Did you know that whether purchasing property for investment, future retirement or to diversify their portfolios, the United States is still by far the preferred choice for foreign buyers? Whether from Canada, Mexico, China, Europe or somewhere else, many buyers plan to make a U.S. property purchase a part of their financial strategy. Someone needs to help them through the process. Will it be you?

Actively building a niche market around incoming International buyers can be rewarding. However, it carries with it the need for a different mindset on the part of the REALTOR®, as well as a dedicated commitment to give more time, expertise and patience than when working with local buyers. Still interested?

Many REALTORS® who considered this market have quickly decided they lacked the true desire, passion or will to invest the time and effort required to succeed, leaving the door wide open for those who do. Specialized knowledge is the key and a great start is earning your Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) designation. This extensive course helps you understand the critical differences in cultures, negotiating styles, currency valuations and decision-making processes; preparing you to successfully anticipate and disarm the potential landmines that lie in wait throughout the real estate transaction.

Q. How do I find these buyers or how will they find me?
Everything boils down to building relationships and putting yourself directly in their path. Go where they go and become a presence and trusted source of information where they network, both in person and online. Join international groups like FIABCI (International Real Estate Federation) where you can meet other like-minded professionals. People build trust by getting to know you, but they cannot get to know you if they cannot find you.

Q. Do I need to be multi-lingual or multi-cultural?
While it is helpful to share a common background or language, it is by no means a necessity. Culturally, you can work to develop a solid understanding of individual issues that might affect the buyer. As for possible language barriers, many incoming buyers are sufficiently comfortable speaking English. You might be surprised to know that there are some buyers who specifically decline to work with someone culturally aligned to themselves for reasons of confidentiality and privacy.

Q. Do I have the type of personality and work habits necessary to be successful?
In my experience, several traits are helpful. Are you …

  • Patient to a Fault? Your buyers may question aspects of the transaction that you normally take for granted. It is crucial to patiently provide answers or demonstrate how to find them. This is where added education, hard work and empathy will help you shine.
  • Very Detail-Oriented? While many of us easily place our trust in a handshake or the words of others, your client may come to you with a different perspective. Asking them to “take your word” on faith will not suffice. In order to protect your clients’ needs and comfort level, document all agreements, large and small, in writing. Build a referral network of trusted legal, financial and title professionals who also specialize in international real estate. Referring an experienced Real Estate, Immigration and/or International Tax attorney will help your clients fully understand the contractual agreements and any financial or legal implications of their purchase.
  • A Strong Communicator? Your buyer will expect to be kept informed every step of the way, perhaps as often as every day. This may come from unfamiliarity with the process and/or differences in cultural preferences. You simply cannot communicate too often with this buyer.
  • Readily Available? Your buyer may accept another team member assisting them occasionally, but they are putting their faith in you and you alone, which cannot be delegated. By doing so, you may unintentionally harm the trust and loyalty you are working so hard to build. The commitment of your valuable time and expertise is a huge compliment to the international buyer and will likewise be rewarded with their trust, loyalty, and hopefully, a stream of future referrals.
  • Trustworthy? Do what you say and say what you do. Transparency is sometimes lacking in other parts of the world, so it is imperative that everything is done openly and honestly. Otherwise, transactions and relationships can fall apart on the simplest of misunderstandings.

There is literally a world of opportunity available for those who want it. How fortunate we are, as REALTORS®, to be part of a profession that allows us to share “The American Dream” with others? Are you still interested?

Christi Borden, REALTOR®, CIPS, CNE, AHLS, GRI, TRC, e-PRO