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How to Appeal to International Clients

To best appeal to international clients, you need to have some understanding of the culture and conditions in the target country. Creating content that is accessible to international prospects may involve setting up a website in the native language, or at least providing a translation feature. It can be very good practice to contract with an agent or representative “on the ground” who can filter and enhance your message to suit local tastes and interests.

It’s tough to work in commercial real estate these days without encountering clients hailing from outside the U.S. Activity with foreign investors has been brisk in recent years, and it’s likely to continue to grow in 2016.

About a quarter of all CRE investment purchases in the U.S. are made with foreign capital, a huge factor in supporting the continued rate of new development, particularly in primary markets. International interest extends to U.S. home buying too, with the number of agents working with international clients rose by 7 percent from March 2014 to March 2015, according to the National Association of REALTORS.

This surge in foreign investment is further encouraged by recent legislative developments, including the easing of tax burdens for international buyers of U.S. real estate. Sections of the JOBS Act enacted as recently as December make it easier for foreign investors to avoid heavy taxes on gains in real estate.

High net worth individuals and pension funds overseas have deep pockets, and they are willing to tolerate modest yield in exchange for the relative security of the U.S. market. Still, there are unique challenges involved in international transactions, and appealing to these buyers requires some study and prep.

Shift your perspective

When you’re appealing to an investor in China or Dubai, your marketing has to reflect their viewpoint. In this situation, the client wants market information on a broader range of locations. If your information is currently limited to your primary market, appealing to international buyers will require you to assemble data on properties in multiple locales.

If you’re employing technology to gather property information, this transition is easy. Assemble a collection of prospective listings based on the client’s preferences, not on location. Work on the ability to compare properties from different markets.

Anticipate different expectations

The complexity of real estate transactions increases when laws and customs of different countries are mixed. Be aware that a foreign client may be accustomed to a different way of approaching many aspects of the deal, and even if they have been involved in U.S. transactions previously, it’s good practice to lay out the regulations and process for the state in which this particular transaction will occur. It’s important that your client understands, for example, that in most U.S. states, a real estate agent has the authority to receive and present offers but not the authority to sign for the principal without a power of attorney. In other words, the agent can negotiate on behalf of, but not bind contractually, the principal.

Clarify your expectations on this and other factors, such as negotiation and the closing process, and make sure that your understand those of your client.

Tailor marketing

To best appeal to international clients, you need to have some understanding of the culture and conditions in the target country. Creating content that is accessible to international prospects may involve setting up a website in the native language, or at least providing a translation feature. It can be very good practice to contract with an agent or representative “on the ground” who can filter and enhance your message to suit local tastes and interests.