Understanding Cultural Nuances with Global RE Council

Throughout Chicago, diversity is everywhere you turn. With that in mind, Global Real Estate Council hosted a panel of experts to help educate REALTORS® on interacting with clients of diverse backgrounds. We welcomed panelists Omer Ahmed, Abaris Capital Advisors, LLC, Michelle Shang, Unity Realty Inc., and Ricardo Morales, RE/MAX 10, to give insight into navigating the Middle Eastern, Asian, and Latin American markets, respectively.

Panelists Omer Ahmed, Abaris Capital Advisors, LLC, Michelle Shang, Unity Realty Inc., and Ricardo Morales, RE/MAX 10, with Global RE Council President Maurice Hampton, Centered International Realty

What are some tips for those who want to get involved in Global Real Estate?

It’s important to gain access through trusted connections, particularly in areas like the Middle East. Know your numbers, comps and school districts – especially when working with Chinese buyers. They hate overpaying, and they are likely to involve family and friends in the process. Finally, marketing, networking and market knowledge are imperative to success in Mexico and Latin America.

What are the best ways to meet international buyers?

If you’re interested in the Asian market, joining AREAA or other Chinese-affiliated organizations is a good place to start. Focusing on market segmentation in the Middle East will help to identify various access points. Regardless, for all markets, identifying your community of interest is so important, and networking is key. Knowing where you want to be and getting involved in organizations that give you access to that group allows you to build trust right off the bat.

How does communication differ between cultures?

Preparation is key. Leverage tools that will help show your expertise; for instance, in many cases, the emphasis will be on family — know your school districts and your crime statistics.

How do you initiate a relationship with a consulate?

If you’re interested in global real estate, forming a relationship with a consulate is a great idea. Often, potential buyers will check in with the consulate when they come overseas, and it’s an ideal way to get an in. Also, attend events like those put on by the Global Real Estate Council to become more involved in the global community.

Are international buyers interested in getting involved with a REALTOR®?

Yes, it’s a trusted organization. Consulates don’t give out random information because it looks bad, but they trust the REALTOR® name. The REALTOR® designation is your trademark, and signifies professionalism and leadership.

How do you maintain communications across borders?

This can be challenging for both buyers and brokers. In China, everything is blocked, but there is a popular app called We Chat that works. In Latin America, they use a mix of Skype, Facebook and WhatsApp. And in the Middle East, Skype and WhatsApp are popular. The Middle East is ahead of the game – SIM cards are easily accessible and the culture is such that each individual may have two or three mobile phones. Also, check your carrier. Some (like TMobile) offer programs where you can make local calls.

What closing gifts are appropriate, and what is inappropriate?

This varies greatly. Keep in mind that the Chinese are very superstitious. Steer clear of clocks, the color white, fans or umbrellas. On the other hand, red is safe. But the best option? Cash. Cash is king. Also keep in mind that alcohol is hard to gift, as many Chinese prefer hard alcohol over wine. In Mexico and Latin America, it’s all about being creative and customizing the closing gift to the clientele. The more high end the client, the more custom. And in the Middle East, culturally, if you’re helping them in a deal, you usually receive the gift. It would be inappropriate and insensitive to give a gift.