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Don’t sell locally, sell globally too

Robert Fraser, the London-focused estate agent and expert in selling UK homes at property exhibitions in Asia, offers advice to agents looking to sell properties in the UK to buyers overseas.

Property Drum

Robert Fraser Founder and Managing Director of Fraser & Co

One of the most important trends in the past few decades is the increasing globalisation of the UK’s residential market. In central London almost three quarters of buyers of new-build properties in 2012 were from overseas. And it’s not only London. Russian and Middle Eastern buyers have been snapping up trophy properties, new and resale, in places such as North Surrey, as well as stately piles across the UK. Chinese homebuyer activity has also increased dramatically in regional cities, according to one Chinese real estate website, but this has not yet translated into sales.

For many developers, to sell globally has meant making projects viable in the tough, post-crash economic environment. Now, with a strengthening market in London and some other parts of the UK, interest from overseas buyers has risen.

So, how can estate agents who want to sell globally reach this increasingly valuable market?

Knowing your market

It’s essential to match the right product to the specific market. For example, Asian buyers are focused on rental return, which, along with other drivers such as proximity to internationally renowned educational establishments and transport links, is key to whether a property is suitable. In contrast to Asian buyers who tend to prefer smaller units because they generally offer higher returns, Russian and Middle Eastern buyers target larger trophy properties in prime central London, typically over £1 million and with a high specification. There is also a tendency for Middle Eastern buyers to prefer large lateral apartments rather than duplexes or triplexes.

Now is a very good time to be tapping into this valuable and growing market.

Communicating your messageglobalisation

The website is the first port of call for the vast majority of potential purchasers. Generally, a website in English is sufficient as buyers tend to be very well educated and have English as an additional language. However, some Russian and Middle Eastern super-rich buyers have limited or no English language; but buyers at this level rarely purchase property personally and will have a full complement of English speaking staff on hand to do the negotiation and leg work.

Launching an integrated PR and marketing campaign is essential when selling overseas. In order to effectively target the right audience, PR – whether through traditional media or social channels – needs to be specific to the location. If appropriate, we would retain a local agent to help promote a development to make sure we can secure such targeted exposure. The advertising strategy is equally important, so a detailed schedule must be planned in advance of launching a property overseas. Adverts will be booked in English and the relevant native It is important to be aware which media outlets tend to provide the best response rates for a specific project. Either a media buying agency or an experienced agent can advise on where you should be advertising.

Brochures need to be comprehensive and clearly show the location of the project along with the floor plans and specification.

High-quality computer generated images are essential for off-plan marketing, while videos and fly-throughs promoting the developer and the development can be a particularly useful tool in the exhibition rooms.

Providing a one-stop shop

Excluding the super-rich, exhibitions are the best way to sell properties overseas as they allow buyers to meet with agents and developers, as well as legal and financial professionals to carry out the transactions.

However, exhibitions need to be scheduled well in advance to ensure there is sufficient time to effectively promote them through PR, advertising and direct marketing. It is also vital to consider the timing, so that events don’t clash with public holidays and with other exhibitions promoting competitive products.

Well located five-star hotels provide the best venues for property exhibitions, allowing purchasers who may have to travel long distances the convenience of accommodation on the exhibition’s doorstep.

They also have seasoned staff, international experience and the facilities to make exhibition organisation easier and ensure smooth running.

We normally take a UK-based solicitor to represent the buyer and, if appropriate, a tax and finance consultant. In some cases we would bring a local finance broker, but other legal and finance advisors need to be UK-based to offer the appropriate advice.

The combination of economic and political stability, English language – international commerce’s lingua franca – a currency that offers value and London’s global city status, means overseas buyers will continue to be important. Now is a good time to tap into this valuable and growing market.

February 8, 2014

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