With new data out suggesting softening demand in luxury and second-home regions across America from international buyers, it’s more important than ever for real estate agents serving that demographic to be at the top of their game.

For Michi Olson, vice president of global business development and relocation with Alain Pinel Realtors (APR), that means educating clients, providing them white-glove service and understanding their culture.

Olson oversees corporate relocation, e-commerce, and the license holding company for APR’s 32 offices and nearly 1,400 agents in the San Francisco Bay Area and travels to Asia several times a year to develop partnerships with both real estate and immigration companies. Her clientele include a number of high-net-worth buyers from China.

Michi will be speaking at Luxury Connect (October 19-20) in Beverly Hills. We caught up with her to talk about the unique needs of both high-net-worth and international buyers.

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Inman: What are some of the most surprising requests you get from high-net-worth international buyers looking for property in the US?

Michi Olson: I wouldn’t say surprising. The request comes from not understanding our real estate practices. So we need to educate, educate, educate.

For example, they think that they can get the keys to the house when they sign the final papers. Often they will purchase the home and it will remain vacant for many years. They are purchasing a home for their child’s education, but the child may be only a few months old.

No matter how wealthy they are, they want a deal!

What do you see as the No. 1 issue in the luxury market that the industry should be aware of in the coming year?

It’s not an issue — they are usually more demanding and they want personalized concierge/white glove service. Egos are at stake.

If you were to give advice to an agent trying to get more international clients, what would you tell them?

Learn the culture of the country. It is more important to understand and respect the culture than being able to speak the language.

For example, with Asian clients, know the proper way to present and receive business cards. I recommend this book: Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands.

To hear more from Olson, don’t miss Luxury Connect in Beverly Hills.

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Email Kristy Hessman

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