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12 Ideas to Reach Global Buyers

Earn your share of the global real estate business by building relationships, and use targeted marketing efforts to offer value and make connections.

When Carola Lueder, founder and executive director of Caviar Global Properties in Fort Lauderdale, received a referral to sell a property a Turkish man owned in Ecuador, she recognized that the home would benefit from a global audience.

“I hired a virtual assistant to identify real estate listing platforms and websites for every country that had potential buyers,” Lueder says. “We placed that property on 56 different international platforms to get a lot of attention, and it sold quickly.”

Lueder points out that since most countries don’t have an MLS, it’s up to real estate professionals to do their research to showcase properties. Whether you’re selling Florida properties to overseas buyers or listing international properties, research is just one of many actions to take to generate global business, including:

1. Earn your Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) designation.

The CIPS designation classes provide an opportunity to learn about different countries and meet new people, says Paula Angelopoulos Urbinati, a sales associate with MVP Realty Associates in Naples.

“NAR’s At Home With Diversity class is a good prerequisite to the CIPS course to teach you about how to connect with people from different cultures,” Urbinati says. “When you earn the designation, you gain access to the CIPS directory to find people all over the world for referrals.”

Missi Howell, a broker-associate with The Legends of Real Estate in Jacksonville, chose to earn the CIPS designation so she could combine her personal passion for travel and learn about other cultures with her real estate business. “You learn about the economy of different countries and how they sell real estate compared to the U.S.,” Howell says.

2. Strategically attend trade missions and international property conferences.

Realtors® can find a list of trade missions and international property conferences on NAR’s Global Network web page, but Dinorah Guerra, a sales associate with Real Estate Sales Force in Miami, recommends making a plan before you attend. “Find out who will be there and send them communications in advance to set up an appointment,” Guerra says. “Be ready with materials about your market and potential deals for developers and architects.”

Research where you’re going before the conference so you know whether you might want to do business there, says Alexandre Worthington, broker-owner of Regal Realty International in Gainesville. “I look up agents who are known for their international business so I can make a connection with them and then follow up with an occasional text,” Worthington says.

3. Lobby your local association to join the International MLS.

When Shane Spring, a real estate professional with The Keyes Company — SW Florida in Fort Myers, and other Realtors® in his market realized that demographics were changing and they were seeing more worldwide buyers, they wanted a way to share their listings with a global market. “Our local association bought into the IMLS so that our local MLS feeds all our listings into it,” Spring says. “It’s a huge tool so buyers from anywhere can see listings in our market.”

4. Stay up to date on regulations that can impact your clients.

New regulations and tax changes can affect foreign buyers and investors. For example, while it’s still undergoing legal challenges, the SB 264 bill limits the ability of some people from China, Russia, Iran, Venezuela and other countries to buy property in Florida, says Aida Vega-Medinilla, broker-owner of Horizon Real Estate in Doral. Worthington recommends checking visa restrictions for different countries and looking into legal ways to work around them, if necessary.

5. Participate in local Realtor association international committees.

Most local Realtor associations have a global committee and events that bring together professionals from different cultural backgrounds. “You need to start small to get big,” Lueder says. “Whether you’re working in residential or commercial real estate, your local association is the gateway to other connections.”

Local associations are also a great place to find a mentor to help you build your global business, Urbinati suggests.

6. Develop financial and legal expertise for international purchases.

It’s important to become a resource for your overseas clients about tax, legal and financial issues, Worthington says. Know the basics, but always refer buyers to tax and legal professionals for advice. “I was working with buyers from Colombia and Venezuela, and lenders were telling me they couldn’t do the deal, so I decided to get my mortgage license,” Worthington says. “That way I can help clients work through issues within traditional loan guidelines or do a portfolio loan.” In some cases, clients qualify for a nontraditional loan with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

7. Participate in local cultural events., the local chamber of commerce and cultural organizations are great places to find events in your community that celebrate diverse cultures, says Urbinati. “In Naples, there are at least 10 different ethnicities that have events with booths, crafts and dances from their culture,” Urbinati says. “You can sponsor these events or have a booth; or just participate and get to know people from different backgrounds.”

However, she says it takes patience. “First, you get to know someone and their family, then eventually you’ll build a referral network through those connections,” she says.

8. Focus marketing on your international clientele.

The Fort Myers area used to primarily attract domestic buyers and people from Germany and England, Spring says. Now, overseas buyers come from all over Europe, Central and Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia. “We recognize that these buyers are looking in this part of Florida because it’s less crowded and less expensive (than other areas of Florida).  They can afford more on this coast,” Spring says. “So, we target our marketing to buyers from different regions to explain why buyers might be interested in moving here, and we target international agents for referral partners.”

Spring places ads with a QR Code leading to his landing page to make it easier for international buyers to find his website.

9. Target specific countries or cultures.

While some Realtors® have a natural affinity for a culture or a country because of their own background or language, others may want to identify specific countries or regions for targeted marketing. “Don’t try to boil the whole ocean,” Howell says. “Find out which country you’re interested in or research where people are coming from in your market. For example, in Jacksonville we have a large Filipino population, in part because we have a big military presence; and servicemen and women often come back from overseas duty with spouses from where they were stationed, who then bring their families.”

If you worked with a client in Brazil, for example, you could direct your marketing to people from Brazil in your community and market in Brazil, suggests Lueder.

10. Match your local market demographics with international outreach.

The “2023 Profile of International Residential Transactions in Florida” (
transactions-2023) available through Florida Realtors® can help you understand your target audience and get
insight into activity by overseas buyers, Guerra says.

“You can also look at local tax records to see where owners in your area are from and review statistics from your local association,” Howell suggests.

Once you know where buyers in your area are from, you can target marketing to agents and websites from their home countries. In addition to the IMLS, there are numerous property websites that reach potential buyers in different countries and regions.

“I recommend having your marketing materials, including videos, translated so they’re multilingual and reflect the markets where you want to make connections,” Guerra says.

11. Read and research cultures and locations you want to target.

Cultural sensitivity is an extremely important component of a successful global career. Urbinati recommends reading the classic book, “Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands” by Terri Morrison and Wayne Conaway, a guide to international business protocol. The book is updated every few years.

“You should read about the country and people you want to engage with,” she says. “You can take a class or read about Feng Shui to learn about how to avoid offending your clients by taking them to a house that doesn’t work with those principles.”

12. Be accessible by phone and email to international clients.

Lueder recommends having a separate phone number and different email address to use for international marketing to make it easier to track where your leads are coming from and to understand their different needs. “Even though you need to be aware of time zones when communicating with overseas clients, you also need to respond in a timely manner,” she says.

Expanding your work with global buyers and investors takes consistency, know-how and a desire to build relationships. Start with these 12 activities, and watch your global footprint expand.

Michele Lerner is a Washington, D.C.-based freelance writer.