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Tapping the Global Real Estate Market

Tapping the Global Real Estate Market

Can I tell you a secret? Finding international buyers to work with isn’t nearly as complicated as some would make it sound. There may be different laws governing their purchases and there may be cultural differences to overcome but at the end of the day it’s just a real estate transaction. And finding these clients is just a matter of prospecting.

Go Where the Buyers Are

If you attended the above panel at Inman’s Real Estate Connect SF conference this past Thursday (I’m the second one from the left), you have my apologies for the 45 minutes of your life that could have been saved had the above paragraph been written ahead of time. Then again, attendance did have the benefit of hearing how complicated the concept of attracting international buyers can sound.

Admittedly, experience here in Arizona is limited to Western Canada. Buyers from Europe tend to stop at the East Coast, buyers from Eastern Canada do the same and buyers from the Far East rarely venture past the Pacific coast. For us here in Arizona it may sound like a limited market opportunity but check a map – the provinces of British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Albert and Manitoba aren’t exactly Rhode Island.

Two Basic Questions

Several months ago I walked into my local escrow office to find agents commiserating with the branch manager. “Maybe we ought to find some Canadian buyers,” they said. I smiled and nodded, knowing that I already was working with a dozen. The difference? Certainly not brilliance on my part, as anyone who saw me this past week can attest. Rather it’s a recognition of the two basic questions for those who want to work with foreign clients (and for other buyers’ groups as well):

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1) How are you going to find these buyers?

2) What are you going to do with them once you have them?

Let’s take the second part first. It doesn’t take a special degree to know some of the challenges involved for international buyers wishing to purchase property here in the States, but it does take some time to learn the bare basics. Tax questions? I’ll help you find an accountant. Legal? Here’s an attorney.

But the basics – why you can’t work on your investment property if it’s being used as a rental, why it might be worth financing the purchase in Canada rather than the United States, what someone from Alberta means when they’re looking for a bungalow – these all can be learned fairly quickly. If you don’t know the answers and are unwilling to find them, find another niche. You owe it to these buyers.

For the first part, there are many, many expensive ways to try and attract buyers. You can fly to Canada and put together buyers seminars. You can run ads in the local newspapers. Or you simply can focus some of your online efforts toward attracting Canadian buyers.

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The key, like anything else online, is to have something of value to say. An international buyer is no more interested in hearing that you’re the greatest agent in the world than a domestic buyer. But tell them a bit about your area (and not generally, but the aspects of your area that might interest them), tell them about other transactions involving foreign nationals that you’ve completed and you’re in business.

Not a Quick Fix

Now here’s the potentially bad part … like any other type of prospecting, trying to attract foreign buyers is going to take some time. If you’re expecting to write a blog post and be inundated with e-mails from the get-go, you’re going to be rather disappointed. Some of us have been doing this for some time and have beaten you to the punch. But that doesn’t mean the effort’s in vain. Not whatsoever.

Not everyone who tries to prospect for international buyers will succeed. Most who fail will do so through a lack of patience, a lack of understanding of the complex decision-making process involved with a purchase on the other side of a country’s border.

“How do you keep them from wasting your time,” one person asked during the panel. Easy, I said. Let them look online and answer their questions until they’re ready, help them narrow down their varios options to the properties that best suit their needs, then write the contract.

It’s not rocket science. It’s simply customer service with an international flair.

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Finding your place in the international market isn’t necessary to survive these days. But it sure doesn’t hurt.

Written By

Jonathan Dalton is a Realtor with RE/MAX Desert Showcase in Peoria, Arizona and is the author of the All Phoenix Real Estate blog as well as a half-dozen neighborhood sites. His partner, Tobey, is a somewhat rotund beagle who sleeps 21 hours a day.



  1. Jay Thompson

    July 26, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    JD, you rocked that panel. For those not there, I actually heard suggestions like, “Direct mail the Fortune Billionaires list” and “Go to events like the Monaco Grand Prix, Cannes Film Festival and Wimbledon” to find international buyers.

    I’m working on my billionaire letters. So far I have this:

    Dear Mr. Gates –

    I like Microsoft. You should move to Phoenix and buy a house. Give me a call when you do.

