BrokerageInternational

4 challenges of running a real estate business from overseas

Working on a 12-hour time difference is sometimes an advantage -- and sometimes not
  • Working in a different time zone can be used to your advantage.
  • When you start working in the way that is right for you, it will attract like-minded clients.
  • Challenges will arise whether you work remotely or at home, but they're an opportunity to improve your systems and design the kind of business you really want.

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The real estate business has plenty of hurdles without complicating things by running your operation from overseas. While I tried my best to plan ahead during my three-month exodus from “home base,” I still ran into surprise challenges.

But problem-solving is what this business is all about, so let me share how I found solutions and turned obstacles into opportunities.

Time differences

In my previous post I talked about choosing your time zone carefully — advice I did not follow.

I’m in Southeast Asia, which is fluctuating between being 13 and 15 hours ahead of Denver, so night and day are opposite.

It’s great during the day, when I can work uninterrupted on behind-the-scenes tasks, but not so much at night, since people are working while I’m sleeping.

That has translated into late nights combined with early mornings, which is not good for the work-life balance I’m seeking.

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To deal with this, I set clear expectations in my emails by including phrases like “It’s 2 a.m. here, so I’m going to bed. I’ll review your response by the end of your day.”

I’ve also used it to my advantage by answering web inquiries and late-night text messages while my team sleeps.

I’ve surprised more than one lead by responding at 2 a.m. their time, and they think it’s great when I explain I’m having lunch in Thailand.

Website access

As a traveller, I was aware that not all web content can be accessed from anywhere. (For example, Hulu only broadcasts in certain countries.)

What I didn’t realize was that two out of my three banks’ websites were inaccessible outside the U.S. That’s a little more problematic than missing Dancing With the Stars.

The solution to this is to use a virtual private network, or VPN, which makes it look like you’re browsing from within the U.S. or whatever location you select.

You subscribe to a monthly service at a low cost and simply turn it on whenever you need to access a restricted site.

Missing keys and other random events

It was 1 a.m., and I was ready for bed after a long day when a call rang through on my laptop. The appraiser was at my listing and couldn’t find any keys.

Had I been in Denver, I could have driven over there and let him in with my spare set, but I wasn’t. I sent a text message to the agent looking after the property, but of course he was at home in the mountains — and it was snowing.

This was an instance where I didn’t have the correct solution in place and we ended up rescheduling.

Fortunately, everyone felt OK about it since I was actively working to find a solution, but had I gone to bed a little earlier, I wouldn’t have known anything was going on for several hours. That’s not the level of service I like to provide.

The lesson I learned here was that I need a phone answering system that doesn’t rely on me, and that I shouldn’t try to run listings from afar by myself.

I’m glad the gap in my system was identified so I can correct it and keep things running smoothly in the future.

Gaining and keeping client confidence

When talking with new potential clients, I don’t open with the fact that I’m working remotely. I find that the typical response is “Let’s wait to talk when you get back.”

People don’t understand the concept that I might not be coming back anytime soon. They think I’m on vacation.

But I don’t hide it, either. I have links in my email signature explaining what I’m doing, where I currently am and how to best reach me.

This was the piece that scared me most before leaving. What if I couldn’t get any new clients and my old ones were afraid to work with me?

The result has been quite different. I find my new clients are kindred spirits.

For example, I’m now working with a lawyer who lives in Colorado but runs his firm in another state, and a couple who have remote jobs, making it possible for them to relocate to Colorado.

Even my transaction broker says it’s her goal to eventually do what I’m doing.

At the end of the day, running a business from overseas isn’t much different from running it anywhere else. There will be challenges, but there will also be rewards.

Last Friday, I stayed up late to get a buyer under contract because I was on a weekend visit to Cambodia and would be touring Angkor Wat the next day.

For you, it might be clearing your inbox so you can enjoy fresh powder in the mountains on a Wednesday.

Next time, I’ll talk specifically about generating leads while working remotely. Until then, keep learning from your challenges, and build better systems so you can design the kind of business you truly want.

Micki McNie is the owner of 33 Zen Lane in Denver, Colorado. Follow 33 Zen Lane on Facebook or Instagram.

Email Micki McNie