Real Estate

Interest in NYC real estate being swamped by Russians, TripleMint data show

A woman walks past a Trump Place building, part of an apartment complex on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, in New York.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters

The never-ending quest for the perfect apartment in New York City could be getting that much tougher, new data suggests, thanks to new competition for scarce supply from other parts of the world—and one surprising country in particular.

Newly released figures from TripleMint, a residential real estate start-up based in New York, points to a shift in the countries most interested in buying into the city's active housing market, which attracts more than its fair share of domestic and international buyers and remains one of the world's priciest.

Over the course of 2015 and 2016, the company tracked the location of visitors on its website hunting for housing, ranking countries by a percentage of total foreign searches for that year, and compared the results. It found the biggest mover was Russia, which jumped from #20 on their top searchers list in 2015, to #2 last year, landing just behind the United Kingdom.

The results were somewhat surprising, taking place during a volatile period in U.S./Russia relations. The country is being hammered by accusations of hacking as well as electoral meddling, although it was unclear to what extent those events influenced TripleMint's data, if at all.

Nevertheless, the findings came as a surprise to the company.

"We had no idea that we were going to find that," David Walker, TripleMint's CEO, told CNBC in an interview. "It was fascinating seeing this data and how much search traffic has picked up from Russia."

The top foreign searcher for both years was the United Kingdom, which saw a huge spike in 2016. Nearly 30 percent of the traffic increase for the year from the U.K. came in the four days following the Brexit referendum that could see Britain exit the European Union within the next few years.

TripleMint's findings were consistent with other data showing a steady influx of foreign buyers keeping demand and prices at frothy levels. Last year, the National Association of Realtors said international buyers purchased $102.6 billion of residential property in the U.S. between April 2015 and March 2016.

According to TripleMint, the second biggest move came from Mexico, which tumbled nine ranks from 2015 to 2016.

With respect to Britain, TripleMint's Walker explained the influx of searches after Brexit represented a concrete example of how policy shifts and news can impact where people want to live.

The proprietary data collected by TripleMint is part of the company's focus on using indicators and algorithms — which the 28 year-old Walker calls its "secret sauce" — to predict which properties will come on the market before they do. They also want to use it to help clear up market misinformation, he added.

"One of the problems in our industry is that there is a lack focus on knowledge, education and transparency for the client," Walker said.

Walker, a Yale University graduate, founded TripleMint with his classmate Philip Lang in 2013. Last month, TripleMint raised $4.5 million in Series A funding, landing the company's total funding at over $7 million.

The round was backed by DN Capital, which previously invested in Purplebricks, a real estate company now public on the London Stock Exchange.

--CNBC's Diana Olick contributed to this article.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct the name of the National Association of Realtors.