Florida Realtor April 2011 : Page 16

success strategies Be 16 FLORIDA REALTOR April 2011

Be A Global Market Star

Richarc Westlund

Anyone on Facebook or LinkedIn knows that global buyers and investors have never been more accessible. “You don’t have to travel the world to do international business. It’s right in your neighborhood,” says Carlos Fuentes. “More than 26 percent of all foreign buyers purchase in Florida,” says Fuentes, commercial director, Keller Williams Tampa Properties in Tampa and chair of Florida Realtors® Global Business Committee.

Today, Canadian, European and Latin American buyers compose a significant share of virtually all major Florida markets.In addition, some Florida residents are looking to purchase vacation condos, retirement homes or commercial prop-Erties in the Caribbean, South America, Mexico and Central America. That creates new inbound and outbound business opportunities for real estate professionals.

Research Your Options

“Do your research to see what types of buyers are active in your market, talk to your association’s international council and see how the state and national associations can help,” says Zola Szerencses, brokerassociate, RE/MAX 200 Realty in Orlando.

According to the National Association of Realtors 2010 Profile of International Home Buyers in Florida, conducted with Florida Realtors, foreign buyers see the state as a desirable location for a second home or investment property.

“What buyers look for will vary,” says Patricia Tan, international sales director, Prudential Palms Realty, Sarasota.“For instance, British buyers generally prefer single-family homes to condos, especially newer homes with energyefficient features. Investors typically want to place a long-term tenant into a property, so having a good management company available is key.”

But global buyers also face significant challenges. They may not be familiar with U.S. property laws, taxes or visa regulations, which may affect how long they can stay in the United States to enjoy a vacation home. Another issue is financing: obtaining a mortgage has never been more difficult for both domestic and global buyers.However, the 2010 survey found that 81 percent of Florida’s international buyers paid cash—a clear sign of their willingness to invest in the Sunshine State.

To capitalize on today’s international market, Florida Realtor interviewed leading professionals around the state.

Here are 15 tips for success.

1. Assess your personal skills and background.

Consider how you can apply your background and skills to the international market. You may have relatives in France, travel frequently to Canada or speak fluent Spanish. Or you might have recently worked with an international buyer who could be a source of referrals. That knowledge and experience can provide you with a good starting point for reaching the global market.“You don’t have to speak another language, although it is helpful,” says German- born Christel Silver, with Silver International Realty in Delray Beach.

2. Study your local market.

Going global can begin right in your neighborhood. Talk to your local tourist bureau or hotel association to learn about the flow of international visitors— where they come from and what they enjoy doing in your market. International companies, colleges and universities may Relocate people from overseas. Fuentes suggests joining an international chamber or local social club and start cultivating any relationships that you develop there. “You must be ready to participate, understanding that you have to give before you can receive,” he adds.

3. Reach out to other professionals.

Many real estate associations have a global business alliance or an international council whose members share ideas, pool resources and share leads. “If you don’t have a council in your association, then start thinking about forming one,” says Szerencses, a native of Hungary.“It can be an excellent source of information and business opportunities.” In addition, Silver suggests building relationships with an attorney who specializes in immigration law, an international tax advisor and a mortgage broker who helps foreign customers. “Get educated about our tax and immigration laws so you’re aware of the possible pitfalls,” she says, “but refer clients to an attorney when they ask for advice.”

4. Pick a target.

To make the best use of your time and resources, pick a specific international target rather than aiming for the entire world. “Focus on a region or a country,” says Tan. “This lets you play to your personal strengths while developing your market knowledge.” Another strategy is to focus on different types of foreign buyers, such as vacationers looking for a second home or investors seeking a business property.

5. Educate yourself.

After you pick a target, it’s time to do your homework. Learn about the customs, currency and culture, and keep up with political and economic trends.

