There seems to be a big mystery surrounding the international aspects of our business and those who practice it. Let me say first and foremost, we are all involved in international real estate. Ask yourself if you have ever closed a transaction that involved one or more of the following: foreign-born buyer or seller, expatriate relocating to or from the States or anyone using foreign money to fund the purchase. If the answer is yes, congratulations, you are an international real estate professional.
But before you run out and re-print your business cards, you need to know there are three crucial action items that separate those that stumble into a few transactions and those that build their business on this highly lucrative niche market: education, relationships and persistence. Funny, aren’t those the same factors necessary in building any successful business?
Education: If you take a look at our industry, those performing at the highest levels regardless of the economy are Realtors® that are constantly learning and improving their craft through education. (Not the made-up variety of courses that can be completed online in a few minutes to fulfill last minute MCE requirements or to add another alphabet to a resume, but quality courses designed to make you a true expert in your field.) NAR held a recent Member Survey which showed that Realtors® without any designation earned a median income of $40,900 while those with a designation earned a median income of $82,900. While the designation itself may not make the difference, the type of agent that seeks the education certainly does. Are you that type of agent? If not, why not? Excuses such as too busy, too expensive, too difficult are costly indeed when you consider the future impact on your bottom line.
Anyone wishing to learn more about international real estate needs to become a Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS.) This seven-day course gets to the meat and potatoes of the international buyer and seller, looks at specific foreign markets, breaks down the necessary financial information of foreign markets and assists with understanding cultural differences. There are other courses that contribute beyond the CIPS, but this is a must for anyone wishing to develop expertise in this field. While the criteria to receive the actual designation may take several years to fulfill, the coursework provides immediate measurable benefits.
Relationships: The foreign-born consumer is actually more accustomed to relationship-centric transactions than we are. Loyalty tends to run deeper in many cultures than our own, but you have to earn it. Many times, it takes a bit longer to build that trusting bond, but once you do, you truly have a customer for life – as well as endless referrals to extended family members, friends, and co-workers – priceless! How do you connect with this niche? Relationship building is the key, both online and “in real life.” Not just showing up for a luncheon, but truly getting involved in their culture, trade missions and travel to their home countries, joining their organizations and getting to know them personally before an attempt at earning their business is made.
Several wonderful networking opportunities exist locally: HAR, TAR and NAR International Advisory Committees, FIABCI (The International Real Estate Federation), AMPI (La Asociación Mexicana de Profesionales Inmobiliarios and Mexico’s version of NAR) and more. You can Google “International real estate organizations” for a complete list.
Persistence: When I first began my business six years ago, I knew that I wanted to focus on an international clientele. Many agents thought then and now that I am a bit crazy and a glutton for punishment. Yes, sometimes the transactions appear to be harder or more complex, but that often stems from a lack of understanding of the consumer and his/her cultural approach to selecting a property, making an offer, negotiating, etc. Again, this goes back to the need for education. Another item to consider is that business will not just “come to you”. You have to go out there and find it. You have to build your marketing and brand around it, and you have to know how to handle it when it comes. Personally, I see this as a great source of future business because the U.S. is still seen as the safest place to invest worldwide, and the International consumer needs the help of expert Realtors®. This is no mystery. This is good business. Interested?