Published July 16, 2012
Are you trying to find a buyer for your home? Try marketing it to the world.
International homebuyers are eager to invest in the United States and may be willing to pay top dollar for your property. But don't expect them to simply knock on your door and hand you a briefcase filled with money.
To make your home appealing to foreign buyers, you'll have to do a little more than hire the average real estate agent, says Michael Xylas, a New York attorney who often represents buyers from various parts of the world.
"Align yourself with a broker who has ties with foreign buyers," says Xylas, a partner in the real estate and banking department at Abrams Garfinkel Margolis Bergson LLP. "Ask brokers if they have the ability to place advertising in the country (you're targeting) and if they will have a website dedicated to the property with a virtual tour."
One of the main reasons foreign buyers give up on buying a home in the United States is that they are not able to find the property they want, according to a report by the National Association of Realtors that profiles international homebuying activity in the United States.
It is crucial to have your house listed for sale online with multiple photos and videos of the home and the neighborhood, says Patty Da Silva, owner of Green Realty Properties in Davie, Fla.
"Foreign buyers are looking for great pictures and videos of the property because most of the time they're not here to physically see them," Da Silva says.
Agents who specialize in working with foreign buyers normally list the property on websites that market homes for sale globally and nationally. Even if the property is listed only on Realtor.com, make sure there's enough information and pictures on the listing to attract international buyers, she says.
"Foreign buyers do look at Realtor.com and other real estate websites," says Da Silva, who recently has sold homes to buyers from Brazil, China and Canada. The buyers found her listings through the Internet, she says.
Hiring an agent who is certified to work with international buyers helps, she says. "But there is no one-size-fits-all on foreign buyers, as every country has its own customs."
Who do you think would like your home better? A Chinese buyer or a Russian?
You can try guessing, but that's not the best way to decide which nationalities you should target when marketing your home for sale. Consider the area where the home is, the price, and even how the economy is doing in the countries where potential buyers come from.
Foreigners tend to cluster. The NAR report says Mexican buyers tend to purchase in the Southwest, while California has a lot of Asian buyers and the East Coast attracts Europeans. Florida is the state with the most foreign buyers. Most international buyers in Florida come from Canada, followed by Brazilians.
International buyers who live outside the United States invested more than $41 billion in the U.S. housing market during a 12-month period that ended in March 2012, according to the latest foreign buyer report by the NAR. Another $41 billion was spent by buyers who had recently moved to the United States from other countries and those with long-term visas.
Foreign buyers paid an average of $315,000 per home in 2011, in comparison to the overall U.S. average of $218,000 per home, the report shows.
That doesn't mean international buyers are willing to overpay, Da Silva says.
"There's a myth that foreign buyers will just come in with cash and pay more than what the property is worth, but that's not true," Da Silva says. "They look for a bargain, like everyone else, and they look for properties that are easily rentable, in desirable areas, with high rates of return."
Most international buyers pay cash, but many want a mortgage -- including investors and those buying vacation homes. You may think it's impossible for a foreign buyer to get a mortgage these days, given the current tight lending requirements. But it's not. A few lenders offer mortgages for foreign buyers who make a down payment of at least 30%.
You can improve your chances of selling if you do whatever you can to make it easy for foreign buyers, Xylas says.
That includes presenting information in a way that's easier for the buyer to understand and explaining basics that are not so obvious to a foreign buyer because of cultural differences, says Baro Shalizi, a real estate agent in Santa Fe, N.M.
"Simple things like changing the square footage to square meters," he says. "Explaining how the process works, how inspections work."
In many countries, appliances are not included in the sale of a home, he says. Even these basics must be explained.
"A lot of times when I tell my (foreign) clients the appliances are staying, they are like, 'Really?'"