Breaking Barriers: Overcome Challenges in International Real Estate

If international real estate was easy, everyone would be doing it! It is a challenging discipline, but those who are committed stand to gain a lot – from strong business contacts, to a new view on the world and the vast opportunities within it, and yes…even more money. In our recent survey, CIPS designees reported significantly higher income in 2016 than those without the designation. This tells us it’s not easy, but worth it!

So what are the challenges, and how can you work toward overcoming them? The list that follows comes directly from the CIPS survey. Here are the top three obstacles you’ve told us you need help with – so I’ll aim to do just that. If you find this helpful and want to see more posts like this or if you have any solutions to add, please leave a comment below or email me.

Speak different languages
This is an obvious, but very real, challenge. Here are a few ideas to help overcome this challenge:

1)    Incorporate a translate button on your web site. Google Translate is the most popular solution, but do some research and find out what works best for you. Human translation is always better, but with limited resources this option is helpful.

2)    If you have a specific country in mind to target, hire a translation company or individual to translate individual pages on your web site. If a potential client is using German language search terms in Google, for example, the search engines won’t pick up on keywords on your site. Having a native page on your site in German using common search terms will help your site get noticed by search engines.

3)    When sharing listings with prospective clients, share the listing from so your clients can benefit from the translation, measurement (sq. feet to sq. meter) and currency conversion tools.

4)    If you’re traveling, download an app like iTranslate. It will recognize your voice and convert your words to text and translate them to the desired language to assist with your communication. Again – machine translations aren’t perfect, but it will certainly help. Google Translate also has an app that will translate text or text images by pointing your camera at it, and works offline.

5)    Ask your state association about translated copies of real estate contracts. Only official English versions of the contract are enforceable in the United States, but offering the translated version allows them to easily read and understand what they are signing on the English contract.

6)    If you have identified a specific country of specialization that has language requirements, you may want to consider hiring a native speaker to work on your team. Richard Silver, a Toronto agent, identified the strong Chinese investment in his market and hired a talented local agent who was originally from Mainland China to join his team. She quickly became so successful he needed to hire a Mandarin-speaking assistant to help her. If you don’t have the resources to hire a full-time employee, check with local colleges or universities for international students who would be willing to help translate at an affordable price.

7)    We’ve covered this topic on The Global View blog in the past – here’s another post with some excellent advice when working in multiple languages!

Don’t Know How to Market in Other Countries

This is a tough one, as there is no one-size-fits-all solution – especially depending on the country you are working with. A successful marketing strategy is contingent upon having a strong sense of your target audience, and what influences their search/buying habits. Things to consider:

  1. Begin with an introspective look at your own experience, interests, or cultural affinities; the unique attributes of your market and which countries/cultures they would be most attractive to; and clients/contacts you’ve already made in other countries.
  2. What are the most-read real estate publications or web sites in their country?
  3. What attributes do they value? (Trust, luxury/sophistication, quality)?
  4. What design elements work best (graphics, content-rich, color do’s and don’ts)?

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To begin researching the culture you’re working in, start with Santander’s Market Analysis tool. You can search by country, and when you click “Reaching the Consumer,” it provides detailed descriptions of the consumer behaviors in that country. Another excellent resource to avoid cultural faux pas is Kiss, Bow, Or Shake Hands: Sales and Marketing by Terri Morrison and Wayne Conaway.

Build a multi-pronged marketing strategy, making sure that your web site reflects your international credentials, includes a complete profile of your experience and skills, has contact information on every page, and offers the information international clients will be looking for (market data, neighborhood profiles, important things to know about buying/selling in your area, etc.).

Don’t Know How to Market Myself as a CIPS/Clients Don’t Know What a CIPS Is
Explain it to them! NAR offers many designations and certifications, it becomes a bit of alphabet soup to learn and understand all the acronyms. It’s little wonder that consumers can’t keep track of them.

Explain the designation to your clients, and how/why it can benefit them. We have already drafted the “elevator pitch” for you, and provide it to you on a web page (either link directly to it from your marketing materials or copy/paste/edit as you see fit), or designed in PowerPoint format. The Powerpoint is available in the Global Marketing Center.

If you are a CIPS designee, you have a strong competitive advantage over those agents who do not hold the designation. Why? When you look at consumer behaviors in other countries (again, the Santander tool is great for this), many of them are centered around quality, sophistication, luxury, and trust. The CIPS designation offers an assurance to potential clients that you have the experience and education to meet their needs, and that they can trust you to provide high-quality service. Here’s how to increase their awareness of your designation, and what it means to them:

  1. Display your credentials on your web site. Use the CIPS logo, and either link to or use copy from the page – this describes the designation, what you did to achieve it, and how it benefits them as a client. Most clients won’t be familiar with it, so prominently displaying and explaining this on your site is critical.
  2. Link to your profile on the CIPS directory (but be sure your profile is complete with bio and photo!).
  3. Launch a mail campaign to your contact list – we’ve already designed the postcards for you, all you need to do is fill in your contact information and logo/photo, and you’ve got a quality campaign ready to send. Our print center is one-stop shopping, just choose the postcard that’s right for you, fill out the customizable areas, upload your contact list, and the printing/mailing will be taken care of! Visit the Global Marketing Center to browse options and begin your campaign.
  4. Advertise on relevant web sites, blogs, or newsletters - similar to the print option, we also have web site advertisements that are already designed and customizable in the Global Marketing Center.
  5. Use the social media cover photos that we’ve designed for you to remind your social sphere year-round that you are the global real estate expert!
  6. Be active in the CIPS Facebook group – this is an active and dynamic group who regularly share referral opportunities. Don’t miss out!
  7. Attend as many relevant conferences and events as possible. Networking truly is invaluable, and as with anything, you will get out of it what you put into it. Check out our Global Meetings & Events calendar, a calendar of Global Business Council events, and look into upcoming state/local association conferences in your state or, better yet, look at which states are most likely to feed business into your area and attend their conferences. Example: do you live in a snowbird destination? Attend events in the northern/colder weather states (or Canada) and network, network, network!

What other obstacles have you faced in international real estate? How did you overcome them? Do you have any solutions to add to the ones listed here? We’d love to hear from you! Again, post in the comments or email me at