Selling to International Buyers


International Business is strong in Jacksonville. Our International Airport, easily navigated highways, railways and our deep-water seaport make our area a strategic location for global markets. Our administrative costs being lower than other areas of the USA, our scenic waterways, our cost of housing and good employment rates add to the allure of this area for investment in Real estate by overseas investors.


According to Enterprise Florida’s Regional Profile Data, Northeast Florida gained nearly 26,500 people in 2005 with approximately 9% of those migrating being international and 44% of those migrants being under 35 years old. in According to the National Association Of Realtors, 15% of all real estate sales in Florida in 2005 were with international buyers. We are home in Jacksonville to a noticeable number of Eastern Europeans, Asian and Pacific Islanders as well as immigrants with U.S. citizenship moving up from South Florida .With Southern Europe becoming more expensive and crowded as a retirement or vacation home venue for Northern Europeans, the Dutch, German, British, and Scandinavians are also discovering our area as being affordable and less crowded for real estate investment.


Taking all of the above into consideration with the addition of a less restrictive flow of capital to many parts of the world (through trading treaties) and the immense effect of the modernization of communication and computerization, it is becoming more and more imperative for real estate professionals to have knowledge of international business transactions, world cultures, world markets and economies.


An international buyer has very different needs from either a local or national buyer.

First there may be a language problem. The Northeast Florida Association of Realtors (NEFAR) offers foreign language speaking Realtors, which, according to NEFAR’s  Multicultural Council’s Chairperson, Claudia Page, lists 20-25  different language speakers, from Serbian and Russian to Mandarin Chinese and Vietnamese. Claudia mentions however, that, “It is vital for international investors to make sure that the Realtor is qualified to translate legal documents rather than to merely interpret them. Sensitivity may also need to be given to seeking professionals with distinct dialects or differing languages within a continent, such as one of the 14 major Indian languages and 300 minor languages prevalent in India or one of the many differing tribal languages in Africa. Investigation may also be needed of real estate professionals, real estate relocation companies or placement agencies to make sure that they are members of International Real Estate groups.” The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has cooperating agreements with 47 countries. NAR also has a designation named Certified International Specialist (CIPS) which is awarded after quite a stringent study of multicultural information needed to assist an international buyer with foreign real estate investment.( Claudia Page believes that Jacksonville has 7 registered CIPS candidates within the Jacksonville area.) There are also other well known organizations such as FIABCI (International Real Estate Federation), MIPIM (The International Real Estate Federation) and CREA (International Consortium of Real Estate Association)


An International buyer needs explanation of the buying process in the U.S.A .Very few nations have Multiple Listing Services such as we have in Northeast Florida. The U.S.A has one of the least restrictive and open markets in the world for foreign real estate investment but there are tax implications and inter-nation asset recordings that need to be explained either by an informed Realtor or by a recommended tax or Real Estate Attorney.


Our local negotiating practices need to be explained as they also are very different from business transacting in other cultures. Decision making is much slower in many cultures than in the more fast-paced American business climate. The hierarchical make-up of some family units dictates that the entire family and extended family be included in the decision and negotiation of a major purchase. Bargaining from a low point up to a “respectable” offer is the norm in some cultures so care must be taken in a fast market to explain that extended “bargaining” may cause losing the perfect property. A show of assertion from a sales person can be very distasteful among certain nationalities and if the buyer perceives they have “lost face” a sale could also be lost.


Greetings and the protocol attached to certain religions and cultures must be a vital consideration for a Real estate Professional. Knowledge of which member of the buyer’s party should be addressed first, whether handshakes, bowing or no physical contact at all is normal, should be studied before-hand. Forms of address vary greatly according to the nationality of the buyer, such as the shortening of a name to only the last part of a long name, which may be considered discourteous.


Some international buyers have a strong belief in calling on their religion or to the supernatural for their beliefs of what is a good location, positioning, entrance, color scheme, time for moving, for their new home. In fact some of these philosophies are becoming more and more studied in North American design and have been incorporated in homes for good luck, serenity, feelings of peace and comfort. A qualified International Realtor will be aware of certain customs, will understand them and appreciate the practices.


Transfer of funds from one country to another, currency exchange rates,  moving personal effects internationally, differences in measurements and currencies, customs restrictions, electrical appliance voltages, schooling, work visa restrictions,  are some of the many queries, problems and considerations that are asked of the real estate professional when assisting international buyers. A Certified International Property Specialist will have much of this knowledge as will an International relocation division within a real estate company or an international moving company.


The welcomed enrichment of Northeast Florida’s vibrant community with International business and investment will hopefully continue to bring a global, cosmopolitan atmosphere to what is already an evolving and exciting area.  In turn, the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors is dedicated to providing valued and qualified training to its members and qualified assistance to international buyers of primary homes, secondary homes, commercial and investment properties.