4 Ways to Capture More International Business

February 22, 2017

Some of your clients may be dreaming about buying a home on foreign shores, particularly in countries such as Mexico, Costa Rica, the Philippines, Colombia, and Canada. In fact, about 14 percent of REALTORS® say they had a client in search of property abroad last year, according to the National Association of REALTORS® 2016 Profile of International Activity in U.S. Residential Real Estate. That number has more than doubled from the previous year.

"Maybe your clients are thinking about this but haven't mentioned it to you," says Jeff Ruggiero, director of the REALTOR® Affiliate Program at ECI Development. "They need your assistance with walking them through these transactions."

If you're a U.S.-based broker-owner, you can help your agents guide their clients through international sales. Ruggiero and a panel of experts shared ideas for establishing a global footprint in your business during the 2017 REALTOR® Broker Summit in San Diego last week.

  1. Identify reasons people move. Whether it's to broaden their investment portfolio, commit to a vacation spot, or fully immerse in another culture by permanently relocating, it's imperative to understand American buyers' motives. According to the 2016 Profile of International Activity in U.S. Residential Real Estate, 46 percent of Americans are searching for a property in a foreign country that can serve as both a vacation home and investment property, followed by another 28 percent who are strictly interested in a vacation home overseas. Another 13 percent are just interested in an investment, and 9 percent are ready to take the big leap and move into a new primary residence abroad. Now that the dollar is strong, the exchange rate is more favorable in many countries, Ruggiero says.
  2. Find the right amenities. "It's important to most people that properties are up to U.S. standards," Ruggiero says. Besides the aesthetics and room configuration of a property, real estate pros in the U.S. need to understand the infrastructure of a community abroad, including utilities available (such as air conditioning and water heaters), roads, and proximity to shopping, health care, airports, and places of interest to your clients. While we have summer and winter in the U.S., other places have dry and rainy seasons, Ruggiero says. The roads may be fine during the dry season but may not be passable in the rainy season.
  3. Understand your local market. In 2015, some states such as Texas, California, Nevada, Florida, and others saw their foreign-born population increase three- to four-fold. Many of those residents are now looking to buy, and they may still need to sell in their country of origin. Real estate pros should learn about those cultures, help those buyers understand local market conditions, and brush up on the markets they came from, says Jennifer Flores Tasto, broker-owner of Property Services, Inc., in Burlingame, Calif.
  4. Get the right education. Stop missing business opportunities and start getting connected to the world of international real estate through the Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) designation. Courses cover how to work with both inbound and outbound purchasers, as well as offer networking opportunities. "Globalization is making a tremendous impact on our communities," Flores Tasto says. "It's one of the many ways our industry is transforming; we have to be willing and able to transform with it."

—Erica Christoffer, REALTOR® Magazine