Florida Realtor April 2014 : Page 16
mOVIng hERE? discover the most promising foreign marketing niches. by RicHaRd Westlund aT a gLaNCE Florida leads the nation in international buyers. Canada, Europe and South America remain the three top sources of international buyers, although there is also growing interest from Asia. International buyers may purchase Florida homes for their vacations, for investment or a combination of the two. understanding and respecting a buyer’s background and culture is essential for building a professional relationship. WhO’S n the other side of the world, Andrew Taylor is helping Chi-nese buyers find real estate in Florida. “Today, only Califor-nia receives more interest than Florida,” says Taylor, who is co-CEO of Juwai.com , a Shanghai company. “From the Pan-handle to the Keys, Chinese real estate buyers spread their interest out across the state.” Closer to home, miyuki Fujiwara , a sales associate in The Keyes Co.’s Doral office, has sold more than two dozen condo-miniums to Japanese buyers in the past six months. “They are interested in South targeting internatiOnaL buyers O Florida real estate as an investment, and recognize that now is a good time to buy,” she says. Five hundred years after Spanish ex-plorer Juan Ponce de León landed near St. Augustine, buyers from Asia have dis-covered Florida, joining the Canadians, Europeans and South Americans who appreciate the Sunshine State’s warm-weather lifestyle and investment oppor-tunities. “Florida is the nation’s No. 1 state for international buyers,” says Janet branton , senior vice president for Global Business and Alliances, national Association of Real-tors® (NAR). “Florida has the weather, the beaches and the water—and it’s a bargain 16 FLORIDA REALTOR April 2014
Who’s Moving Here?
Discover the most promising foreign marketing niches.<br /> <br /> AT A GLANCE <br /> <br /> Florida leads the nation in international buyers.<br /> <br /> Canada, Europe and South America remain the three top sources of international buyers, although there is also growing interest from Asia.<br /> <br /> International buyers may purchase Florida homes for their vacations, for investment or a combination of the two.<br /> <br /> Understanding and respecting a buyer’s background and culture is essential for building a professional relationship.<br /> <br /> On the other side of the world, Andrew Taylor is helping Chinese buyers find real estate in Florida. “Today, only California receives more interest than Florida,” says Taylor, who is co-CEO of Juwai.com, a Shanghai company. “From the Panhandle to the Keys, Chinese real estate buyers spread their interest out across the state.” <br /> <br /> Closer to home, miyuki Fujiwara, a sales associate in The Keyes Co.’s Doral office, has sold more than two dozen condominiums to Japanese buyers in the past six months. “They are interested in South Florida real estate as an investment, and recognize that now is a good time to buy,” she says.<br /> <br /> Five hundred years after Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León landed near St. Augustine, buyers from Asia have discovered Florida, joining the Canadians, Europeans and South Americans who appreciate the Sunshine State’s warmweather lifestyle and investment opportunities.<br /> <br /> “Florida is the nation’s No. 1 state for international buyers,” says Janet branton, senior vice president for Global Business and Alliances, national Association of Realtors ® (NAR). “Florida has the weather, the beaches and the water—and it’s a bargain Compared to other global resort markets.<br /> <br /> The state’s business climate is also good, and there are incentives for international commercial investment.” For the 12 months that ended July 2013, international buyers accounted for 22,572 transactions in Florida, worth $6.4 billion—about 9 percent of the total volume, according to NAR’s Profile of International Home Buying Activity in Florida: 2013 Report. About half of foreign buyers purchased single-family homes while the other half bought condominiums or town houses.<br /> <br /> While Canada, Venezuela, Brazil and the United Kingdom (U.K.) are the largest sources of foreign buyers, there has been an upsurge of interest from other countries in Europe and Latin America, as well as from countries in Asia.<br /> <br /> “Many Eastern Europeans are looking for residential and commercial investment properties,” says zola Szerencses, director, International Division, RE/mAX 200 Realty in Winter Park. “They see the opportunities in Florida, and their investments are good for our state’s economy.” <br /> <br /> International buyers are also making their presence known in new markets around the state. For example, Canadian buyers are buying winter homes in the Panhandle while Colombian buyers are becoming more active in the Naples– Marco Island region. “Boca Raton and West Palm Beach are attracting more South American buyers while German buyers are purchasing in Tampa and St. Petersburg,” says Branton. “And if you live anywhere in Florida, chances are Good that some of your neighbors are Canadians.” <br /> <br /> Convenient air travel remains one of the key factors that influence foreign buyers’ location decisions, adds Branton. Regular charter flights from the U.K. to Sanford, for instance, have made it easy for northern European buyers to reach the Orlando area.<br /> <br /> Foreign buyers also tend to cluster in neighborhoods. In South Florida, for example, many Venezuelans have Purchased homes in Doral and Weston, and Sunny Isles Beach has a distinct Russian community. That means real estate professionals can often find international buyers right in their local markets (see “5 Community-based Marketing Ideas,” pg. 26).