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Saying "Ciao" to Italy, Slowly but Surely

A chance encounter between two other people led Carl Hildebrand to develop a working relationship with a broker from Milan, Italy.

Though Hildebrand, a sales associate with Sports and Entertainment Realty Advisors in Miami, studied for two years in Torento, Italy, while earning his master’s degree in international management, he hadn’t done any real estate business with Italians.

That was, until his sister met a Milanese broker named Stefania while vacationing in San Francisco. “Through my sister’s introduction,” says Hildebrand, “we began to have a professional relationship.”

It began through e-mail, progressed to phone calls, and then Hildebrand added a detour to Milan on a trip he was planning to Switzerland. While in Milan, he met with Stefania, who took him to see her listings and introduced him to her colleagues. “It made sense that we’d keep in touch,” he says, “and she’s since come to Miami. I’ve shown her my office and my listings, and I’ve introduced her to my friends.”

Hildebrand says he writes and speaks Italian at an intermediate level, but Stefania’s still developing her English skills. That means the two still have to sometimes depend on translation aids for uncommon words, including contractual terms. If he didn’t speak Italian, he says, it would have been “very difficult” to have built the relationship.

Becoming familiar with the Italian culture is also important, he says. For example, he says it’s a big no-no to order cappuccino in the evening, but it’s not a no-no for Italians to smoke indoors. “Americans shouldn’t be offended by that,” he says.

Don’t be thrown by business hours. “In some parts of Italy,” he says, “people start work at 10 a.m., close at 12:30 p.m., reopen at 3 p.m. and close at 8 p.m.” Also, it’s not OK to schedule business on weekends.

After two years, Hildebrand believes his relationship with Stefania is beginning to bear fruit. “It’s taken two years to meet and greet, and now she’s comfortable referring her clients,” he says. “I felt like I had to hurry to build the business, but it’s not that easy. You have to build the relationship first. Now that it’s built, it’ll stay around a lot longer, and it means more.”