The factors that will help you nail your foreign buyer property sale

Luxury property in Cape Town with a poolside view
Luxury property in Cape Town with a poolside view

The factors that will help you nail your foreign buyer property sale

As a property practitioner, your days are filled with the juggling of endless tasks: property viewings, contracts, client meetings, and so much more. And then, you meet a client from another corner of the globe, and suddenly your juggling act takes on a whole new dimension. 

Foreign buyers have always been a part of the South African property market. But, with an increasingly favourable exchange rate, fewer restrictions, and a variety of enticing property options hitting the market, you might find this becoming more common — and lucrative. Take Lightstone statistics that show foreign buyers paid on average 50% more than their South African counterparts in 2021. In response, Prop Data ran a poll to get more insight into the foreign buyer market.

Unpacking the poll results

In June 2023, Prop Data polled property practitioners to find what helps the most when working with foreign buyers. The results revealed:

29.6% say network and referral partnerships.
25.4% say language/communication skills.
16.9% say cultural sensitivity and adaptability.
14.1% say access to technology platforms.
14.1% say international real estate law knowledge.

“I find that these results do make sense,” says Harry Nicolaides, CEO at Century 21 South Africa. “They reflect the systems and skills that play a valuable role in successfully concluding a deal with a foreign buyer.”

Adding to these factors, Nicolaides says property practitioners should also consider the appeal of belonging to a global brand. “From our experience, with having over 12 000 offices in over 84 countries, brand familiarity and brand trust also play a key role. Foreign buyers feel more confident in dealing with brands that are already familiar to them by being present in their own country as well.” 

There’s no doubt that with the backing of a globally recognised brand, you can tap into business opportunities from around the world. However, savvy real estate practitioners can still find success with foreign buyers by investing in themselves.

Forge connections with network and referral partnerships

Unsurprisingly, building a solid network of industry peers and clients topped the poll list. For local real estate, these relationships can open doors, amplifying your reach and reputation, and ultimately leading to a steady influx of new leads. According to Nicolaides, this is indispensable for a foreign property sale.

Harry Nicolaides

“Direct access and networking with international offices plays a major part in the rate of property sales to foreign buyers,” he says. “This is even more true when the buyers are referred to the selling agencies from people and agencies within the same brand. Simply put, within the same brand, there are policies and procedures in place and accountability in place between the referring agency and the receiving agency to ensure the buyer gets the most efficient and professional service from both sides of the referral and networking system.”

According to Nicolaides, practitioners should align themselves with an international brand that has a global footprint. “Foreign buyers start their search for local property opportunities in the digital space and, in the case of Century 21, we in fact have a global marketing website where all listings on any of our local websites from whichever country are automatically featured. Also, and importantly, a user from wherever they may be can choose their preferred language and currency determination when viewing the property.”

Besides leveraging in-agency relationships, a strong presence on social media can cement your name as a property expert in other countries. Practitioners should also accept invites to networking events (even online) and ensure they’re making the most of international property portals to let their listings and services be seen by buyers beyond local boundaries. 

Talk the talk with language/communication skills

Communication is key in any business and especially crucial in concluding real estate deals. As a property practitioner, you rely on the power of language to communicate the value of properties, work through contracts, and also listen to and understand your client’s needs. Coming in second in the poll, the real estate community recognises the importance of building foreign linguistic bridges.

“Buyers need to feel comfortable in asking any questions and whatever queries they have need to be addressed ‘on point’ without any ambiguity and in a manner they will understand completely,” points out Nicolaides. “Anything short of this will erode the trust the buyer may have with the property practitioner thereby jeopardising a possible sale.” 

Thankfully, real estate professionals have plenty of options. Short courses through online learning and teaching platforms like Udemy can help you master verbal and written communication for foreign markets. Mobile apps like Babbel and Duolingo put language lessons in the palm of your hands if there are specific markets you wish to tap into. 

“With respect to language, AI (e.g. ChatGPT) and, in fact, most search engines including Google are brilliant at translating languages and the training of languages,” says Nicolaides. “With regards to communications skills, this can always be improved and mastered through personal training and upskilling which should always be on the agenda for any property practitioner.”

Show respect with cultural sensitivity and adaptability

Cultural sensitivity and adaptability are about understanding and acknowledging the differences and similarities in a culture outside your own. Practitioners who prioritise this can nurture meaningful relationships and avoid faux pas that can stifle real estate deals. 

“Voted the third most important factor, it’s always advisable and good practice for a property practitioner to properly prepare themselves before formerly dealing with a foreign buyer,” affirms Nicolaides. “This is done by taking the time to research the cultural characteristics, political climate, and property trends and desires of the country where the foreign buyer resides.”

Importantly though, Nicolaides says the property practitioner must also be aware of the same said characteristics of the community in which the subject property is situated. “This will negate any unfortunate (though unnecessary) cultural and other unpleasantries that may, unfortunately, occur later and, in fact, it should be the property practitioner’s responsibility to communicate possible conflicts that may arise with their buyers.” 

Practitioners can build cultural sensitivity skills by investing in global citizenship training and even travelling and immersing themselves in their target market’s culture if this is an option. Above all, property practitioners should foster a mentality where they are open to the ideas, thoughts, and practices of others, says Nicolaides.

 “Aim to put aside judgmental or adverse opinions. Also, be aware of differences which may create conflicts. To avoid this, you should gain better cultural sensitivity through education and learning of the characteristics of the communities you serve. It should all be about understanding, appreciating, and respecting diverse cultures but never being critical of one over the other,” he says. 

About Harry Nicolaides:

Harry is a seasoned professional with a diverse background in real estate sales since 1991. Starting as a candidate agent, Harry diligently worked his way up the ranks, gaining invaluable experience and knowledge at every level of the real estate sales spectrum. From being a full-status agent to assuming the role of Principal and later becoming a Franchisee, Harry's dedication and expertise propelled him forward.

Today, Harry holds the esteemed position of CEO of Century 21 South Africa, solidifying his status as a leader in the industry. His unique advantage lies in his comprehensive understanding of the challenges and needs faced by individuals at every level within the Century 21 Group, regardless of their function or status. Under Harry's guidance, the Century 21 brand has flourished in South Africa, boasting an impressive network of 50 franchises and over 450 estate agents.