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Cashing in on global real estate clients

Be prepared to meet 5 unique expectations

Would you like to close 50 percent more deals with the same amount of work that you do right now? If so, expanding your business to include a global clientele is one of the simplest ways to cash in on a very lucrative real estate niche.

Due to the cultural and language differences, many agents find working with global clients to be intimidating. Nevertheless, global clients can be a gold mine for your business.

To illustrate this point, only 33 percent of all domestic real estate clients ever close a deal. In contrast, 50 percent of all global clients close deals. This translates into closing 50 percent more deals with the same amount of work. This also explains why agents who work with global clients make 50 percent more on average than those who work exclusively with domestic clients.

When working with global clients it’s important to be familiar with the expectations that these clients share:

1. Low incidence of problems
While Americans actually rank companies and salespeople more highly when there is a problem and the problem is solved, this is not true for most global clients. They expect everything to go right. If there is a problem, it’s critical that you resolve it quickly.

2. Respect for their cultural values
When you first start working with a global client, be curious about his culture. Ask about his favorite foods as well as how things differ here as opposed to his native country. On the other hand, never ask about his financial situation. This is taboo in almost every country including the U.K. Instead, show him examples of various houses in different price ranges and ask which types of houses (not which prices) are most attractive to him.

3. Enthusiasm
Virtually all clients want an agent who is enthusiastic and upbeat about the market. Depending on where your client is from and how formal his culture is, temper your enthusiasm to match that of your clients.

4. Politeness
In many countries, it is inappropriate to shake hands. Even when the men shake hands, the women are often prohibited from touching someone who is not immediate family. Furthermore, address your clients as Mr., Mrs. or Ms. until they instruct you to do otherwise. The key here is being willing to adapt to them rather than expecting them to adapt to you.

5. 100 percent confidentiality
Most global clients are paranoid about their privacy. Many global clients prefer to work with American agents because you do not speak their language and, therefore, can’t gossip about them in their community.

Along the same lines, it’s common for women from certain Asian and Middle Eastern countries to have no idea how much their husbands make. It’s also common for them to see if you will volunteer financial information their spouses won’t give them. Under no circumstances do you discuss finances with them. Just smile and change the subject.

A case study

At Real Estate Connect, Tina Mak, a Canadian-based broker who deals extensively with clients from Taiwan and mainland China, shared some important lessons learned from her experiences. While it is more natural for global buyers to work with an agent who speaks their language, many Asian clients elect to work with a North American agent. As Mak described it, "People from Taiwan prefer to work with a Taiwanese agent until they get burnt." In contrast, people from mainland China generally prefer to work with another Chinese agent.

Mak gave another reason that many Asian buyers opt for North American agents: "Chinese real estate brokers understand how these clients think. They can see past their ‘lines.’"

To handle the language and cultural differences, Mak recommends working with unlicensed Chinese assistants to help you with any cultural or language issues.

Mak began her business by becoming active in Asian organizations. She also has a radio show. One of Mak’s most important recommendations is to obtain both written and video testimonials in other languages. For example, when she works with someone from Thailand, she asks for a testimonial in Thai as well as English.

Mak also explained how her Chinese buyers often don’t know what they want. They will want to know details about the values in the area. They will also want a pride-of-ownership property. The type of house they purchase, the amount of jewelry the wife wears, and the cars they drive are all part of their desire to compete with their friends.

Mak has formulated an effective approach for coping with Chinese attitudes regarding financial privacy. She says that as a rule of thumb, she generally goes three times higher than the initial price range her buyers tell her. In Chinese culture, "face" is a huge issue. She then shows the buyers one sample home in each price range. The home they choose will be the best indicator of the price range they want.

A high percentage of Chinese buyers pay all cash. Some may use a bank or investment house to transfer funds, but if they don’t use a bank, "Don’t ask questions where the money comes from."

Finally, you must always allow your Chinese clients to have the last word. You may have to bring in a counteroffer slightly higher than you would normally to make sure they win the negotiation.

If you have been reluctant to work with global clients, there’s no better time than now to consider adding this lucrative niche to your business plan.

Bernice Ross, CEO of, is a national speaker, trainer and author of the National Association of Realtors’ No. 1 best-seller, "Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success." Hear Bernice’s five-minute daily real estate show, just named "new and notable" by iTunes, at You can contact her at or @BRoss on Twitter.

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