Real Estate

10 things to know about working with international buyers

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When you’re representing luxury buyers in real estate markets like Long Island and the Hamptons, New York City, and Miami, you’re inevitably going to handle plenty of international clients. That’s certainly been my experience, and it has made for some of the most engaging transactions of my career.

Working with international buyers differs from working with local and domestic buyers in several important ways:

  • International buyers tend to be direct, informed, and intentional in their home search. They know precisely what kind of property they’re looking for and the location they desire, and once they start perusing listings online, they identify and initiate a dialogue with relevant agents.
  • Along with being more knowledgeable about the type of property and location they’re looking for, they tend to be attentive to market trends so they can be as strategic as possible in their purchase.
  • They’re keen to work with local luxury real estate agents who are well-connected and have an inside track to off-market properties, who can show them listings beyond what they’ve browsed on the internet.
    Most of them are predominantly looking at major markets—though sometimes investment groups will scope smaller markets for better pricing.

International buyers are an essential part of any urban real estate agent’s client portfolio. Here are the top ten things luxury agents should bear in mind when working with them.

  1. There are usually one of two reasons why international buyers purchase properties in the US: for investment and development, or for personal use as a holiday home. In most cases, they’re not impacted by the changing workforce dynamics that have driven so much recent activity among local buyers.

    Jason Friedman – Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty

  2. It goes without saying that all communication must be scheduled at the buyer’s convenience. For local agents, that generally means having conversations early in the morning or late at night. If they send a query or request by email, they expect a response within 24 hours.
  3. International buyers can be any place at any time—on a yacht, a plane, a mountain—and calls with agents are often conducted on platforms such as WhatsApp and FaceTime. Agents need to make sure that their technology is a priority, and that they have strong Wi-Fi and reception for the entirety of the conversation. If the buyer relies on normal phone calls, agents should be ready to incur some long-distance expenses.
  4. Speaking of expenses, don’t rule out the possibility that you might need to travel overseas to meet the buyer in their country. This is often the case when a real estate company is hired exclusively to represent a development targeted at foreign buyers. It can be a substantial cost, but worth it when the development is a success.
  5. Then there will be times when the international buyer comes to you. This is when agents need to be on top of everything—not just the market, but also the best local hotels, restaurants, spas, and events. Bonus points if agents can score tickets or reservations for any of these since international buyers want representation that is well-informed and well-connected.

    Jason Friedman and Rudi Friedman – Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty

  6. Before the buyer visits, they expect to have a full, formal report emailed to them—along with a polished print version—that details every property they’ll be viewing, as well as an itinerary for viewings. Once they arrive, plan on coordinating all their transportation.
  7. Some buyers will accept breakfast, lunch, or dinner invitations, which should be offered prior to their arrival and incorporated into the schedule. Always keep surprises to a minimum, though spontaneous invitations aren’t unheard of—for instance if you want to discuss a meeting or showing in more detail after the fact. Of course, always pick up the bill.
  8. Don’t forget about interpreters! If you and your buyer don’t speak the same language, you’ll need to include that third-party intermediary in everything you plan.
  9. In many cases, international buyers are willing to pay a premium for turnkey, move-in-ready homes that are already outfitted with the finest furnishings and state-of-the-art appliances. That expectation extends to artwork and accessories as well.
  10. It’s important to do a background check on your international buyers to the best of your ability, starting with a Google search of their name and their companies. If they have an LLC, offer to pay a large sum in cash, or have a permanent residence that’s geographically remote from the location where they’re looking to purchase, those could raise some red flags. It’s always important to do your due diligence.

International buyers are some of the most interesting and invested clients a luxury agent will ever have the pleasure of working with. Know what to expect so you can make the most of these opportunities whenever they arise, meeting—and of course, exceeding—your client’s expectations.

Orit Ofir

Orit Ofir is a tenured and accomplished real estate professional with a diverse portfolio of real estate expertise representing sellers and buyers worldwide. Orit’s keen aesthetic sense and robust knowledge of market trends enable her to negotiate transactions at all price points successfully. Clients frequently comment on how they appreciate her level of personal attention and guidance throughout the entire time of the real estate process. Coupled with Sotheby’s International Realty’s unmatched brand and global network, Orit’s outstanding work ethic, enthusiasm for the industry, and dedication to her sellers’ and buyers’ needs have all been essential elements of her success, resulting in repeat business and referrals from satisfied clients. She continues to make her mark in the residential markets throughout the country, focusing on helping clients with all their real estate needs. Her global network of contacts provides her sellers and buyers access to an exclusive inside track.

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