research. Canada remains the top country for searchers, as the total share of international search inched down slightly from 4.4% to 4.3% in the latest year.

“In a sense, it’s a race between countries are getting richer faster than US home prices are rising. … There’s both the push and the pull.” he said. The biggest declines in searches came from countries where the economies were slowing, including Canada, Mexico and Italy, Kolko added.

International buyers spent an estimated $82.5 billion on homes in the year ending in March 2012, 29% more than in the previous year. That represented 4.8% of all U.S. sales, the National Association of Realtors survey indicates. (pdf)

Nigeria is one of the world’s fastest growing economies, with telecommunications, construction and real estate showing the biggest gains in 2012, according to the World Bank (pdf). Some six in 10 Nigerians live in poverty, though its gross domestic product has jumped an average of 7% a year for the last decade, sparked by Nollywood films and mobile app development.

Would-be buyers from Nigeria are doing well, in part because of high oil prices and their oil sector, said Kolko. Nigerians were most likely to search for homes in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta and San Diego, and also expressed interest in Washington, DC, and Houston, he said. They bypassed Florida which had six of the 10 most searched cities by international investors and buyers.