They’ll Take Manhattan ... or Maybe Not

How New York’s outer reaches are winning the attention of global buyers.

Prospective international buyers interested in purchasing real estate in a market they have heard a lot about can be surprised to learn that conditions and prices can vary dramatically depending on a property’s location. Helping these buyers reconcile their expectations about an area with what they will get for their money can be a challenge—and an opportunity, Jorge Ledesma, chief executive officer of the Eastern Bergen County Board of REALTORS® in New Jersey, said during a Thursday session at the REALTORS® Conference & Trade Expo in Boston.

Speaking during the Global Business Councils Forum, Ledesma noted that international buyers attracted to the New York metropolitan area, where his association is located, often are thinking of Manhattan when the envision the city—but then have to reset their expectations when they realize how much real estate costs there. “Buyers either accept [Manhattan prices], or look beyond.”

But looking outside Manhattan for a home doesn’t have to mean coming to terms with accepting less, Ledesma said. By contrast, international buyers who may initially have imagined a home in Manhattan can be drawn instead to the benefits of buying just across the Hudson River, where they can get more space for less money.

Ledesma pointed to a recent experience his association had with a local condo developer as an example of the benefits of working with foreign buyers to educate them about the benefits that can come with owning property near a city instead of in it. The developer initially shunned overtures from the Bergen County association to work together to market units in a new building, but agreed to do so when the association proposed helping market the project to international buyers—and explained its approach to promoting New Jersey as an attractive alternative to Manhattan.

“They weren’t looking to market to residents that were already living in Bergen County. They were looking for purchasers from overseas,” and realized that working with REALTORS® was a way to connect with these buyers, Ledesma said.

Just as helping international buyers reset their expectations can yield dividends for real estate professionals, understanding the nuances of another country’s customs and their influence on the functioning of its real estate market can be beneficial to REALTOR® associations looking to connect with international clients, Lynda Fernandez, senior vice president of the Miami Association of REALTORS®, said during the forum.

The South Florida association, which has nearly 200 collaborative agreements with real estate groups outside the United States, has learned that even small details can make a big difference in building trust and nurturing business relationships, Fernandez said.

For example, when the Miami REALTORS® turned to texting and WhatsApp messaging instead of email as a way to communicate with real estate professionals in Spain—where many people in real estate tend to be in the earlier stages of their careers and are used to using short messages to stay in touch—they noticed an improvement in their working relationships, Fernandez said.

The association’s relationship with the Spanish International Realty Alliance (SIRA), which began with a memorandum of understanding several years ago, has blossomed to the point that the groups regularly share best practices with each other. “Our president has become a major superstar in Spain,” Fernandez said.