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Selling Real Estate Internationally, What You Need To Know

As the largest economy in the world and a country full of diversity, the United States attracts people from across the globe who want to live, work, and study here. From April 2020–March 2021 there were $54.4 billion in International Transactions in U.S. Residential Real Estate, which makes international clients an important market niche served by REALTORS®. Interestingly, 58% of these buyers were foreign buyers who had resided in the United States less than two years at the time of the transaction.  The top 5 countries new buyers came from were Canada, Mexico, China, India and the UK, which means that REALTORS® are dealing with people from many unfamiliar cultures, with remarkably diverse needs.  For example, Asian and Hispanic immigrants are more likely than the existing U.S population to live in multi-generational households.  According to PEW Research: 

“Among Asians living in the U.S., 29% lived in multigenerational family households in 2016, according to census data. Among Hispanics and blacks, the shares in 2016 were 27% and 26%, respectively. Among whites, 16% lived with multiple generations of family members.” 

Language and cultural barriers also exist when dealing with foreign buyers, and while it is unrealistic for a REALTOR® to learn multiple languages, understanding basic cultural norms can be helpful for you and your buyer. 

In addition to understanding who your buyers are and where they come from, you need to become familiar with some of the roadblocks to international purchases closing.  Although 39% of international home buyers purchase with cash, there can be issues with having the funds cleared into the U.S in a timely manner.  As well as documenting a buyer’s identity and status, it is important to understand the level of documentation and the timeline before making any commitments to close on a property. 

Since 2009, the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) has conducted an annual survey of its members to measure the size of U.S. residential real estate transactions with international clients; gather information on the origin, destination, and buying preferences of international clients; and identify the challenges and opportunities faced by REALTORS® in serving foreign clients. The 2021 Profile of International Transactions in U.S. Residential Real Estate presents information regarding REALTOR® transactions with international clients who purchased and sold U.S. residential property during the 12-month period of April 2020–March 2021. The report also provides information on U.S. clients seeking to purchase property abroad.