By JANET CHOYNOWSKI
I have a thing for property in France, but Italy is pretty interesting, too. Love those dusty old villas, chateaus. It is probably no coincidence that both places have great wine … but I digress.
The point here is that I am referring to countries, because I have only broad-brush knowledge of their geography.
Just as I window-shop listings in Italy and France with little regard for the actual placement of regions and towns, international buyers are prone to that here, too. All of America can be more or less the same to them, at first.
International prospects are searching from a different perspective. Since they may not have ties to any particular part of the country or in fact may not even have decided which of several countries they are most interested in, they are not searching for something that is near family or friends or convenient to work, the way local buyers might.
They may simply be looking for the best property that fits their needs and budget with scant regard for specific locations. They might be considering a number of colleges and universities for their children and finally make a selection in part based on the property values in the region. They may want a beach house and be pretty open-minded about which ocean will lap at their beach.
Since international buyers often pay all cash and about half the time plan to use the property as a vacation home or an investment property, they are not hampered by many of the usual factors that push local buyers toward one location versus another.
Your challenge is to attract their interest long enough for such an international prospect to give your market a second look.
One of the best approaches I have seen is a Florida website in German language with a front page full of reasonably priced houses, condos and townhomes on golf courses; a directory of local golf courses; a few paragraphs about golf and the high number of days of winter sunshine in the area; and right in the middle, a weather plug-in showing the current temperature in both Celsius and Fahrenheit.
This resourceful agent reported that in the depths of the German winter he easily attracted enough business to live well for the rest of the year. But just to be safe, he had another site that focused in the same way on wind surfing, another German passion.
He understood that prospects were not initially searching for his small town in Florida and indeed before finding his website, he assumed that most had never heard of it. He promoted things he reasoned they were looking for, such as the cheap and easy availability of golf, attractive property prices, great winter weather and a tempting escape from the bleak, frigid winter of Northern Europe.
He reasoned right.
As a bonus, he also enjoys a thriving referral business, as satisfied buyers attract friends to the area eager to enjoy the same benefits.
Try making an inventory of the attractions of your market from this perspective. There may be obvious local assets, like great weather, sports or cultural activities, a respected college or university. Maybe you are near a renowned medical center or have an airport with nonstop flights to some foreign city where you could promote ease of access.
There is almost always something that would be difficult to find or much more expensive to enjoy in a foreign country. Find your unique selling point and play it up on your website.
Consider adding at least some of the content in the languages used by the international buyers known to come to your area. Even if the attraction of your market for international buyers is not as obvious as sandy beaches and winter sun, according to the 2012 NAR profile of the international buyer, there were purchases made by international buyers in every state.
With sales to international buyers totaling around $85 billion, and commission checks for around $3 billion cashed by the agents who worked with them, it is worth doing a little creative marketing to catch the attention of these cash-rich buyers as they pursue their own real estate fantasies online.
Janet Choynowski is the founder and chief executive officer of the Real Buzz Immobel Group, operator of the Real-Buzz.com international property portal, and a provider of globalization technology, services and consulting to the real estate industry.
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