What I’ve Learned Over the Years About
the “Largest Global Real Estate Network on Earth”
by Jeff Hornberger
Hello everyone! I’ve met many of you throughout the years, almost 16 (off and on) to be exact. As I wrap up loose ends before taking on my new post, I want to express that working in NAR Global has been a great ride for me professionally and personally. I have been able to travel to 43 countries on behalf of NAR Global, a great opportunity that NAR has afforded me, as I’ve been able to get a front row seat to organized real estate globally. I’ve also been witness to real, tangible international business that has brought in hard-earned and well-deserved income to international REALTORS® in the U.S. and around the world.
But what specifically have I learned? Here are my key takeaways:
1) NAR is an organization with a rich global history, heritage, and legacy. NAR does not brag about this, nor will an award ever be granted on this, nor will it be written in history books, but NAR’s global activities have made (and continue to make) the world a better place. From its global origins in the 1920s when the Philippines, Cuba, and Canada were part of NAR, its leaders and members have been travelling around the globe talking about the power of real estate and promoting professionalism. After World War II, NAR Past President Leonard Reaume was a key catalyst in forming FIABCI in the 1950s, a global network that continues to this day. When communism fell in the late 1980s, NAR Past President Norm Flynn’s efforts led to the creation of the International Real Property Foundation which has helped establish organized real estate associations in the former Soviet bloc and beyond. Through its members, staff, and all levels of the REALTOR® organization (state, local and national), NAR has shared best practices and offered technical assistance in areas such as license law creation, forming MLSs, and hundreds if not thousands of training courses; much of this has been done on a goodwill basis, and the result is a better infrastructure for REALTORS® globally being at the center of the transaction.
2) There really is no real estate market like the United States (or Canada for that matter!). Real estate “best practices” that we take for granted by and large don’t exist outside of the United States and Canada. While there are some MLSs outside of these markets (ex, Netherlands, Romania), they are few and far between. Exclusive right to sell is not the norm. Look at the graphic accompanying this blog, which comes from the head of Keller Williams in Indonesia – “dijual” means “for sale”! This graphic says it all on how best practices have a way to go. When I say there is no market like the US (and Canada), Canada is an interesting market as well. The best practices there are on par with the United States, but what’s even more interesting there is the growth of the real estate market over the past 10 years and the high prices it commands just across the US border, the amount of inbound and outbound international business that happens, and the professionalism; so hats off to Canada, as well !
3) The “R” is a coveted brand outside of the United States. The REALTOR® brand is often copied and used generically overseas, because it’s a global symbol of professionalism and its $6 billion brand power reverberates in every corner of the globe. The brand is so coveted that a professional basketball team in the Philippines once called themselves “the REALTORS”! The only “real” REALTORS® outside of the United States (and its territories) are either members of the Canada Real Estate Association, NAR, or international REALTOR® members, who are dues-paying members who belong to a local association with a code of ethics common to NAR’s. The “real” REALTORS® can self-police this important name and trademark and help spread the word.
4) Opportunities exist everywhere, in every sector. At an event called SIMA, I met hundreds of REALTORS® who sold international 2nd home developments to investors and retirees worldwide, earning good commissions on new developments, while enjoying the fringe benefits that come with this segment such as staying at the beachfront developments in exotic locations. A REALTOR® in McAllen, Texas, thrives on Mexicans investing in strip malls as an investment “safe haven” on this booming border town. While in Greece last February, I met a member who specialized in targeting Greek Americans across the USA to come home and invest back in their country and having success and enjoying the adventure. REALTORS® who target inbound US buyers from overseas develop new friendships to new Americans, who in turn send referrals to their other immigrant groups. China buyers, who spend a lot on US real estate in every corner of the country, are the next frontier, and every year hundreds of China based real estate company CEOs who represent thousands of agents attend NAR’s conference to study and learn how to get in on this action.
5) Referrals are a good vehicle for international business, but not a panacea. Global referrals are a great vehicle to do international real estate business, and NAR always advocates working with a professional overseas who is affiliated with a group that has an NAR-approved code of ethics. But international referrals also carry administrative and potential legal issues as well, that must be understood. At the end of the day, the consumer rules. Many times, global buyers will simply show up at your doorstep unannounced, so it helps to have professional credentials when the opportunity arises (think CIPS). When one of your clients wants to buy overseas, always send them to an in-country agent, and they should always be connected to the NAR in some way to ensure they are a trusted professional. Get out there and attend an international real estate event, and see the market for yourself. Events such as SIMA, MIPIM, and Expo Real transact real estate right on a trade show floor !
6) NAR’s global volunteer army is the global network’s “secret sauce”. The best part of everything NAR-Global does? Without a doubt, it’s the volunteer cadre of members who serve as a liaisons to countries, and local REALTOR® associations that are country ambassadors. They volunteer time and spend money out of their own pockets to make these connections, assist countries, and serve other members who need a point of contact when confronted with an international real estate issue. REALTORS® embody everything that is great about the United States of America, and ultimately they serve as ambassadors to their country, and further the image of the United States. One time on a recent trip, a real estate professional in Romania told me that “When I am with REALTORS(R), I am happy because they represent everything that I love about America!” The feeling from our members is mutual, for sure.
It’s been a great experience to have a front row seat and being part of the largest real estate network on earth. I hope to see everyone again at the largest known gathering of real estate professionals on earth, the NAR Conference in San Diego this November. It’s a busy place, but for sure you will all be at the largest international real estate professional party, the International Night Out. For those of you who have gone for many years, its like attending a family reunion and is a fun night to connect with friends, colleagues, and to make new connections. Its well worth the price. Who knows, this time I may actually join the conga line when the music starts!