Agents who want to reach property buyers from around the world, need to have strong referrals, translation tools and global listings, the 2014 National Association of Realtors conference has heard
The key to picking up growing international real estate business in the United States is strong referrals, translation tools and global listings, the National Association of Realtors conference has heard.
Eleonore Rojas, Vice President of Partnerships and Product Integration at Move, Inc., which publishes the NAR website, realtor.com, offered advice about international sales at the 2014 New Orleans Conference and Expo, which ended on Monday 10 November.
The Managed Solutions for Reaching International Buyers panelist says referrals are behind some 60% of international transactions, so networking is vital with clubs, community groups, Chambers of Commerce, Realtor associations and at local and global conferences.
Realtors should think globally and be aware of time zones, cultural differences, exchange rates and local and global market conditions.
Ms Rojas says, “A Realtor needs to be in the middle of every international transaction to help foreign buyers successfully navigate the U.S. market and find a property that meets their needs.”
Properties should be entered with global listings aggregators that include translation services and niche luxury and commercial sites and franchised portals.
Almost half of international buyers search local websites for foreign properties, because those brands and websites are familiar and the content is in their own language, she says. Other international buyers go to sites in countries where they are searching for properties.
Celeste Starchild, Vice President and General Manager at listing management site, ListHub, says agents should market themselves as having local market and international expertise.
“No matter where consumers are looking for listings, you want be there to service them and help them meet their property buying needs.”
Websites should be clean, well-organised and welcoming, with photos and videos showing the local area that are selected with cultural considerations of foreign buyers taken into account. The text should be translated and currency conversion tools should be included.
“If you have a target market of buyers in mind, translating your website into that language will help clients find and navigate your site. Translating your content also allows your site to be found in Internet search results, since some search engines will eliminate sites not in the searcher’s selected language.”
California, Florida, New York and Texas are the most popular search areas for international buyers, with Arizona, Illinois and Nevada growing increasingly popular and Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Washington also attracting more attention.
Ms Rojas says foreign buyers tend to prefer certain parts of the US. European buyers look at California, Florida, New York and Texas; Australian buyers prefer California, Michigan, Nevada and New York and the Chinese are buying in California, New York and Washington.
Ms Starchild says Chinese buyers are the fastest-growing segment of international buyers in the United States because of rising affluence and appreciation of the Chinese yuan.
US property remains affordable, but tight credit standards means there are more cash buyers, with 76% of Chinese buyers making all-cash purchases. Chinese buyers typically purchase more expensive high-end homes and are showing increasing interest in Dallas and Irvine, in Texas, and Seattle, in Washington.
China’s strict Internet regulations make it more difficult for US agents to market to Chinese buyers, but more than 90 million are searching for homes each year on sites like Fang.com, which has a 50% market share of listings, says Ms Starchild.
Rojas recommended several tools and messaging apps for Realtors working with international clients, including WhatsApp and WeChat, which translate messages and allow agents to quickly and easily share videos and photos with clients. “Find out what your clients are using and connect with them on the platform that they most prefer,” she says.
It is worth bearing in mind that high season for many international sales is the opposite from the US market, where property buying peaks in the warmer spring and summer months; summer is typically a time when foreign nationals take extended holidays and real estate markets abroad tend to slow down.
“International sales typically peak during the US’s slower winter months. This creates an opportunity for agents to take advantage of the slower US market and focus their work on international buyers.”
The four-day NAR conference at the Morial Convention Center, New Orleans, along the theme of In Full Swing, attracted around 17,000 members and guests and more than 1,300 international real estate professionals from more than 60 countries.
The National Association of Realtors is America’s largest trade association, representing 1million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.
* The OPPLive London trade conference, on Thursday 27 & Friday 28 November, at the Novotel London West, aims to help overseas property professionals grow their business and features numerous networking opportunities, a lively exhibition and informative seminars and discussions. Delegate tickets are free.
The OPP Awards for Excellence are also run in conjunction with OPPLive and are being presented at a glittering gala dinner on 27 November at the Novotel London West.
By Adrian Bishop, Editor, OPP Connect