4 Ways to Court International Investors

The dollar’s plunge against many foreign currencies, along with softening real estate prices, have made U.S. properties extremely attractive to overseas buyers. Here are four ways to tap into this expanding market.

April 1, 2008

1. Join the club. Immigrants and foreign nationals often join social groups to connect with people like themselves. For instance, there’s a Canadian Club of Chicago, a Canadian Club of Washington, D.C., and a Canadian Association of New York. Looking to work with buyers from France? Try the Alliance Française in Washington, D.C. Wherever you are, find clubs that bring together people from around the world, and begin networking to generate referrals from overseas friends and relatives of local members.

2. Partner up. You may be able to find eager international buyers by teaming up with other professionals who’ve already built relationships with them. Search your area for attorneys, CPAs, and other professionals who work with international buyers. Interview them to determine their level of expertise and professionalism, and if they’re smart and capable, ask if they’re willing to send and receive referrals to overseas buyers.

3. Work the Web. Allow international investors to search for properties in their native language right from your Web site. How? Contact your state association first, because some, like Florida, offer the service to members. If your local association doesn’t offer that service, hook up with a capable Webmaster who can upgrade your site to allow foreign-language searches.

Also, make sure your advertising directs foreign buyers to a Web page that’s geared specifically to them. If you advertise in, say, Paris, include the address for a Web site that you’ve created exclusively for French-speaking visitors. Or put a French flag prominently on your Web page with a link that says, “View this page in French.” That helps international buyers feel as though you understand them and allows you to track responses to your ads.

And be sure your Web content incorporates the local dialect. Find an expert translator who can translate precisely and use common phrases and idioms familiar to buyers in their language.

4. Ask for help. Treat international buyers no differently than you’d treat U.S. buyers—ask them for referrals. Also, get their opinions on the best places to advertise for buyers in their area, and ask if they’d be willing to make in-person introductions to brokers from their country with whom you can build a professional relationship.

Sources: Perry Corneau, broker-owner, Corneau & Associates, Sarasota, Fla.; Robert Keats, Keats Connelly & Associates Inc., Phoenix; Marc Weinberg, Active Website LLC, Denver.