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Working Globally

August 29, 2017

5 Steps to Start Working Globally

Global business is everywhere, even in the smallest or most remote pockets. In some cases, those small and remote towns are exactly what foreign buyers are looking for.

Consider Buford, Wyoming, population 1. It was sold in 2013 to a Vietnamese owner for $900,000. That’s not exactly a luxury resort property in a cosmopolitan coastal town, but it’s a real purchase by a real international buyer - with an impressive price tag!

As globalization continues to impact our communities, no matter how large or small, it’s important for REALTORS® be prepared. Agents with global competencies and skills are the most effective in identifying these opportunities, which are very often lucrative. In fact, foreign buyers (on average) spend over $250,000 more per home than the average price of U.S. existing home sales.

Ready to Start Working Globally?

NAR Global has a number of resources to help you get started. Below, you will find suggested steps to building your global business.

1. Research

The most efficient global agents know their niche and market directly to it. Rather than marketing to the world and seeing what comes back, a more effective strategy is to research your local market and determine which country(ies) are most likely to purchase there.

  • Economic Development Councils are an excellent resource, often proactively working to draw foreign investment to your local area. Attend meetings and events, introduce yourself and provide valuable market knowledge. As they get to know you, you’ll be their go-to for real estate needs.
  • American education is a huge draw for international buyers. Check with private schools, colleges or universities in your area. Enrollment advisors (particularly if there’s an international admissions office) are frequently the first (or only) people that international buyers connect with when purchasing in the United States. They enroll their child first, then look for housing and other necessities. Establishing relationships with those advisors can be an excellent source of business. Visit the Institute of International Education (IIE) at iie.org to learn what institutions are attracting foreign students in your area.
  • Assess which ethnic groups already live in your area. Often, foreign-born citizens establish themselves in their new community and then encourage family and friends to join them. Look at the inventory in your local grocery store - which ethnic foods are most prominent? Grocers will stock shelves with the products that move the fastest, so this can be a good indication of who lives in your area. Do businesses have signs in multiple languages?
  • Are there attributes of your local market that would be a draw for investors, such as luxury or resort properties? Coastal areas, large metropolitan cities, and other opportunities for high net worth investors are often attractive.
  • NAR RESEARCH - State by state reports, case studies, profile of intl home buying, profile of commercial, etc.

2. Education

Pardon the cliché, you don’t know what you don’t know. Even if you have worked with international clients before, you may still encounter nuances and obstacles each time. The Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) designation can help you identify and prepare for working with international clientele. The five days of study provides in-depth instruction on:

  • Cultural differences
  • Globalization trends impacting buying habits/preferences
  • Converting those trends into an actionable business and marketing plan
  • Transaction and business differences (many countries are unfamiliar with buyers agency, MLS, title insurance, escrow, FIRPTA)
  • Creating a network of business partners to make the process as smooth as possible for your clients (see below)

More information on the courses and the benefits you get after earning the designation is available here.

3. Build a Network of Business Partners

There are many factors at play during an international real estate transaction, and while you should prepare your clients for what to expect, there are some areas that you never want to offer advice or opinions on. Taxes, visas, immigration, etc. are a few of those areas. However, if you can build a network of reliable, experienced professionals in those categories, your clients will be happy customers! When building a global business team, remember to include:

  • Tax attorney
  • Immigration/visa attorney
  • Accountant
  • Lenders who specialize in international transactions
  • Currency exchange specialist
  • Translators
  • Title agencies

4. Be Prepared to Teach

Real estate transactions differ from state-to-state in the U.S., imagine trying to navigate the waters in a different country. The process can be intimidating for buyers and sellers, so be prepared to walk them through what to expect and be very detail-oriented. For example, many countries do not have an MLS system, and buyer’s agency does not exist. Transactional processes like escrow, title insurance, and even a closing will be new concepts for many. In several countries, the deal has closed as soon as the contract is signed - these buyers won’t understand that they still need to go through closing. On the policy/government side of things - mortgage interest deduction and FIRPTA are exclusive to the United States and likely don’t exist where your customers are coming from (even Canada!). Make sure you’re prepared to talk about these topics, and then refer clients to a reliable professional to help advise them.

5. Marketing to Attract International Clientele

Completing the first step, research, should give you an excellent foundation from which to build your marketing plan. Have a strategy, and be thoughtful about where and how you are spending your time and resources. It is not advisable to “shotgun the internet” and just post listings anywhere and everywhere. Doing that won’t help you build your brand, credibility, or establish yourself as an expert in your market or field of choice.

Create an online presence, showcase your expertise, and be someone you would want to do business with. Think about what you look for in potential referral partners for your clients - you probably do your research online first. You want to see a clean web site with timely, relevant content, information and credentials that showcase their competence and willingness to provide white-glove service to all clients.

On social media, make sure you are sharing more than just listings. Share your knowledge and expertise. International clients are often interested in the larger region/state/city initially - so make sure your online presence is focused on your knowledge and passion for your area.

There is so much more to consider under each of these topics, but these initial steps and considerations will help you get started. The bi-monthly publication, Global Perspectives , offers a more in-depth look into many of these topics. The Global View blog is another resource for content and information on building your global business. And finally, taking the CIPS courses is your best bet in learning what it takes to be successful with international clients. All this (and more) is available at nar.realtor/global.