Go overseas to find foreign buyers

by Olivia D'Orazio03 Nov 2014
Agents looking to break into the foreign-buyer market need to go where those high-worth clients increasingly are – so you’d better save for that plane ticket.

“Go to China and set up booths and go to trade fairs and talk to people right in China,” says Maureen O’Neill, the manager at Sotheby’s International in Toronto. “A lot of top agents in Toronto go to China once or twice a year.”

Those agents’ networking efforts certainly pay off. When overseas buyers look to the Canadian real estate market – which they are increasingly doing – they will opt to work with an agent who knows the local market, who personally reached out – and who travelled across the ocean to do so.

Helen Raibinin, who works mainly with Russian immigrants, says agents who have a foothold in that market are at an advantage, even before actively farming that niche.

“I didn’t start with foreign buyers, but I started with getting to Canada,” she says. “I worked with a company that provided immigration services, then I decided to get a [real estate] license and help people get property here.”

One brokerage in Vancouver, where the foreign buyer market is particularly hot, has taken overseas networking to a new level, as it prepares to open an office in Shanghai.

“While there is very little data about foreign investors in Vancouver real estate, our own internal data is enough for us to commit to investing in a representative office in Shanghai,” Dan Scarrow, vice-president of corporate strategy at Macdonald Realty, told the Globe and Mail.

Beyond getting in front of foreign buyers, agents working in this market must forge a strong relationship with their clients. A high level of trust is essential for agents to best serve – and satisfy – those clients.

“For the most part, the people who are successful working with foreign buyers are from the same culture the buyers are from,” says Brian Torry, the manager at Bosley Real Estate in Toronto. “It’s all about making connections with foreigners.”

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