<br /> <br /> Based on the NAR survey and insights from the state’s real estate professionals, here is a closer look at the different groups of foreign buyers now active in Florida:<br /> <br /> CANADA <br /> <br /> According to NAR research, Canadians accounted for 30 percent of foreign buyers in Florida, purchasing both singlefamily homes and condominiums in resort areas.<br /> <br /> In general, French Canadians prefer the eastern side of the state, along the I-95 Corridor, while those from Englishspeaking provinces are more likely to select communities on the Gulf Coast near I-75. Overall, the most popular locations are Naples–Marco Island; Cape Coral– Fort Myers; Bradenton-Sarasota-Venice; Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami– Miami Beach.<br /> <br /> “We get about 80 percent of our [Canadian] buyers from the Toronto area,” said brett brown, a broker with Fiddler’s Creek Realty Inc. in Naples. “Canadians are looking for a second home for vacation and investment, and they typically pay cash for their purchases.” <br /> <br /> While there are many cultural similarities between Canada and the United States, Brown says, it’s important to understand the nuances. “You should know something about the Canadian healthcare system, which can influence the length of time these second-home buyers can stay in the States,” he says. “Also, there is no inheritance tax in Canada, so you may want to advise your buyer to consult a U.S. attorney before taking title to a property.”<br /> <br /> EUROPE <br /> <br /> Nearly half of Patricia Tan’s buyers come from the U.K. “We have both lifestyle buyers, like the ‘snowbirds’ from North America, as well as investors,” says Tan, a sales associate with Coldwell banker Residential Real Estate in Sarasota. “The majority purchase single-family homes rather than condos, whether they are looking for a holiday home or a rental investment. They like the idea of owning land and property, and home prices here offer really good values compared with the U.K.”<br /> <br /> Overall, U.K. buyers accounted for 6 percent of the Florida international market, according to the NAR study. The most popular destinations were Orlando- Kissimmee; Bradenton-Sarasota-Venice; Tampa–St. Petersburg–Clearwater; and Lakeland–Winter Haven. “I have seen a number of families decide to sell their home in England, invest in a Florida business and move here,” Tan says. “Those immigrants tend to buy more expensive homes in areas with good school districts, rather than less expensive town homes that might be more suited to short-term rentals.”<br /> <br /> When dealing with U.K. buyers, don’t take a “hard-sell” approach, says Tan. “I’m British, and we don’t like that pressure,” she says. “We also tend to be private people who don’t necessarily welcome probing questions early in a relationship. Instead, you should focus on providing U.K. buyers with the information they need to make an informed purchase decision.” <br /> <br /> That “go-slow” approach applies to buyers from Scandinavia, Germany and other European countries, says Christel Silver, broker-owner with Silver International Realty in Delray Beach. “I tell sellers in Our local market to be patient,” she says. “German buyers can be very meticulous, and they don’t like to be pressured.” <br /> <br /> In recent months, Silver has helped buyers from Switzerland and Germany purchase vacation homes. “Almost everything today can be done online,” she says. “But you need to be sure that buyers open a U.S. bank account when they fly over to see a home or close the transaction. Even a buyer who pays all cash will need a local bank account to pay the condo fees and taxes.” <br /> <br /> LATIN AMERICA <br /> <br /> The two leading sources of Latin American buyers are Venezuela and Brazil, according to the NAR study. About 8 percent of the state’s international buyers were from Venezuela, and a large number of them also purchased commercial properties. Venezuelans’ most popular choices Were Miami–Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale, and they generally preferred urban communities, rather than beachfront neighborhoods.<br /> <br /> Last year, Brazilians constituted about 7 percent of all international buyers in Florida, a slight decline from 2012. Almost half of Brazilian buyers were concentrated in metropolitan areas, such as Orlando-Kissimmee, Miami–Miami Beach, and Fort Lauderdale. Compared with other foreign buyers, Venezuelans and Brazilians tended to purchase high-priced homes.<br /> <br /> Other buyers from Latin America—including Mexicans, Peruvians, Argentines and Colombians—are also important in many Florida markets. For instance, the 2012 trade agreement between the United States and Colombia has sparked a wave of interest in residential and commercial investment, according to Ileana bogaert, sales associate with RE/mAX Affinity Plus in Marco Island. “While Brazilians tend to like dining, shopping and going out at night, many Colombians prefer a more private, quiet location,” she says. “In Southwest Florida, we are seeing more buyers from Colombia as well as Peruvians, Venezuelans and other nationalities.”<br /> <br /> Bogaert notes that NAR and Florida Realtors have strengthened their ties with The Colombian Federation of Real Estate (Fedelonjas), opening the door to an expanded referral network. “Many Latin Americans like the security of investing their money in U.S. real estate while taking advantage of prices that are lower than in their home countries,” she says.<br /> <br /> Privacy and discretion are important issues when dealing with affluent Latin America buyers, according to Bogaert. In some cases, real estate professionals will find themselves dealing with intermediaries or with multiple family members. In any case, Latin Americans often prefer to build a personal relationship before moving ahead with a business transaction.