Stories about Chinese buyers who are house hunting in the U.S. are common. The Chinese are the largest group of foreign buyers in the U.S., and they continue to grow in importance. Both residential and commercial agents are working diligently to be in front of this group. But what are some of the common mistakes that have caused agents to lose the deal in the process?

  • Chinese buyers live in a completely different timezone halfway around the world, so check the time change before you propose a virtual meeting or call.
  • Sending potential buyers strings of emails straight from the MLS is a mistake -- they need more insight than the fact sheet will provide.
  • Don't use American acronyms because Chinese buyers won't know what they mean.

Stories about Chinese buyers who are house hunting in the U.S. are common. The Chinese are the largest group of foreign buyers in the U.S., and they continue to grow in importance.

Both residential and commercial agents are working diligently on ways to be in front of this group. But what are some of the common mistakes that have caused agents to lose the deal in the process?

Every deal is certainly different, and some agents have more experience than others, so it’s difficult to generalize. Nevertheless, highlighting previous pitfalls might help other agents be more successful with Chinese buyers in the future. Here’s what you should avoid:

1. Setting up a conference call at 3 p.m. EST

Our team in China is specialized in identifying Chinese buyers of U.S. houses via a wide area of marketing initiatives. We will then refer these qualified buyers to agents who are members in our network. Through email, we put the agent in contact with the buyer.

In many cases, our member agents will respond quickly to this introductory email and also copy us on all their email communications with the buyer moving forward.

An agent will also try to understand the requirements of the buyers over a phone call.

Unfortunately, this is when agents with even the best of intentions face a challenge, as they often unknowingly suggest a conference call time that, in China, would be the middle of the night.

When an agent sets up a call at 3 p.m. EST, it’s for 4 a.m. in China! This kind of oversight does not create a good track record for dealing with international buyers.

The time difference between China and the U.S. is currently 13 to 16 hours depending on whether you are on the East or West coast.

With daylight savings time in the mix, the best way to proceed is to always check the time difference before putting a virtual meeting on the schedule. There are various websites available to help you ensure accuracy when calculating the time change between your U.S. city and China.

2. Sending dozens of listings that don’t meet buyers’ requirements

Many of our member agents are excited when they receive a request for one of their listings. After receiving the initial request with the essential requirements, several agents will start setting up automated emails from their broker’s website or MLS, so all new listings coming on the market will be sent automatically to the buyer in China.

This is an excellent way to assist the client. However, oftentimes the agent does not narrow down the criteria specifically enough, which causes the client to receive emails with 20 to 30 new listings each time.

Having a system that does all the work with little added value or insight is perceived as unprofessional, and therefore lowers your chances of closing a deal later.

3. Telling the buyer to buy now or lose out forever

Clients based in China often have a different timeline of buying than Americans. Chinese buyers have several reasons to purchase a house in the U.S.

Many of them are parents looking to buy a house to facilitate their child’s education; others are families looking to immigrate to the U.S., and some are looking to make a pure investment with a U.S. property.

Agents will email listings to buyers in hopes that the buyer will pick one of those listings. They will attempt to persuade the buyer to make a decision quickly even while the buyer is still in China.

Because their reasons purchasing in the U.S. are often related to their child’s education or immigration, many Chinese buyers will not go for any of the listings that you email to them.

Rather, they will research and compare the listings and find an agent or multiple agents who can assist them when they are visiting the U.S.

As such, understanding the purpose of buying is important. Focusing on building a relationship with a client versus aggressively marketing one listing will often be a better approach for dealing with overseas Chinese parents and families looking to immigrate.

4. Using American acronyms

Many overseas Chinese buyers have never been to the U.S. and have limited knowledge about the American real estate market. Listings with “HOA,” “RET,” “coop” and “sq. feet” will not make much sense to overseas buyers.

Although an agent is an expert in using this terminology, others will not understand it. Spell out these acronyms.

Also, square footage is an American measurement, whereas the square meter reigns elsewhere. Simply doing the conversion for your buyer will add a few bonus points and get you on the right track of building a professional relationship with them.

Although we are confident that many agents in the U.S. are aware of the issues outlined above, we continue to see many agents make these mistakes too often.

There is no golden rule to closing a deal with overseas Chinese buyers, but we hope that by highlighting these mistakes, we can prevent them from happening again and consequently help agents be more successful.

Sam Van Horebeek is a director at East-West Property Advisors, a U.S. real estate advisory firm based in China. You can follow on Facebook and Twitter.

Email Sam Van Horebeek.

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