Real estate, by its very nature, is a highly localized business. The considerations a new home buyer makes reflect this—quality of schools, distance to work, neighborhood conveniences, and amenities. For investors, their local acquisitions are driven primarily by local factors as well—the strength of the job market, the trajectory of home values, and ROI potential.
However, what if your goals are far grander? You don't just want to sell luxury property in one city or one state, but want to take your business national. Or better yet, go global with your real estate prowess.
While it takes dedication, commitment, and hours of hard work, building a global real estate business is not out of reach. In fact, as the luxury real estate market continues to change and grow in exciting new ways, there is plenty of demand for knowledgable, hard-working agents who can connect high-end clients to the luxurious properties they seek.
Whether you aim to be a globetrotting rockstar facilitating eight- and nine-figure deals, or have more modest goals, here are five things to know before becoming a global real estate agent.
We're not going to delve too deep into the specifics of basic real estate classes and intermediate training and certifications. To be a successful real estate agent, domestically or globally, it's a given that these elements are necessary. And no matter where you are in your real estate career, on-going training is always a necessity.
One thing we do recommend once you start to move beyond singular domestic markets is acquiring the Certified International Property Specialist Designation (CIPS). It's an excellent starting point for better understanding the nuances of global transactions, regardless of where they might occur.
This specific training takes you through the finer points of international real estate transactions, including currency and exchange rate issues, cross-cultural relationships, regional market conditions, and investment performance and tax issues. It also provides you a headstart on building your global network. You become part of a group that includes nearly 4,000 professionals across almost 50 countries.
The real point to make regarding doing your homework goes one step further. From the estates along the Gulf Coast of Florida or the shores of Lake Como, Italy to Hong Kong high-rises or mountain retreats in the Colorado Rockies or Swiss Alps, global luxury real estate is a broad canvas.
Part of your job as a global agent is to navigate the ebbs and flows of the worldwide marketplace and connect high-net-worth clients to the high-value properties they seek. It also requires you to grasp the complexities and nuances of each market. Do your homework to form a foundation on which you can build your future success.
To become a trusted advisor and expert in helping clients navigate the buying (or selling) of their foreign holdings, you must learn both the personal and professional customs of foreign markets. In the same manner, you should also acquire the cultural acumen to better engage with your international client roster. Do the necessary legwork to connect with markets and build a robust, reliable network wherever your business might take you.
For example, in some countries, negotiation is non-existent. Once a seller sets a price, the buyer either wants it or they don't—end of story. In other markets, such as Hong Kong, everything is up for debate, and negotiation is part of the transactive culture. Knowing these differences, both major and minor, will ensure more lasting success regardless of the market.
This commitment also extends to the team you’ll eventually assemble as your business grows. Employ those who share your vision of success and bring value to your operation. Build a roster of individuals who offer unique skills. Bilinguists, cultural experts, expats, and experts on foreign affairs such as legal, political, or economic matters will all help you bridge the personal and professional cultural gap between clients and markets alike.
Technology helps bring many foreign markets closer to you, so embrace the tools necessary to shrink the global real estate market. Also plan to travel, as there is no substitute for hands-on experience. Physically being present in the locations you hope to succeed in provides valuable face time with the market and the network of contacts that play a significant role in your success.
While it's not completely necessary to develop a specific niche or boutique business, developing a specialization or group of connected proficiencies increases your value.
For instance, luxury residential housing is a broad specialization, but a specialization nonetheless. However, you might choose to take this one step further by developing expertise in high-rise residential buildings. In turn, this will naturally lead to a knowledge base that includes New York, Hong Kong, Busan, or Dubai.
Conversely, you might opt for more terrestrial or sea-faring niches, such as paying heavy attention towards mountain estates or multi-million compounds in oceanside communities. Or you could diversify your focus from residential to upscale commercial space. The sky's the limit when it comes to narrowing your primary business focus. In the luxury market, the vast majority of properties are always in high demand.
Of course, all of this isn't to suggest you should abandon operating across a broad discipline, specifically as your client's needs evolve. However, offering a unique array of luxury real estate services and excelling at them can place you in very high demand amongst coveted high-net-worth clients.
Another point to assess in specialization is what your real estate business is actually selling and who you're selling it to.
A major difference between being a local agent in a singular locale and one who is multinational is the needs and wants of your clients. Locally, you cultivate needs. In a major metropolitan market such as New York, that means focusing on properties at the neighborhood or borough level.
For example, you might help clients buy and sell properties across all of Manhattan or merely the neighborhoods of the Upper East and West Sides. Even if it's a luxury property, there's an understanding of what the market entails, and the transaction is based more on a client's real estate needs instead of wants—neighborhood, schools, and conveniences. Lifestyle plays a role, but it's often modest at best.
High-net-worth clients who are seeking properties in foreign lands are after something completely different. Here, your job is cultivating wants—a particular lifestyle with the ability to afford eight- and nine-figure properties.
Whether they’re a savvy portfolio manager collecting investments or a billionaire buyer collecting real estate trophies, these clients are looking for opulence and an excellent ROI. They're also after the status that comes with owning palatial estates or seaside getaways or mountain retreats.
If you hope to foster a network of repeat, satisfied clients, your level of service should match the lifestyle they demand. We've already touched on employing a team with like-minded principles and the drive to go above and beyond.
To ensure that lasting connection, your approach should be professional and authentic. Don't just react, but anticipate what a client is after and connect them with the properties that will fulfill their wishlist. Be mindful of the details, know how to speak their language (literally and figuratively), and always expect the unexpected.
The more attuned you are to a client's real estate desires, the more apt you are to not only earn their repeat business but unlock the lucrative business of referrals.
Building a successful real estate business is no small task, whether it's in a local American market or multiple markets abroad. Of course, as you grow your global real estate business success will not come overnight, nor will it come easy. But if you put in the work and time that is required, success will not be elusive.
Don't hesitate to start small and slowly grow your network and foreign market knowledge. The proverbial baby steps will help you amass small wins that will eventually grow into larger and larger successes.
Build your foundation with knowledge and training. Learn the various markets in which you hope to operate and develop a method for acclimating to new ones as your client needs dictate. Understand the local culture and look to develop an extensive network of contacts to help you navigate the nuances of foreign transactions.
Recognize that you're not merely helping clients buy or sell homes or property; you're helping them capture their ideal luxury lifestyle. Build your business around meeting those needs, including hiring people who share your vision and ensuring a positive and lucrative agent-client relationship.
Ultimately, whether it's expanding your multinational client base or moving into a new international marketplace or broadening your global network, each rung is a new opportunity to learn and grow your business. And each step leads to even greater real estate success.