Florida Realtor April 2013 : Page 26
How to Win Them Over How do you build trust with global customers? You reach them on a personal level. Here are some tips. BY Jaqueline TepliTzkY earn trust L 26 FLORIDA REALTOR April 2013 ong before you can sell a Florida home to an international buyer, you must establish a high level of trust. After all, buying a property in a foreign country is a daunting challenge for someone who may not be familiar with the country’s laws and customs or the estate issues associated with owning real estate in the United States.
How To Win Them Over
How do you build trust with global customers? You reach them on a personal level. Here are some tips.
Long before you can sell a Florida home to an international buyer, you must establish a high level of trust. After all, buying a property in a foreign country is a daunting challenge for someone who may not be familiar with the country’s laws and customs or the estate issues associated with owning real estate in the United States.
If you want to do business with international customers, you must plan a strategy to connect with them on a personal level. Here are my tips for building trust and doing more business with global buyers and investors:
1. Get to know the agents. Rather than placing an ad in your prospective buyers’ local newspaper, use your professional connections to build referral relationships with real estate professionals in your desired markets.
2. Focus on the advisors. If you aim to serve high-net-worth individuals and families seeking luxury homes, focus on building relationships with their advisors, such as family attorneys, accountants or wealth managers. And, if you’ve already done business with international buyers, use those relationships to connect with your customers’ family members, friends and business associates.
3. Go with the flow. Sometimes your personal contact won’t disclose the name or details about a potential buyer, or you might find yourself working with the assistant of a high-net-worth individual. In some cases, you may meet the principal but are guided as to what you may and may not ask. The best advice here is to “go with the flow” and follow the guidelines presented to you. For instance, you wouldn’t pull out a qualification checklist for a truly affluent buyer and ask for last year’s personal income, as that would be considered extremely rude.
4. Think future and build a team. You should adopt a long-term outlook, striving to build relationships rather than generating immediate commission dollars. Your customers must trust you to understand their needs and act in their best interest at every step of the transaction.
One of the best ways to earn these customers’ trust is to build a team of area professionals who can answer their non– real estate questions; for example, provide an attorney who can address the legal and estate tax considerations related to buying a property in the United States. Since the tax rules in foreign countries can be very different, you should also be able, for example, to refer a Brazilian or an Argentine customer to a tax advisor familiar with the specific country to assure the right advice.
5. Educate, don’t sell. Another way to build that personal connection is to carefully explain, early in your conversations with the customer, how the U.S. real estate market works. For example, in many countries real estate brokers jealously guard their listings, rather than sharing that information as we do in the United States. As a result, some foreign buyers believe they need to contact multiple agents and firms, rather than working solely with you. Therefore, you need to explain the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).
6. Host a call (or Skype). If a face-toface meeting is not possible, host a conference call with customers and their advisors so that you can explain key U.S. real estate concepts. Sometimes, it’s hard to get your message across in printed materials, particularly to customers whose native language is not English. This is also a useful way to find out if this is their first time buying in the United States and in the local Florida market.
7. Gather background information respectfully. When speaking with foreign buyers—in person or on the phone— gather as much background information as possible. For instance, ask about their purpose in buying a property in Florida— vacation, rental or long-term investment. Depending on how prospects respond, you may refer them to an attorney and tax advisor right away to discuss the most appropriate type of ownership.
You will also want to determine if they will need to finance the purchase. Many international buyers prefer all-cash transactions, but the availability of financing can affect their decisions. It’s also important to have financing information available since some buyers have unrealistic expectations about today’s mortgage market.
8. Establish motives. Knowing buyers’ motives is key to a successful transaction. After all, an investor might prefer an inexpensive property in a nontrendy area filled with potential renters, while a vacation- home buyer might want the best possible beachfront location at a certain price point.
Take them to see properties only after you have gathered the facts and gained a good idea of their situation. As a result, when you welcome prospects to Florida, you can have a pleasant experience looking at a select list of properties that meet their requirements. Most of the hard work has been done in advance.
Then, once the sale has closed, you should continue to nurture the relationship, which can often lead to more referrals and sales. Just be prepared to become the “go-to” person for everything related to that Florida home, including cleaning, maintenance and securing the property during hurricane season.
So, the best advice for success is to focus on cultivating personal relationships and providing great personal service— just as you would for U.S. customers!
Jaqueline Teplitsky is a broker with Douglas Elliman in New York and Florida.
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