RISMEDIA, May 12, 2011— You don’t have to travel the world to be a global agent. Nor do you have to find foreign investors shopping for properties here. Global business also includes ethnic immigrant communities, naturalized citizens who retain strong cultural roots, and foreign residents living in the U.S. on extended visas. Considered in this context, global business is bigger—and growing faster—than many agents realize.
Connecting with multicultural buyers is not so much about speaking their language, but understanding where they are coming from–gaining a better understanding of and sensitivity to their traditions and core values. It does not require major shifts in how you do business.
There are two primary steps for learning more about ethnic groups in your community:
1. First, determine which groups already reside in your market.
2. Investigate avenues for learning more about their culture, traditions and value systems.
Once you have taken those initial steps, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and take specific actions to make your real estate practice more accommodating to multicultural clients and earn their business. Here are several areas you’ll want to examine and steps to consider taking:
Homebuyer Seminars: this tried-and-true strategy is likely valued even more by multicultural buyers. Offer these programs under the auspices of a local ethnic association, and you’ll be even more successful at connecting with members of the community.
How U.S Real Estate Works: Consider offering education on the basic mechanics of the U.S. real estate market. If your prospective clients include newly arrived immigrants or foreign/relocating buyers, your education efforts may need to cover these nuts-and-bolts details.
Printed Materials: You don’t need to translate all your brochures and handouts. But it is a good idea to make sure you aren’t doing anything that might be offensive. For example, you’d want to avoid using a culture’s color of death as the dominant color in your brochure. Such color associations vary, however, from one culture to another, so do a little research.
Advertising: Use a media buyer to help pinpoint the right foreign language channels for television and radio advertising and the best reach per dollar. Also investigate foreign language newspapers. Whenever advertising to multicultural groups, be certain that you remain in compliance with Fair Housing laws, which prohibit advertising solely on the basis of ethnic status, or other protected classes.
Free Publicity: Submit press releases and articles on home buying, selling, or local market conditions to your local media. Smaller press outlets—including foreign language newspapers—are typically hungry for news items, providing an opportunity for free advertising. If you are able to translate your story, your efforts will likely be even more productive.
Staffing: If you don’t speak the dominant language used by your multicultural clients, try to learn at least a few common phrases. It’s also a good idea to hire someone who can serve as a translator, either as part of your regular staff, or as an on-call assistant. If there’s a nearby university, consider hiring a student to fill this role. Many local REALTOR® boards maintain a list of their members who speak other languages and may be willing to help.
Contracts: Numerous local REALTOR® associations have developed translated versions of standard real estate contracts and make these available to members. Even though your client must sign the official English version, translated copies can be very helpful in explaining legal terms.
Financing: Make every effort to identify lenders who also understand your clients’ cultural perspectives, and share these names as recommended resources with your buyers.
Related Professionals: Similar to lenders, you’ll want to develop a network of other professionals such as home inspectors and real estate attorneys who you feel comfortable including on your list of recommended resources for multicultural clients.
Small Modifications Yield Big Results
This is not a comprehensive list of ideas—nor should you assume that you need to undertake every suggestion in order to be successful working with multicultural clients.
It may appear that serving these buyers and sellers requires a lot of work. In fact, agents who are already actively serving this audience say that in most cases, very little needs to be modified. Instead, what’s most necessary is a sincere interest in expanding your horizons and becoming actively involved in new communities. Multicultural clients are excellent sources of future referrals. If you have gained their trust and served them well, they will tell family and friends about you.