Building Your Global Business From The Ground Up: One Step At A Time

Sometimes developing a global component to your real estate practice can feel like a “where do I start” proposition. There are, however, many ways to get involved, which is typically the best way to jumpstart your efforts. 

By taking this step-by-step approach, you’ll almost certainly find yourself learning more and developing important networking connections— all of which will lead to more business with global buyers and sellers.

Step 1.

Ask your local association.

If you want to boost your efforts to work with global clients already in your area, your first inquiry should be with your local real estate board. Ask if they have organized a committee or formal group to address global business opportunities. Nearly 60 boards have formed global business councils or international local councils that offer a variety of programming and networking resources. These groups may have already compiled details about the global influences in your local market, and can help you identify which countries are represented more than others, whether through foreign direct investment, relocation of foreign employees, immigration, or other sources.

In addition to providing this critical research, your board’s council may offer specialized information sessions with key experts, or host various events designed to stimulate referral business with agents from other countries—excellent ways to come up the learning curve or begin making global connections. Other local boards have not yet developed a full program of global initiatives, but are studying their market to determine the primary sources of global business and decide whether it is appropriate to take steps to form a council. (See page 5 for more about global business councils.)

Step 2.

Ask your brokerage.

Several major franchise companies have developed resources to help their agents tap into global business. If you work within such an organization, explore these opportunities to learn more and make connections.

Step 3.

Check other local resources.

If these first two steps don’t pan out, there are still plenty of other things you can do on your own, right in your community, or at the state level. Investigate and contact these organizations:

—Tourism Bureau

—Chamber of Commerce

—Economic Development Office

While each local market is unique, groups like this are regularly engaged in developing local business opportunities by encouraging trade, travel and tourism from other areas. As a result, they place a priority on researching the international movements of people and business—data that could be very beneficial in helping you understand which countries are most important in your local economy.

Step 4.

Conduct online research.

You can learn a lot about the global influences in your local market without ever leaving your desk. Three of the best sources for online research include:

  •  NAR Research – NAR offers state by- state international business reports, demographics of foreign-born and -speaking residents in the U.S. (at the county level), key housing statistics and economic indicators, and much more. Go to reportsintl for a listing of all international research, or refer to the August 2010 issue of Global Perspectives for more about NAR’s research offerings.
  •  U.S. Census Bureau – Go to for a drill-down of demographic details for all states, counties and cities/towns with more than 25,000 people. Once approved, 2010 Census data will be incorporated into the online database.
  • – Compiles a wide range of general statistics on U.S. cities, as well as many neighborhoods and zip codes. Includes information on residents (race, income, ancestries, foreign-born residents, place of birth, etc.), graphs of key real estate market statistics, and much more.

Step 5.

Tap country-specific resources.

Assuming you’ve identified a particular country you’d like to concentrate upon that is well-represented in your market, you’ll want to make sure you connect with any NAR affiliated groups or individuals also focused on that part of the world, including:

  • Ambassador Associations – Numerous local associations of REALTORS® serve as ambassadors to NAR bilateral partners or Cooperating Associations located across the world. Any REALTOR® can approach any Ambassador Association and express their interest in getting involved—you are not limited to the activities undertaken by your own local board. To research these relationships, go to global_alliances.
  • President’s Liaisons – Similarly, individual members of NAR have been appointed by NAR’s President to act as liaisons, helping facilitate interactions between Cooperating Associations and NAR members. You can approach these individuals, typically CIPS designees, and express your interest in a particular country. This is not a referral network but rather a peer-to-peer program offered as a service to NAR members. A list of President’s Liaisons can also be accessed at
  • Cooperating Associations – These professional real estate groups, representing practitioners around the world, have formed cooperative relationships with NAR. Even if you don’t plan to conduct transactions in another country, it is important to learn more about these groups. Their members have an NAR-compatible code of ethics and can help you understand how real estate is transacted in their country— an important point of reference for serving clients from the same country of origin—and perhaps facilitate referrals. Cooperating Associations can also be found at

Step 6.

Explore other important groups.

There are numerous other groups you can investigate for more information and global networking relationships, including:

  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce – The world’s largest business federation represents the interests of more than 3 million U.S. businesses, 96 percent of which have less than 100 employees. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also has an active international agenda, with programs and councils advocating for U.S. business around the world. Learn more about their national and regional events at
  • American Immigration Lawyers Association – Over 11,000 attorneys are members of the AILA. While membership is restricted to lawyers, real estate professionals can tap numerous online resources, participate in conferences and online events (at a higher non-member rate), and find an immigration attorney in their area using an online directory. Visit

This list of steps will take you far. But to some extent, it is just a beginning. Once you dig in, you’ll discover countless other ideas for getting involved and building your global business well beyond what you might have initially imagined.


CIPS Training

If you are interested in pursuing global opportunities, but haven’t yet taken Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) training, this is an important step to add to your list. The specialized coursework helps agents short-cut the process of becoming knowledgeable about the essential elements for success in international transactions. Plus, CIPS candidates expand their opportunities for international referrals by becoming members of the CIPS Network.

Learn more about earning your CIPS at

Notice: The information on this page may not be current. The archive is a collection of content previously published on one or more NAR web properties. Archive pages are not updated and may no longer be accurate. Users must independently verify the accuracy and currency of the information found here. The National Association of REALTORS® disclaims all liability for any loss or injury resulting from the use of the information or data found on this page.


About Global Perspectives

Global Perspectives in Real Estate is a resource for global professionals, aimed at helping them globalize their local markets. Produced bi-monthly, this newsletter serves as a how-to guide and is full of useful and actionable tips. A free subscription is given to all Certified International Property Specialists (CIPS) designees.

Learn more about earning the CIPS designation