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Arielle Dupertuis, Real Estate Agent at Sotheby’s International Realty — Los Feliz Brokerage; Rosemarie Deane, Real Estate Associate at Sotheby’s International Realty — East Side Manhattan Brokerage; Daphne Lamsvelt-Pol, Real Estate Agent at Sotheby’s International Realty — Greenwich Brokerage; and Randy Lombard, Real Estate Associate at Sotheby’s International Realty — Downtown Manhattan Brokerage.
International moves are not uncommon for clients in the higher end of the real estate market. While they have the means and mobility to relocate across the world, they also understand the complexity of such a transition. That’s why they look to luxury real estate experts to assist and advise them through the process.
What’s the first thing you tell an international buyer to help prepare them for their move?
Randy Lombard: For clients moving to New York City, the first thing on my mind is always size. Apartments tend to have small storage units and limited closet space, so I tell my clients how important it is to edit their belongings. Shipping excessive items overseas cause unnecessary expense and clutter. They often don’t realize there are professional organizers who can help them.
Rosemarie Deane: If a buyer is moving to my area, the first thing I do is give them an in-depth analysis of the neighborhood, prequalify them financially to see what they can afford to buy, and meet with them virtually or in-person to find out their wish list for their next home.
Arielle Dupertuis: As an ex-pat from Switzerland, I can relate to what the client is experiencing. If they are relocating to the U.S., my best advice is always focused on how things work differently here regarding real estate transactions and the various steps involved.
Can you share some examples of the real estate processes you walk them through?
AD: I try to walk them through the steps that I went through when relocating from Europe to the U.S. For example, credit scores are crucial here, while in Europe they are completely non-existent.
Daphne Lamsvelt-Pol: Exactly. When a buyer moves to the U.S. from abroad, the biggest challenge we face when trying to finance the purchase with a mortgage is that they don’t have a credit history. I advise them to speak to a financial advisor on how best to build up credit, as this is an unfamiliar system to many foreigners.
AD: Beyond the financing, just buying a house in the U.S. is also a very different process. Most of the time, one agent works with both the buyer and seller in Europe, while in the U.S. there are separate agents for most transactions. The pre-approval process is different here than in Europe, and the pace of a transaction is way faster. For buyers that have children, I try to give a general introduction to the differences in the school systems, as well.
DL: Furthermore, if they bring in funds from overseas for a down payment, that money typically has to be in the U.S. for a certain amount of time before it can be qualified for the mortgage.
RD: Sometimes, they’re working with a relocation expert attached to their company. If that’s the case, I contact the relocation agent and make sure I have all the relevant information. If the company will guarantee part of their housing costs, I ask for it in writing, as many of the employment contracts are complicated and time-sensitive.
What about clients who are moving abroad? What unique challenges or considerations apply to them?
RL: One of my clients was a Swiss ex-pat who asked me to sell her beautiful Manhattan townhouse before moving back. The idea of an international move was quite overwhelming, but I assured her that working with a certified organizer would be very helpful as they help coordinate all the necessary work to accomplish the move successfully. With the help of an organizer, the apartment looked spotless and sold quickly while others lingered on the market.
DL: It’s nice that she sold before she moved because many homeowners aren’t sure if they’re ready to sell yet and often consider renting out first. Although this may seem like an easy first step, once the home is tenant-occupied, trying to sell it later becomes much more complex. This can really hurt the sales process and result in a lower price. Also, if you don’t receive the funds from the sale of the home while still in the U.S., there are tax implications if you’re not an American citizen. So I always recommend that they discuss the process with their attorney ahead of time so they’re aware of all the technicalities.
RD: And not just attorneys. I recommend that they get in touch with the Sotheby’s International Realty office where they’re moving. I also offer them local banking and mortgage contacts and direct them towards relevant websites in the country they’re moving to.
Are you often collaborating with peers overseas to coordinate international moves?
AD: Whenever I travel back to Europe, I make a point to stop by the local Sotheby’s International Realty offices to introduce myself and speak to the agents. It’s all about who you know, and if I can help connect the dots for my clients it’s a win-win for everyone. Nothing makes me happier than bringing people together across borders or oceans to facilitate a complex move or real estate transaction. In the end, it’s all about helping people to realize their dreams.
There are multiple steps to an international move, and clients rely on real estate experts for guidance. Luxury agents need to be equipped to give them the insight, contact, and white-glove service they need to ensure the transition is a smooth one.
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