Elite AgentOpinion

Should your agency be targeting offshore buyers?

As a global company with offices in Australia, China, the US and the UK operating a leading marketplace for off the plan property, we’ve learned a thing or two about attracting and targeting buyers all over the world.

If you’re an agent who currently only sells to local buyers whilst your competitors seem to get a bigger slice of the action, or you are dabbling in targeting foreign buyers and want to up your game, here are five practical tips:

1. Do an agency SWOT analysis

If you want to play in the offshore buyer market you need to be honest with yourself. Yep, the old strengths/weaknesses/opportunities/threats exercise will help you determine whether your agency should venture down this new path or expand your current investment in offshore marketing.

For example, if you are planning on targeting Chinese buyers your very first question needs to be: do you have Mandarin speakers on your team? If you want to attract and convert Chinese buyers it is essential that your team speaks their language; remember that fewer than one per cent of Chinese speak English in China, and the same applies to a good proportion of local Chinese buyers. If you are more interested in Hong Kong buyers, Cantonese is the more prevalent language there.

Play to your strengths and capiltalise on opportunities!

2. Target the offshore group that is right for you

Remember that old saying, ‘Only fish where the fish are’? According to research from Investorist’s just-published Australian Off The Plan Sentiment Report, developers still expect 60 per cent of their foreign sales to come from China, despite the well-publicised drop in buyer demand. Other waves of buyers are coming from India, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.

But remember your SWOT. Chinese buyers may not be right for you; not every suburb is destined to attract thousands of Chinese buyers. It will be much more cost effective to target buyers that are familiar with your suburb and product offering than to try and break new ground. I’m not saying don’t try new things; definitely do, but allocate your marketing budget accordingly.

3. Local office or local partner?

So you’re now ready to advertise your stock on a major Chinese real estate platform. Fang.com is the jumbo-sized REA equivalent and they have an international section. Well… you’d better ensure you also have the right well-trained local staff to handle the ensuing enquiries in China, or alternatively partner with a company who can do this for you. And maybe not just one partner; remember, China is geographically larger than Australia and has hundreds of cities, and 24 of these cities have populations larger than Sydney! Each city has unique local idiosyncrasies, so you need to able to adapt to these.

Many agencies expect to be able to convert offshore sales leads via phone and email from Australia. But I will ask you a simple question:  Would you replace your agency’s sales team with an offshore call centre and expect great results?

4. Overseas migration is still a big deal

Overseas migrant arrivals outstrip our natural population growth by 2:1. These new arrivals all need a place to live and become either purchasers of new property or tenants, mostly settling in our largest urban cities where the jobs are.

Many of these new arrivals buy property as part of their migration strategy. If you are selling property in an area which has strong appeal to overseas migrants, then you are missing out on sales if you have not set up your marketing systems and sales teams to reach these often cashed-up buyers before they arrive.

5. Work with an offshore agent to find buyers

If you don’t have the appetite (or cheque book) to go it alone and establish dozens of offshore offices, then this is where you can partner with offshore agencies in the countries of interest and share commission with them to secure buyers.

But even with this strategy, you still need to be able to communicate and build relationships with your new partners and they will need support on the ground in your region. And remember, you will be competing for their business with agencies and developers from all over the world; so Melbourne projects will be competing with Miami, Manchester and Makati.

Timing

If you are wanting to target the lucrative offshore buyer, it is actually a really good time to start. With changes to banking, taxes and the market more generally, there is an unprecedented wave of change affecting the industry targeting offshore buyers. With change usually comes opportunity. Just make sure you have your eyes open and do everything you can to set your agency up for success.

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Jon Ellis

Jon Ellis is the Founder and CEO of Investorist, the property industry’s leading off the plan property marketplace. Investorist surveyed 201 of their customers, leaders in the property industry, about their sentiments over the coming financial year.
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