How Does Global Business and Investment Flow Through Your Market?

International business and investment includes countless opportunities for commercial and residential agents. Much of the "action" takes place via economic development agencies, bi-national chambers of commerce, and similar groups. Here are additional resources for identifying touch-points that could be driving global demand for real estate in your market.

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)

Which international companies are operating in your market? How many jobs are they creating? When a foreign company invests in another market, it triggers numerous real estate-related needs, potentially including land for commercial development, office space, international relocation of executives, housing for local workers, and more. Getting involved begins with knowing what's happening.

Usually, your economic development partners can provide extensive details on FDI developments. In the U.S., you can also find state-by-state FDI snapshots of top industry sectors, source countries, and the number of U.S. jobs directly supported by majority foreign-owned affiliates at

Investment Visas

Investors cross borders for many different reasons and purchase a wide range of commercial and residential properties. Sometimes their interest is linked to a visa program. In the U.S., the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa is designed to attract foreign investment in projects that create jobs for U.S. citizens.

In exchange for investing in an eligible project (including Regional Centers), applicants receive conditional residency (or permanent residency once all conditions are met). For a list of over 900 approved Regional Centers, visit


Which diplomatic missions are located in your market? It's a good indicator of a country's commitment to supporting trade and tourism in your area. Remember, the primary mission of a commercial attaché is to promote their country. Show interest, and you'll likely be given a wealth of resources!

Search for embassies/consulates of or located in a country by visiting the worldwide database at

3 Key Indicators of Global Trade

1. Imports and Exports

Who are the primary trading partners for your market? U.S. state-level data is available from the International Trade Administration, at

2. Ports

Water ports aren't limited to ocean coastlines. In the U.S., for example, you'll also find inland ports along the Mississippi River and in the Great Lakes.
Visit for interactive satellite images, maps, and contact information for 4,936 ports in 196 countries, color-coded by the size of each port.

3. Trade zones

Free-trade zones (also called foreign-trade zones) are secure areas where imported merchandise can be handled, manufactured, or reconfigured, then reexported with little or no payment of import or export taxes. Originally limited to areas adjacent to ports of entry, the concept has expanded to include other designated zones, requiring road or rail transportation beyond an airport or water port.

In the U.S., the Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration, compiles a state-by-state list of free-trade zones at

Map of Mexican water ports

3 Helpful Shortcuts

Don't have time to investigate all the data sources mentioned here? Then see if these resources can speed up your efforts:

1. Global Business Councils

If your local or state association of REALTORS® has a global business council, they may have already established relationships with area economic development authorities and/or compiled key data for your market. For a list of these groups: global-business-councils-directory.

2. Research from NAR

Many of the topics mentioned here are summarized in NAR's State-by-State International Business Reports. Further, NAR provides detailed Local Market Assessments for 16 U.S. states. To view these reports, visit the NAR Global Marketing Center at and select "Research," under "CIPS Designee Resources."

3. Brookings Institute

Its Global Cities initiative has published FDI plans, export plans, and/or global trade and investment plans for nearly 30 U.S. markets, including both
major metropolitan areas (Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston, etc.) and smaller cities (such as Des Moines, IA), plus several regional markets (e.g., 10 counties in south-central Kansas). Each report includes a detailed summary of the current international business climate. Visit initiative-the-exchange/.

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