“You want to be able to talk global,” Fuentes says. “Otherwise, you’ll quickly be out of the game.” Another suggestion: look at international air travel patterns.“There are lots of direct flights from different cities in Germany to Florida, especially to Miami and Fort Myers,” says Sven Johns, CEO of Immobilienverband Deutschland (IVD), a German real estate association. “That accessibility is very important for second-home buyers.”

6. Understand foreign business practices.

Real estate practices diff er from country to country and region to region. Don’t assume that a foreign buyer—or a referring international agent—understands U.S. representation, licensing, commission and referral practices. “In some countries the full commission is less than a referral fee from a U.S. agent,” says Fuentes.“Therefore, you need to be sure that [the referring] agent understands the value of providing a buyer who’s actively looking at Florida real estate.” From the European perspective, Jûrgen Schick, first vice president, IVD, points out that Germany does not have a Multiple Listing Service (MLS). “It’s helpful for Florida professionals to learn about how other markets work and to explain the U.S. system.”

7. Earn a cIPS designation.

One of the best ways to boost your credentials and networking opportunities is to become a Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS), according to Francisco Angulo, broker, CENTURY 21 United Properties Inc., Weston and Miami Beach.“This is the way to connect with likeminded global professionals,” he says.

8. Tap nAR’s global alliances.

To help its members, Florida Realtors plays an active role in the international market (see “How Florida Realtors® Helps!” on page 20). In addition, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) maintains formal relationships with more than 80 real estate associations around the world, creating opportunities for referrals and business partnerships.Visit realtor.org/global for the list of countries and representatives. You may be able join a foreign real estate organization like IVD and take advantage of those opportunities for networking, adds Johns.

9. Promote yourself eff ectively.

From websites to email to social networking, Florida real estate professionals have a host of online tools available to promote their services overseas. Colorful display ads in local visitor magazines or classified ads in foreign newspapers can also be eff ective marketing tools. For example, you can advertise in the U.K. magazine A Place in the Sun. Silver says, “Go to Facebook and become friends with international agents. Most countries have sites like craigslist which off er free online ads.”

10. Become a Florida expert.

Building an international prospect list or referral base takes time. Therefore, Tan emphasizes, it’s important to provide local market information to international buyers and agents through a blog, newsletter or email updates. “Don’t just send them details on property,” she says. “Tell them what’s happening in the market. You should also give information on property management options for absentee owners,U. S. taxes on rental income from properties, and immigration trends and issues.” Johns agrees with that strategy. “By giving a German real estate agent more information about the city and area, you can make that agent a specialist for your community as well,” he says.

11. Travel to your target market.

While online and phone marketing is clearly the most efficient way to build relationships, there’s still no substitute for annual or semiannual face-to-face meetings in target countries. “Plan your trip carefully to take in as many networking events as possible,” says Tan. “Make sure your marketing materials are in the right language and expressed in terms that are familiar to your audience. Be aware of cultural differences and how you should act during meetings in another country.”

12. Participate in trade missions.

Along with Florida Realtors and NAR, many Florida business and economic organizations promote inbound and outbound trade missions. “You should be active in those groups at a local, state or national level to get the most benefits,” says Angulo.

When traveling overseas with a group, look for opportunities in the schedule to set up your own meetings, adds Tan.And look for inbound trade missions that bring foreign professionals to Florida, saving you the time and expense required for international travel.

13. Serve commercial investors.

For some international buyers, Florida offers an excellent location for business and commercial investment. Therefore, you should be alert for ways to connect with individuals, partnerships or companies that focus on investment. “You can build ties with local economic development associations which bring in new jobs,” says Manny Mencia, senior vice president of international trade and business development at Enterprise Florida in Miami. “Along with the residential side, there are opportunities in the commercial sector, so don’t neglect this aspect of the real estate business.”

