Do you have this blind spot in your marketing that’s making you miss 75 percent of online search? According to founder and CEO of Immobel.com, Janet Choynowski, if you’re only marketing in English on Google, you’re missing three-fourths of global online search. Bernice Ross digs into the issue in this video interview.

Are you marketing your listings only in English on Google.com? If so, your marketing messages are missing approximately 75 percent of all online search that consumes content in languages other than English. Moreover, a substantial proportion of the people who consume this content are living right in your backyard.  

I recently interviewed Janet Choynowski, the founder and CEO of Immobel.com, who in 1992 also single-handedly launched the real estate industry in Poland (tune into the video above to hear the full backstory).

According to Choynowksi, after Poland was freed from Communist rule, the former Cuban Embassy building was returned to Choynowski’s husband whose family had owned it prior to the Communists taking power. 

The President of ING Bank approached Choynowski when she was dining at the Marriott Hotel in Warsaw and indicated his interest in leasing the building. Choynowski wrote the first real estate deal since before World War II on the back of a cocktail napkin. 

From there, Choynowski launched the first real estate agency in Poland. She also worked with the Polish Parliament to draft the laws that would govern the trade of real estate in Poland. 

Realtor.com — ‘I think this internet thing has legs’  

In 1997, Choynowski’s assistant came to her and said, “There’s something on my computer you need to see.” 

The site was Realtor.com. Choynowski couldn’t believe that she could see property listings in Miami or anywhere else in the U.S. while she was sitting at her desk in Warsaw. Her thought was that if she could view listings in English in Poland, why couldn’t people elsewhere in the world view listings in the U.S. in their own native language?

Her immediate question to her assistant was, “Who builds stuff like that?” There was a group of professors over at Warsaw University of Science and Technology who did this type of work and ultimately assisted her in creating Immobel 1.0

‘Global may amount to something’ 

Choynowski returned to the U.S. to launch Immobel. At her first NAR annual conference, she had a small table that the Realtors ignored. Then, a group from the Miami Association of Realtors showed up. They were the first major organization to hire Immobel to provide Spanish and Portuguese translation for their users.

When Brad Inman had Choynowski on stage at Real Estate Connect in 2001, he concluded, “Global may amount to something” and encouraged the audience to take a look at it. It turns out Brad Inman was right. 

Immobel currently powers Century 21 Global that serves 80 countries in 20 different languages. Immobel also runs the international referral network for Century 21 Global, Sotheby’s and most of the other Realogy brands. Sotheby’s referral platform alone closed several thousand transactions that generated several billion dollars of transactions. 

In another first for the industry, those brands can now use the Immobel referral network to refer international businesses throughout the world to any of the Realogy brands

The missing 75%

If you’re not incorporating language translation into every aspect of your real estate marketing, you are missing out on huge amounts of revenue for your business. According to Choynowski, only 26 percent of the traffic online today is in English and it’s the 75 percent or so that we don’t see when we use Google. Unfortunately, conversely, when we’re indexed only on google.com, the missing 75 percent doesn’t know about us.

That’s because the web operates in parallel lanes, Choynowski said. Our goal has always been that our clients are seen in all those lanes. That really opens the door to a lot of business opportunity to reach international investors while also showing your support for diversity in your local community.

She pointed out that today, a fairly high percentage of Americans go home at night and consume data and other entertainment in a language other than English.

For example, if you live in Los Angeles, 72 percent of the population consumes television and internet in languages other than English. Realtors doing business in Los Angeles are potentially missing 72 percent of their marketplace.

Choynowski went on to explain how their referral platform works and why it has been so profitable for Sotheby’s, who has used it for the past 15 years. 

If a referral is between China and San Francisco, you have the office in China interacting in Chinese, reading their messages, and dealing with that referral in Chinese, she said. On the San Francisco side, they could be dealing with that referral in English, Japanese or any other language. The platform really connects the world and makes that experience level for all users, she added.

Although Immobel has been primarily focused on providing enterprise solutions in the past, Proxio.com also provides language translation at the individual agent level. 

XOMIO: eliminates the blackout zone in your marketing 

Choynowski said her dream has always been making Immobel’s enterprise-level technology available to individual agents and small offices at a reasonable price, allowing them to make their listings and marketing messages visible worldwide.

