When trying to successfully navigate real estate transactions with clients from overseas, it’s critical to make an effort to connect with them on a cultural level.
That was the message shared by Tim Hur, a REALTOR® and 2014 chair of NAR’s State and Local Forum on Global Business, and Stacey Mollison, president of the Empire Board of Realtists (representing the Atlanta area within NAREB). Both Hur and Mollison, who practice real estate in the suburbs of Atlanta, offered ideas to attendees of the Diversity Forum Tuesday at the Georgia REALTORS® Inaugural Meeting and Legislative Conference in Cobb County, Ga.
The state of Georgia has seen significant, multi-decade growth in global business activity. As a result, real estate professionals like Hur and Mollison have dealt with an increasing numbers of non-U.S. clients, many of whom have radically different backgrounds from their own.
But both of them have found success with their diverse clientele by seeking to understand their culture and its values before actually meeting them face to face. “I usually research [the client’s] culture,” Hur said, and added this not only makes them more comfortable, but puts him more at ease as well, as he doesn’t have to obsess over unwittingly committing a social indiscretion.
This is especially important when dealing with people who come from high-context, relationship-based cultures, he explained. You have to take time to build trust and demonstrate you understand their unique needs. However, once you’ve established that you’re a dependable, conscientious agent who they can work with easily, you’ll find more business flows in as they refer their family members and friends to you.
Mollison, a Christian who was born in Guyana and grew up in New York, said she found working with Muslim clients a challenge at first, as she initially found some of their customs difficult to comprehend. For instance, the men in Muslim families are expected to make the final decision on a home purchase, and therefore a listing presentation or a property showing should focus on shaping their opinion. This is something of a departure from working with American couples, where the woman is typically at least an equal partner, if not the one making the decision.
After investing time into learning about the culture and values of people from Muslim countries, Mollison has attained a level of comfort and familiarity in working with them on property purchases. And because she put in that effort, they now make up a large portion of her client base, she said.
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