Chances are, as a CIPS designee, you’ve probably already considered traveling to another country to participate in a conference, trade mission, or some other business-building endeavor. It’s tempting to view these opportunities with one question in mind: Will I get a transaction from this?
That’s understandable. However, building your reputation as a global real estate professional is uniquely challenging, hinging more on cultivating relationships and establishing your identity to a particular market.
In that sense, global agents are first and foremost ambassadors for their market. Contribute to growing your market’s international presence, and the transactions will follow, regardless of whether you specialize in commercial or residential real estate.
How do you do that? Plenty of organizations offer planned opportunities, but finding them may require research. If your local real estate association is sponsoring an event, you probably already know about that. But don’t stop there.
OUTBOUND Trade Missions
U.S.-based CIPS designees may be able to visit other countries via trade missions hosted by their local or state REALTOR® association or outside entities. The scope and objectives of each trip can vary dramatically. Upcoming examples include:
Manila, Philippines – sponsored by the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® and Filipino American Real Estate Professional Association. (June 2018)
Honduras and Mexico – property tours will be conducted in three ports of call when the Texas Association of REALTORS® holds its seventh annual educational cruise, which also includes an optional CE course.(August 2018)
INBOUND Trade Missions
Just as outbound trade missions are organized in various ways, the same is true in reverse — when hosting visitors from other countries. The trips are designed to strengthen ties between the two markets. If your association is on the receiving end, hosting a group, it’s an excellent way to build your global real estate connections without hopping on a plane. Here are some examples:
Miami Association of REALTORS® - hosts the Miami International Real Estate Congress, which attracts numerous delegates from around the world.
Manitoba Real Estate Association - researched their top trading partners in the U.S., then invited leading real estate representatives from these markets to visit Winnipeg and learn more about opportunities in the province.
The inbound mission also included the first CIPS Institute held at their association. Delegates were joined by REALTORS® from other Canadian provinces and from the U.S. “Our message was: Manitoba is open for business,” explains David Salvatore, CEO of the Manitoba Real Estate Association. “It was an excellent way to showcase projects, build partnerships, and strengthen our trading relationships.”
Things to Remember
Whether inbound or outbound, trade mission agendas are often dominated by networking opportunities and tours of the market—interesting and important landmarks, and possibly tours of notable properties. Luncheons, dinners, and receptions offer ample time for networking. Education may also play a role, in terms of presentations by informative speakers, or official training sessions (e.g., CIPS coursework).
Keep in mind that some associations have Global Business Councils, who organize both outbound and inbound real estate focused trade missions to help you and your business. Any association can sponsor an outbound or inbound trade mission. Trips can be limited to members of the sponsoring organization, but not always. Every trade mission is designed around a unique set of objectives. To view an upcoming list of trade missions visit nar.realtor/globaltrademissions.
Trade missions aren’t limited to REALTOR® organizations or Cooperating Associations based around the world. Additional opportunities to explore:
The Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA) periodically hosts trade missions, such as a recent trip where 100 delegates from China visited Houston, Seattle and Vancouver. (areaa.org)
The U.S. Commercial Service (within the Department of Commerce) hosts several missions a year, each focused on a specific market and trade segment. Upcoming missions are listed at export.gov/trade-missions.
Economic development groups also make frequent use of trade missions. These organizations play a vital role in encouraging trade opportunities between markets across the globe, making them one of your most important partners for strengthening your ties to international investment. Be aware that these trade missions may or may not be specifically tied to real estate. However, it is important to keep in mind that you can still set up your own real estate meetings.
Finding Your Economic Development Partner(s)
Who is working to attract investors to your market? Start your research online. Be creative about the search terms you use, because economic development groups go by many different names (see word cloud) and operate at many different levels (city, state/province, region, and/or country).
In the U.S., the Economic Development Administration (EDA) offers a directory of state and regional offices, economic development districts, university resources, and more at eda.gov/resources. It’s a good place to start, but only includes EDAaffiliated groups (no private organizations or public-private partnerships).
To get a better understanding of the complete picture, you’ll need to dig further. There’s no simple recipe to follow, since every market handles economic development differently.
For example, the U.S. state of Missouri funds a Department of Economic Development that includes the Missouri International Trade & Investment Office (exportmissouri.mo.gov/exports). Its efforts are supported by the Hawthorn Foundation (hawthornfoundation.org), which gave birth to the Missouri Partnership (missouripartnership.com), a public-private organization that leads the state in business recruitment, both within and outside the U.S.1
In addition to these organizations, a Missouri real estate professional can connect to global opportunities and business-building resources through local REALTOR® associations, economic development offices in St. Louis and Kansas City, and other organizations working to attract international business.
The economic development profile for other states—or other cities, provinces, regions and countries—will look different. It takes research to reveal the key participants, both public and private. In all likelihood, however, you’ll discover hidden gems.
Found One. Now What?
Once you’ve identified an economic development organization’s website, what should you look for? Before doing anything, check to see if your association is already connected. As noted earlier, many associations have Global Business Councils that have done the legwork for you. Find out if your local or state association has one by visiting nar.realtor/findaglobalcouncil. Otherwise, here are some tips to get you started:
International companies: Who is already operating in your market, from which countries? (a potential source of relocation business)
International offices: Where are their global representatives located? (Are there overlaps with the markets you’re targeting for developing your global practice?)
Events: Are they planning inbound or outbound trade missions, global networking forums, conferences, etc.?
Resources: Search for fact sheets, maps, tools, publications, research, etc. that would be helpful in working with clients or attracting new business.
Contacts: Consider making personal inquiries to explore additional topics and resources that may not appear on the organization’s website.
A Two-Way Street
Economic development organizations want to help all their constituents develop new business opportunities. You’ll find your best success, however, if you aim for collaborative relationships.
Learn where their resources are limited and see if you can help fill gaps with your own local market knowledge, networking contacts, committee participation, etc. It’s the fastest way to build win-win relationships and be a top-of-mind resource when the agency receives inquiries about real estate assistance.