The period from April 2014 to March 2015 saw around 209,000 U.S. residential properties (around four percent of all existing-home sales) snapped up by foreign buyers, according to the National Association of Realtor's 2015 Profile of Home Buying Activity of International Clients.
The NAR says that the total sales dollar volume spent on U.S. properties by foreign buyers is increasing with each and every year. More to the point, some 35 percent of agents report working with at least one foreign buyer in 2014. With foreigners rapidly increasing their presence across the country, real estate professionals should be aware of the additional complexities that can crop up when dealing with international clients, experts warn.
Speaking to The Washington Post, Anthony Hitt, chief operating officer for the North American franchise of Engel & Völkers, has some simple advice: “Pick the best team you can. Sellers are wise to look for agents who are trained in the legalities and cultural traditions that come with a foreign buyer.”
The article also shared some additional pointers for real estate pros to keep in mind when dealing with foreign clients, including the fact that most will have only a limited amount of time in the U.S. and will therefore probably make a quick decision and expect sellers to move just as quickly.
In addition, real estate pros need to ensure the sales agreement includes protection against default, and they should plan the closing date for the transaction taking into account the time it takes for money to be transferred abroad, and the possible processing of a foreign borrower mortgage.
Finally, The Washington Post advises real estate pros that it's important to be aware of the cultural and religious leanings of their international clients. Therefore, it would help to choose someone on your team who has experience working with people who originate from the same place as your foreign clients.
The good news is that foreign transactions have gotten far easier in this day and age thanks to digital innovation. Such things as digital signatures and wire transfers are very common in real estate transactions these days, and make communication a breeze. Real estate pros just have to be aware that it often takes longer for foreign buyers to verify credit and document their identity. They should also keep in mind the potential for delays involving overseas money transfers and non-standard purchase agreements.