Overcome Challenges in International Real Estate
If international real estate was easy, everyone would be doing it! It is a challenging discipline, but those who are committed stand to gain a lot, from strong business contacts to a new view on the world and the vast opportunities within it, and, yes, even more money. In a recent survey, CIPS designees reported significantly higher income in 2016 than those without the designation. This tells us it’s not easy, but worth it. So what are the challenges, and how can you work toward overcoming them? The list that follows comes directly from the CIPS survey. Here are the top three obstacles.
This is an obvious, but very real, challenge. Here are a few ideas to help overcome this challenge:
Incorporate a translate button on your web site. Google Translate is the most popular solution, but do some research and find out what works best for you. Human translation is always better, but with limited resources, this option is helpful.
If you have a specific country in mind to target, hire a translation company or individual to translate individual pages on your web site. If a potential client is using German language search terms in Google, for example, the search engines won’t pick up on keywords on your site. Having a native page on your site in German using common search terms will help your site get noticed by search engines.
When sharing listings with prospective clients, share the listing from realtor.com/international so your clients can benefit from their translation, measurement (square feet to square meter) and currency conversion tools.
If you’re traveling, download an app like iTranslate. It will recognize your voice and convert your words to text and translate them to the desired language to assist with your communication. Again, machine translations aren’t perfect, but it will certainly help. Google Translate also has an app that will translate text or text images by pointing your camera at it, and works offline.
Ask your state association about translated copies of real estate contracts. Only official English versions of the contract are enforceable in the United States, but offering the translated version allows them to easily read and understand what they are signing on the English contract.
If you have identified a specific country of specialization that has language requirements, you may want to consider hiring a native speaker to work on your team. If you don’t have the resources to hire a full-time employee, check with local colleges or universities for international students who would be willing to help translate at an affordable price.
Don’t Know How to Market in Other Countries
This is a tough one, as there is no one-size-fits-all solution—especially depending on the country you are working with. A successful marketing strategy is contingent upon having a strong sense of your target audience, and what influences their search/buying habits. Things to consider:
Begin with an introspective look at your own experience, interests or cultural affinities; the unique attributes of your market and which countries/cultures they would be most attractive to; and clients/contacts you’ve already made in other countries.
What are the most-read real estate publications or websites in their country?
What attributes do they value (trust, luxury/sophistication, quality)?
What design elements work best (graphics, content-rich, color dos and don’ts)?
To begin researching the culture you’re working in, start with Santander’s Market Analysis tool. You can search by country, and when you click “Reaching the Consumer,” it provides detailed descriptions of the consumer behaviors in that country. Another excellent resource to avoid cultural faux pas is Kiss, Bow, Or Shake Hands: Sales and Marketing by Terri Morrison and Wayne Conaway.
Build a multi-pronged marketing strategy, making sure that your website reflects your international credentials if you have them, includes a complete profile of your experience and skills, has contact information on every page, and offers the information international clients will be looking for (market data, neighborhood profiles, important things to know about buying/selling in your area, etc.).
Obtain the CIPS Designation
Obtaining the CIPS Designation will give you a strong competitive advantage over those agents who do not have it. Why? When you look at consumer behaviors in other countries (again, the Santander tool is great for this), many of them are centered around quality, sophistication, luxury and trust. The CIPS Designation offers an assurance to potential clients that you have the experience and education to meet their needs, and that they can trust you to provide high-quality service.