By Erica Christoffer
Reaching Across the Globe
International buyers are increasingly eager to invest in U.S. properties.
Are;you prepared to guide them?
Interested in taking your business global—without
getting on a plane? Many United States–based practi-
tioners have forged close and lucrative ties with inter-
national clients in a steadily growing segment of the
real estate business. The foreign buyers Connie Anto-
niou works with generally move to the United States
for professional reasons. Whether she’s establishing a
connection with a corporate executive from Japan or
helping a Russian hockey player recruited by the Chi-
cago Blackhawks, her responsibility goes well beyond
the mechanics of a transaction. “You become their
conduit,” says Antoniou, ;;;;, ;;;, broker-owner of
Hunter’s Fairway Sotheby’s International Realty in
North Barrington, Ill. “They don’t know our ways, so
they have to be able to trust you.”
Antoniou was introduced to the international niche
serendipitously in the mid-1980s. Her first sale ever was
to a Finnish couple who showed up at an open house
and bought the seven-bedroom, eight-bath home she
was showing. Today, about half of Antoniou’s sales
involve international clients. Most are generated by
word-of-mouth or her company’s Web site. She closed
nine deals in 2012—a 44 percent jump over the prior
year—with an average list price of $1.04;million.
A survey of R;;;;;;;® released in June 2012
showed that sales to international clients accounted
for nearly 5 percent of all U.S. sales. NAR Research
estimates those sales—made in the 12 months ending
in March 2012—totaled $82.5 billion in volume. Even
at only 5 percent of all sales, that’s still a big chunk of
business. Just over 25 percent of R;;;;;;;® say they’re
working with international clients. Are you one of
them? If not, maybe it’s time to arm yourself with in-
formation you need to serve the global ;market.
‘That House Needs to Rock and Roll’
International buyers fall evenly into t wo main categories: those who will live in the home they buy and investors who will continue to live abroad.
Antoniou’s foreign clients who plan to live in the
United States want newer, low-maintenance, high-end homes, she says. That’s partly because they don’t
know whom to turn to—and don’t feel they’ll have
time for—renovations and repairs. They’re moving to
a place where they don’t know many people, if anyone.
And like any buyer, they’re looking for qualities like
good schools and close proximity to people they have
something in common with. It’s important to put
yourself in their shoes from the outset, she says.
CIPS instructor David Lauster puts it this way:
“Imagine being led blindfolded through an obstacle
course by a stranger. That’s how most first-time foreign buyers feel.” Lauster is an international real estate
expert who now helps the U.S. State Department with
overseas property purchases. “You, as their real estate
guide, can make that obstacle course far less daunting
by preparing them for the buying process,” he says.
For example, make sure you explain the role of attorneys in U.S. transactions and in your state. In many
Asian countries, attorneys are associated with being