Working with Inbound International Clients

By Ray Holtzapple

This month’s article was to be about my vacation to Argentina and how real estate is conducted in and around Buenos Aeries. However that did not happen because my international clients decided to purchase here in Houston.

Over the past several years, international clients have been coming to the Houston metropolitan area to look at property for many reasons. These include employment relocation, better economic climate than their native country and the strength of their foreign currency. The U.S. and Texas markets, specifically, continue to be attractive to investors of residential, commercial, land and farm and ranch properties.

My experience with international clients has been and continues to be a fascinating and enriching experience. Although I have been able to help folks from Europe, South and Central America, Mexico and the Pacific Rim Countries, every one of my clients is unique and has special needs that make the transaction very challenging. Most international clients do not know what a REALTOR® does so that it is important to subtly educate them in the benefits of working with you.

The challenges come from several areas. First are the cultural differences that many of us have experienced. I always want to learn about their previous experience in the country of origin or the most recent exposure of those that have lived in several parts of the world. That is their perspective that I must base my assistance around to help in the transition to our real estate customs in Houston. There is a wonderful source for those that will be working with someone inbound to Houston, “Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands.” Available in the HAR SuperCenter, this book is a must-read reference guide on what is acceptable in other cultures.

The second challenge is the language differences. Most of the business people speak English, but not well, since the meanings of words and phrases that we use are unfamiliar to them. The rest of the family may or may not be familiar with English. Get to know the common greetings and working real estate terms for the clients you will assist. They will want to practice their English, so you will need to go out of your way to work with them. They really appreciate the time you spend.

A third difference is the style of home to which they are accustomed. Most cultures are overwhelmed by the amount of land, size and variety of the homes of our market place. They may never have dreamed of owning a home and have always been living with extended family or leasing a property. In addition, most countries do not offer mortgages as we know them and cash is used to purchase the land, then they build a small structure then when more cash is available expand the home.

Take the time to explore your new client’s respective as that is what they will be judging all their decisions on with you. Become their trusted advisor and you will be rewarded with some of the most wonderful experiences of your life. By the way, vacations are highly overrated!

Ray Holtzapple serves on both the HAR and TAR International Committees. More than 85 percent of his clients are international and he focuses on relocation services to companies such as Xonex relocation and Cartus and direct support corporations based in the Houston area. He has earned degrees in Chemical Engineering and an MBA. Ray has further earned the Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) and the At Home with Diversity designations.

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