Your online profiles will be much more robust if they tell readers a story, clearly articulating who you are, what kind of business you focus upon, and what specific skills you bring to the table. (Incidentally, being able to articulate this story is also essential for developing an effective marketing plan.)
But how do you select a niche? Determining the focus of your global business involves examining your opportunities from two different perspectives:
Your Market – What opportunities exist in your immediate area, either for inbound or outbound global business?
YourSelf–What aspect of global business is most appealing to you? What personal skills do you bring to the table?
Understanding yourself requires private introspection, but understanding your market involves research and exploring potential opportunities across a broad spectrum of possibilities.
Doing Your Research
Global business enters your market via many different paths. These paths are commonly referred to as “indicators of global business.” Researching these indicators means exploring the many different avenues to identify cross-border opportunities, including:
What foreign-owned companies are in your market and which countries of origin dominate the list? Google “foreign direct investment in [location]” to research details, or see if your state’s office of economic development provides this information. The answers will hint at international relocation opportunities, especially among the company’s management team.
Which companies are hiring workers from abroad? Many employers, regardless of the company’s headquarters location, hire skilled workers who need housing and lack familiarity with a foreign market. The site myvisajobs.com includes state-by-state reports that list, by company, the number of H1-B and H2-B visa applications.
Who has immigrated to your market? Where are residents from and what languages do they speak? To collect this data, visit the American FactFinder (factfinder.census.gov) and enter the name (or zip code) of your market. This will take you to a page that offers numerous data tables from the 2010 Census, as well as the more recent American Community Survey (2015) and Population Estimates Program (2016).
For a state-level snapshot specifically developed for NAR members, download your state’s International Business Report at www.nar.realtor/reports/state-by-state- international-business-reports. Updated annually, these reports include population demographics, languages spoken, immigration and naturalization trends, non-immigrant visitors, and metro level economic, real estate, and commercial data (where available).
Who visits your market? International tourism can be another important source of business in certain markets. Check your state and local tourism websites, as well as your chamber of commerce/department of economic development for additional details.
Institutions of higher learning can be a rich source of global business, including opportunities with students from other nations, as well as faculty members.
The Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange is one excellent resource for data on U.S. students studying abroad, and international students studying in the U.S. Visit iie.org for data, fact sheets, infographics and more.
Another approach is to go directly to university websites. Many institutions actively recruit international students and provide extensive details on enrollment data, by country, in addition to helpful student resources.
Often affiliated with major research universities, medical centers can be another important source of international business. Visit their corporate website to research hiring activity and resources in human resources department. Their visa applications should also be listed at myvisajobs.com.
EB-5 Regional Centers
Many industrialized countries use investment visas to attract outside capital, including the U.S. EB-5 immigrant investor visa. As of August, 2017, there were 847 approved regional centers in the U.S., authorized under the EB-5 program. For a complete list, visit uscis.gov/eb-5centers.
Of course, large flows of capital also cross borders in the form of commercial investments. Getting involved in this aspect of global business requires different knowledge and networking resources than the residential side of the business.
That said, residential agents can readily find opportunities to grow their global business by networking with commercial practitioners, especially those focused on cross-border transactions. Check the April 2017 issue of Global Perspectives for more ideas and resources.
It may also be possible to build a global practice focused on helping local clients purchase property in another country, for vacation purposes or overseas retirement. One potential angle to explore is representing a particular developer in another market. (Consult the June 2015 issue of Global Perspectives for additional tips.)
Potential Niches for Global Agents
Your area of specialization can be based on any number of (potentially overlapping) factors, including:
- Location – a local immigrant community, buyers from another country/region, etc.
- Type of property – luxury, vacation, managed community, land, etc.
- Type of buyer/seller – relocating employee, student, retiree, etc.
- Language/culture – fluency in another language, or interest in other cultures.
1. Download a Local Market Assessment
In addition to the state-by-state reports already noted, NAR has developed local market assessments for 16 states (listed below). These summaries of global influences and opportunities look at many of the same topics already discussed, highlighting specific data for each state.
Even if your state isn’t profiled, reviewing one or two case studies can help you learn how to apply the research process to any market. Copies can be downloaded at https://www.nar.realtor/global/local-market-assessments.
2. Pick Your Niche
Selecting a specific focus for your global practice is an important decision, because it drives all your other major activities (refining your online identity, building your network). Once you’ve defined your niche, put as much effort as possible into growing your business in that direction. By the same token, don’t be afraid to modify and refine your focus as you learn more about what is and isn’t working.
3. Keep Digging
Research is an ongoing process. New data may shed light on new opportunities. Determine your best sources for news and updates, including publications, reports, and your professional network.