<br /> <br /> ASIA<br /> <br /> J. “Eddy” martinez, broker and CEO of Worldwide Properties in Miami Beach, started marketing to Chinese buyers last year. “We’ve seen a lot of interest in Miami, particularly with all the new construction under way here,” he says, noting that major real estate investments by Hong Kong–based Swire Properties and Genting, a Malaysian multinational, have caught the attention of Asian buyers.<br /> <br /> In South Florida, Japanese buyers tend to prefer urban locations, especially when they are active in multinational businesses, says The Keyes Co.’s Fujiwara. “They like high rises and dense Areas that remind them of Tokyo,” she adds. “When dealing with Japanese buyers, you should be respectful, well dressed and punctual. They don’t like a salesperson to be even one minute late.” <br /> <br /> From his perspective in Shanghai, Juwai.Com’s Taylor says top Florida destinations for Chinese buyers include Jacksonville, Orlando, Sarasota, Gainesville and Pensacola. “Things that attract Chinese buyers to Florida are the relatively low, postcrash prices, the wonderful lifestyle, the tax advantages and the attractive new building stock,” he says.<br /> <br /> While some Chinese buyers consider buying condominiums as vacation homes, others are seeking a permanent home, adds Martinez. He says that these buyers like the United States because they can own their homes here, compared with the situation in China, where the government owns the land and issues 50- or 75-year leases. “In some cases, they also plan to buy a business so they can move here with their family,” he says.<br /> <br /> In general, Chinese buyers are also interested in Florida real estate as an investment, according to Martinez. “They usually have an extensive due diligence process, so the transactions don’t happen as quickly as they do with South Americans,” he says. “Their model often involves holding a unit or two for five to ten years before cashing out on that investment.” <br /> <br /> Martinez advises Florida real estate professionals to become familiar with Chinese customs before reaching out to prospective buyers. “Many Chinese professionals now feel comfortable shaking hands along with bowing to each other,” he says. “But you still want to present your business card with both hands. Be polite and be patient if you want to succeed with Chinese buyers.” <br /> <br /> Knowing the countries that consider Florida a great place in which to invest is the first step in building your global business.<br /> <br /> Richard Westlund is a Miami-based freelance writer.<br /> <br /> Think “Formal”<br /> <br /> If you want to connect with foreign buyers, it’s usually better to take a formal approach. Think business suit rather than casual attire, handshakes rather than hugs and “hello, Mr. smith” rather than “hi, John!” <br /> <br /> That’s sound advice from zola Szerencses, the 2014 chair of florida Realtors® global Business Committee and NAR’s regional coordinator for Eastern Europe. “On your first meeting, you should always say something like ‘hello, Mr. smith. It’s a pleasure to meet you,’” he says. “Even if you have exchanged dozens of emails, you should not assume that you are on a first-name basis with These buyers. Be courteous and formal when you greet them because that’s the best way to get things off to a good start.” <br /> <br /> szerencses says it’s also important to avoid making assumptions about foreign buyers’ cultures. For instance, he says, a husband and wife from Europe might come from different countries or have very different backgrounds. “About 80 percent of my foreign buyers are from Canada, but a large number of them are originally from india and China,” he adds. “Understanding someone’s culture is very important, but you need to take the time and get to know them as individuals.”<br /> <br /> A “World-class” NAR Service<br /> <br /> If you want to market florida properties to international buyers, you can get help from the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). Today, more than 4.1 million active U.s. listings on Realtor.com are automatically translated into 11 different languages and distributed to more than 36 countries on Realtor.com/international. <br /> <br /> “We have more than 1 million unique international visitors every month,” says Janet branton, NAR’s senior vice president for global Business and Alliances.<br /> <br /> “in addition, the site’s monitoring software allows NAR to identify states and cities of the most interest to foreign buyers,” she adds. “That information can be a great help to florida sales professionals seeking to serve international buyers.”<br /> <br /> GREAT IDEA: <br /> <br /> Look for International Business Investment<br /> <br /> In today’s global economy, companies from Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East are continually looking at business opportunities in florida. Currently, more than 300 regional and hemispheric headquarters of companies from all over the world are located in florida, as are sales offices, warehouses and manufacturing facilities.<br /> <br /> With that high level of interest, international companies may acquire a small to mid-sized florida business or launch a new venture. That can create immediate opportunities for home sales or rentals to the new owners, executives or managers. Those types of commercial transactions can also generate interest in florida “back home,” giving sales professionals an opportunity to market their services to real estate agents or homeowners in those foreign countries.
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