    Still needs a little work….

  2. Benn Rosales

    July 26, 2008 at 10:32 pm


    I was very impressed at your presence on that panel. You came to relate and deliver and what I took away from you was a ‘have no fear, just do’ perspective. You were easy to listen to, easy to relate to, and came from the hip- it was Genius, really.

  3. Larry Yatkowsky

    July 27, 2008 at 1:20 am


    I think I missed the ol’ TwoFer!

    IE: You are attending a conference on other business and it’s a golden opportunity to pre-screen the attendees to find out who is a ‘foreigner’. They can be great ‘bird dogs’. Might be an extra $ or two to cozy up to these folks but have you ever known a realtor to turn down a free coffee? Hell, in between sips, they might even listen to what you have to say! Don’t forget the opportunity for you and the benefit to them (1 – 3 hours of work) by squeaking in a guest post on their blog.

    Now, about the lunch! 🙂

  4. Jonathan Dalton

    July 27, 2008 at 1:30 am

    Does this mean I owe you a lunch, Larry?

  5. Larry Yatkowsky

    July 27, 2008 at 1:40 am


    No worries. After all the eats at Inman I gotta hit the slim fast regime so I can get back to being pretty. 🙂 However, if you are feeling obliged, put it on the cuff of your T-Shirt and I’ll collect when snow flies in downtown Phoenix.

  6. Bill Lublin

    July 27, 2008 at 1:44 am

    JD (I like that sobriquet) Nicely put, and a matter of great interest, but why can;t I write just one post and then have a zillion Canadians come down to Philly for the great real estate values and cuisine (soft pretzels, cheesesteaks, hoagies, and water ice yummm)

    Larry; You’re already pretty 😉

  7. Lani Anglin-Rosales

    July 27, 2008 at 8:49 am

    Jonathan, what I really enjoyed about the panel you were featured on was that the speakers represented many different types of international brokers. I think the room was seeking an “up and coming” approach like you represented- one they can go home and attempt right away rather than after years of cultivating their airmiles to go visit the Dubai Hob Nobbers Convention. You were spectacular and I know that the audience was perceptive to your approach of combining technology with specified niches- very well done!

  8. Vicki Moore

    July 27, 2008 at 9:56 am

    Jonathan – As self-deprecating as you are, you are much more of a Genius than you lead readers to believe. It was an absolute pleasure to spend time and get to know the man behind the keyboard.

  9. ines

    July 27, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    you look very pretty in your gray sweater second from the left (ahem!)

    The truth is that you brought a down-to-earth perspective to the panel, without having to own a Chateau in France or Villa in Italy. Maybe I’m biased and could apply your strategies right away…..maybe I’m jealous that I can’t go to the Monaco Grand-Prix…whatever it is… rocked!

  10. Jonthan Dalton

    July 27, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    Thanks for the compliments, folks … my wife is interested in Cannes, but I’m not sure that it’s a feasible option.

  11. Jed Lane

    July 27, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    I enjoyed this panel especially Janet Choynowski. Her honesty and her ability to see the big picture was very enlightening. We aren’t all going to be in the same market for castles and mansions as Olivia Hsu-Decker, but more of can find our way into selling a second home to someone or attracting an investor like I’m trying to do.
    I have a building for sale here in San Francisco. It is paying the present owner very good return but he has made all the imporvements and wants to recapture the investment. Everyone here wants upside, even if they never actually do anything to acheive it they all want it in the deal.
    This building will pay off well especially for someone that is spending Euros or any of the other strong currancies.

  12. Paula Henry

    July 27, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    I didn’t make it to Inman, but having read your blog – I am way impressed with how you have effectively dominated the market in Phoneix for Canadian buyers.

    I am currently working with a client from England. Yes, there are a few issues; for the most part, it’s like any other transaction.

  13. Glenn fm Naples

    July 28, 2008 at 6:24 am

    Back more than a decade, when it was much easier to find e-mail addresses, you could easily find buyers from Asia, Europe and Canada. Today, it is a lot harder, but of course, you could be spamming. 🙂

    Learning the lingo used to describe a building design is a challenge.

    Is anyone using any of the translation services?

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