What to Know When Selling to Foreign Buyers

November 20, 2015

According NAR's 2015 Profile of Home Buying Activity of International Clients, around 209,000 properties are estimated to have been sold to foreign buyers between April 2014 and March 2015, making up 4 percent of total existing-home sales.

The total sales dollar volume spent by foreign buyers in the U.S. is only increasing, and with 35 percent of agents reporting that they worked with an international client in 2014, it's important for real estate pros know that working with this market can be more complex than dealing with domestic buyers.

The bottom line? “Pick the best team you can," says Anthony Hitt, chief operating officer for the North American franchise of Engel & Völkers. “Sellers are wise to look for agents who are trained in the legalities and cultural traditions that come with a foreign buyer.”

The Washington Post shared four things to keep in mind when working with international buyers:

  • International buyers likely will have a small window of time to spend house hunting in the United States and may need to make a quick decision.
  • Make sure to have a sales agreement that includes protection from a default. This sales agreement needs to be reviewed by a professional agent or a real estate lawyer.
  • Plan a closing date that takes into account the time it would take for money transfers to be completed, last-minute inspections, dealing with out-of-town buyer travel and the processing of a foreign borrower mortgage.
  • It's important to be knowledgeable and careful about the cultural and religious differences when working with international clients. Choose a team in your office that has experience with working with this market.

In general, sellers shouldn't be too worried about closing hassles when dealing with foreign buyers, as wire transfers and digital signatures have become more common in real estate transactions in general. The main thing to keep in mind is to plan in advance for complications involving overseas money transfers, nonstandard purchase agreements, and the time it takes to for foreign buyers to document identity and verify credit.

Source: "A foreign buyer brings complications to a real estate deal," The Washington Post (Nov. 20, 2015) and Profile of Home Buying Activity of International Clients