14. Cultivate outbound referrals.

Many Florida real estate professionals have local customers who might be interested in buying international properties, such as vacation or retirement homes in Mexico, South America, Central America or the Caribbean. “You can refer that client to a professional who knows our business practices and receive a referral fee,” says Fuentes. “I see Mexico and Central America, as great opportunities for Florida buyers,” he says. “Cancun, Costa Rica and Panama are particularly attractive with a low cost of living and great amenities, including medical care.”

15. Make global buyers feel at home.

A final suggestion: Help global buyers feel comfortable with making a residential or commercial purchase in Florida.Fuentes says, “An investor might want to know about the local chamber or economic development council. A family might want to know about schools and universities. And everyone wants to know about the local neighborhood. You want to be able to answer their questions and make them feel at home.”

Richard Westlund is a Miami-based freelance writer.

Where are the biggest opportunities?

When Manny Mencia, senior vice president of international trade and business development at Enterprise Florida, looks at 2011, he sees opportunities in every sector of the world. “Florida remains a bargain for the global investor, [from both a residential and a commercial] property side,” he says. “One of the key factors is the relative weakness of the dollar.We’re a really good deal for European, Canadian and Latin buyers.”

Mencia notes that every part of Florida, from the Panhandle to the Keys, is attracting international buyers. “But you have to look at patterns in your market to see who’s buying there,” he adds. For instance, English-speaking Canadians tend to gravitate to the Gulf Coast side of the state while Quebecois (French speakers) like Daytona Beach and the Hollywood– Fort Lauderdale areas.

In 2011, Canadian, German, British and South American buyers are expected to be four of the strongest international segments. “With a strong economy, huge supply of natural resources and growing middle class, Brazil is one of the markets to watch,” says Francisco Angulo, broker, CENTURY 21 United Properties Inc., Weston and Miami Beach.“Elsewhere in the region, Peru, Chile and Colombia have stable governments and economies, making them attractive targets for Florida agents and brokers.”

Christel Silver, of Silver International Realty in Delray Beach, expects Germany and Canada to be big markets for her in 2011. “All my German clients have been professionals in their 40s buying an investment property as their second home,” she says.“The same is true for my Canadian clients, although they also include some retirees. I’m looking forward to another good year.”

GREAT IDEA When vacationing in another country, take along your business cards and visit local real estate offices. “That’s a great way to start building relationships,” says Zola Szerencses, of RE/MAX 200 Realty in Orlando. “When they think about Florida real estate, you will be the first one who comes to mind.”

Bahama Mama. Your Florida license does not allow you to sell real property in the Bahamas. You must have a license issued by the Bahamas Real Estate Association (BREA), which is difficult to get as one of the many qualifications to be licensed by BREA is that the applicant must be a Bahamian citizen or the holder of a permanent residency permit with the right to work. According to Bahamian laws, it is illegal for a person to sell real property in the Bahamas without a license issued by BREA. Licensed real estate professionals from other countries can, however, refer business to licensed Bahamian real estate professionals by executing a referral contract that would allow a referral fee to be paid for a successful transaction.

How Florida Realtors® Helps!

Here are some of the ways Florida Realtors supports members efforts to build their global business:

• Negotiates attractive rates for registrations at international trade expos and conferences.

• Offers an international calendar of events on the Florida Realtors website. Visit the global business page at floridarealtors.org/global.

• Regularly updates members on global business events taking place around the state, nationally and internationally.

• Provides speakers at the Global Networking Forum and Global Business Committee.

• Invites international agents and brokers to Florida events. Agents From the United Kingdom, the Bahamas, Canada and the Netherlands attended the Florida Realtors 2010 Convention and Trade Expo.

• Works with NAR researchers on monitoring trends in international homebuying in Florida.

• Organizes both inbound and outbound trade missions.

• Continuously promotes Florida real estate at national and international real estate trade expos and conferences.

• Distributes Florida real estate information to consulate offices in Florida.

Read the full article at http://browndigital.bpc.com/article/Be+A+Global+Market+Star/1288464/143037/article.html.

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