There are 160 Googles around the world, and they don’t get out of their own lane, she said. Although you may be indexed on Google.com, that doesn’t touch google.jp, google.fr, or google.com.mx — they’re just not seeing you and that’s 75 percent of the traffic online. So that’s a lot of blackout zone in your marketing presence.

In another industry first, Immobel just launched XOMIO, which allows both agents and small companies to launch their own multilanguage website in minutes.

Features of these fast multilanguage real estate websites include: 

  • Your IDX and brand listings are integrated automatically.
  • All listings translated into 19 languages creating the equivalent of 19 separately indexed websites in 19 different languages, all flying under your brand on your XOMIO website.
  • Website sections in 19 languages.
  • SEO and meta-tagging in all 19 languages.
  • Currency and measurements conversion.
  • Multilanguage client interface.
  • Consumers side fully translated.
  • Consumers asking for alerts receive them in their own language. 
  • You can create customized “collections,” such as beach houses or urban living and populate them with your own photos or those from XOMIO. 

XOMIO eliminates the 75 percent blackout zone in your current marketing.

We need to open our eyes to the online business opportunities that are in our home markets and answer the call of sellers who increasingly want to know about global marketing, Choynowski says.

One of the reasons that capital comes to the United States is that it is the safest investment you can make. It’s not going anywhere, it can’t be stolen from you, we protect the property rights of non-citizens (very rare in this world), she said. And there’s no need to set up a trust or go through a corporation — you can fully own real estate in America, and it never goes to zero. 

How to use international search and language translation to win more listings

The best way to win more listings at a full commission is to use a premium marketing plan that explains how you provide your sellers with maximum exposure to the marketplace that results in maximum price.

Here’s the script to use when explaining to sellers how you’ll get their listing maximum exposure: 

Agent: I assume you would like to achieve the highest possible NET price for the sale of your home. The way to do that is through maximum exposure to the marketplace. Did you know that almost all agents fail to market to the 75 percent of buyers worldwide who conduct their real estate searches in languages other than English? This is also true in the United States. 

For example, 72 percent of the population in Los Angeles searches for online content in languages other than English. With your permission, may I show you how my international marketing website indexes your listing on the various Google websites in other countries around the world and provides the maximum exposure to your listing that results in the maximum price?

International real estate trends — insights you need to know

I’ve gone to Choynowski for years to stay current on the latest global real estate trends because these trends typically show up first in how people search online for real estate.

According to Choynowski, the search patterns on Immobel change with current events whether it’s a typhoon, an earthquake or even the war that Russia is waging in Ukraine.

Here are some of the key trends occurring right now based upon the international searches being conducted on Immobel:

  • Italy has surpassed France as the most popular destination for Americans buying outside the U.S.  
  • Other important destinations for American purchasers include South America, Mexico and the Caribbean. 
  • Ukrainians are sheltering in their basements or bomb shelters. If they still have internet access, they are searching on Immobel-powered sites for a safe-haven rental where they can go. 
  • Currently, there is a lot of English language traffic coming from Eastern Europe searching for places in the U.S. Choynowski’s take is that many American ex-pats, especially those with families who work for large corporations in Russia and Eastern Europe, are being sent back home in the wake of the Ukraine war.  
  • In contrast, Russians are showing a lot of interest in purchasing properties in cities in the Middle East and Asia. 

Each of the trends noted above represents an opportunity for those agents who are willing to step up and serve the 75 percent of consumers who do not search for property in English. 

Tapping into the global opportunity

Choynowski’s final observation really drives home how important it is to serve the global community is today. 

“We need to be aware that we are global citizens now,” she said. “We must move forward with that frame of mind, reaching out to everyone in our market as well as reaching out to everyone who needs to come here and wants to buy in our marketplace. Let’s open our eyes just a little bit wider and equip ourselves to do that.” 

Bernice Ross, president and CEO of BrokerageUP and RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with more than 1,000 published articles. Learn about her broker/manager training programs designed for women, by women, at BrokerageUp.com and her new agent sales training at RealEstateCoach.com/newagent.

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