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international_buyersIt’s happening more and more, so you’ve likely noticed an upswing of interest in your listings from international buyers. If you find yourself struggling to engage the potential business you’re being offered there are a few things you want to consider.

If you look at the research, it’s clear that the international buyers are coming and they are upscale buyers, purchasing homes in high-value markets. In 2015, 8 percent of all home purchases in the United States were from international buyers. Surprisingly, these buyers are going directly to the REALTOR®’s or firm’s own website an astounding rate of 37 percent of the time. The next closest are other online real estate websites (which would include Zillow) at 11 percent and only 7 percent going to the local MLS website. These states and a wealth of information can be found in the National Association of REALTORS® “Profile of Home Buying Activity of International Clients.”

The information presented within this highly detailed report will either frighten you or inspire you. One would hope the latter, because if you listen closely, you can hear opportunity knocking. So the question becomes, what is your strategy to attracting or engaging these international buyers?

Valuable lessons can be learned from history, times when large organizations had poorly planned International strategies that resulted in catastrophic (or sometimes hilarious) results. For example, when Chevrolet released the Nova it didn’t do so well in Central and South America, where Nova translated to “No-go.” Or Pepsi Cola with their “Come alive with Pepsi” campaign flopped in China where it was translated to “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead.” And finally, American Airlines with their upgraded leather seats advertised to “Fly in Leather” which translated in Spanish to “Fly Naked.” So you can see if you decide to launch a marketing campaign, it’s important to know how your ads translate, along with customer demand, gender views and ideologies, as these greatly vary in cultures.

Having multi-lingual search capabilities with your current company website is a good place to start. You should also focus on your current website traffic using a tool like Google analytics. This will provide a break down by country and language, thereby developing an understanding of where and what International buyers are viewing in your market. It will also help to shore up your strategy, if you work towards having a diverse group of agents from different cultures, which gives your company a tremendous advantage.  Employing agents and staff that know about cultural nuances makes a significant difference and will improve the experience of your International buyers when dealing with your office.

Once you begin to work with International buyers, it’s important to be mindful of the subtle differences in culture that exist. Below are just a few examples of cultural differences in business.

  • In Arabic countries, business cards are handed to you with their left hand as the right is used for “hygiene.”
  • In Japan and other Asian countries, business cards are handed out with both hands.
  • In Germany punctuality is critical and being late is viewed as an insult.
  • In African and South American countries, scheduled appointments are treated as a general guideline rather than something to strictly adhere to for meetings.
  • Opening a gift in front of the gift-giver in many Asian countries is considered to be extremely rude.
  • Regarding gifts, in China it’s considered good etiquette to bring a small gift from your hometown or country.
    • However avoid giving a gift of a clock as they represent death.
    • Also in China, do not use white, black or blue wrapping paper, as these colors are considered unlucky.
  • And the list goes on and on…

As you can see, it’s important to know cultural differences when dealing with international buyers. Hiring agents or staff that have a solid understanding of the language, cultural and preferences of the countries will be important to the success of a multi-country strategy. Along the same lines, working with a technology provider who knows language and currency differences will be necessary as well.

In North America, agents rely heavily on MLSs to consolidate listing inventories and depend on MLS policies to promote and facilitate cooperation to sell homes.  Internationally, listing inventories are not centralized and sharing of listings between agents is still uncommon. Multi-lingual and multi-cultural technology platforms that have knowledge of the North American markets are an important part of the solution to this challenge.

International buyers continue to grow in the United States market especially in coastal and destination areas. Having a strategy to understand what they are looking for, succinctly market to them and accommodate the cultural and language differences can and will lead to additional revenue and expand your company’s sphere of influence in the marketplace.

Jonathan Peterson has been in the real estate industry for over 20 years with a focus on the technology side of the business, having worked for companies such as Lone Wolf Real Estate Technologies and DocuSign. Jonathan currently is the International Sales Executive for Gryphech, Inc. Gryphtech was founded in 1997 and focuses on provide technology solutions for Franchises and Associations in over 80 countries and 43 languages making them a global leader in real estate technology.

For more information contact sales@gryphtech.com or visit www.gryphtech.com.

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