The team was started three months ago by Stefan Bolsen, the office’s manager and broker, to cater to the unique characteristics of the international client. The team’s 17 members all either hail from or have lived outside the U.S., whether it be in England, Italy, France, Korea, Germany, Canada and countries where Spanish is the dominant language.
According to the National Association of Realtors’ annual Profile of Residential Real Estate, international buyers comprised
5.4 percent of the sales volume in the Marco Island-Naples market for 2016, said Bolsen.
Born and raised in Hamburg, Germany, he worked as a real estate attorney in that country for seven years before immigrating to America 16 years ago.
“Consequently, I can represent an international client very authentically, like all of our practitioners here,” he said. “We are all in the same boat. We have something in common so I said, ‘Why don’t we form something international because we have a little bit different exposure and access to people.”
Bolsen and several of the Coldwell Banker International Group’s (CBIG) members: Claudia Bruni, Manuela “Mannie” Palmero, Hans Hoenig and Anthony Mark Jordan, sat down recently with the Coastal Breeze to discuss why a focus on international clients is important.
“Since we have so many international practitioners, we thought, we need to be authentic,” said Bolsen. “That’s really important. It doesn’t really make sense if somebody is American and has always talked in their native language and learned a foreign language, to cater to that clientele because that is not really know authentic and genuine. It’s more trained and learned. It’s not possible to really learn a culture unless you live in it.
“What we realized is that here on Marco Island, we have a lot of international owners and vacationers, especially during the summer time, when their traditional vacation time is,” he added. “We hear foreign languages on the street everywhere. So we thought that it is important to let them feel like they’re dealing with someone from their own country, someone who understands the culture, not only the language. Culture is what makes them basically come to us and feel good about buying and selling properties.”
Jordan pointed to the latest demographic information for Marco as evidence of the importance of international clients to the island’s real estate market. He said 11.3 percent of the islands full-time residents are foreign born, with Germans comprising 20.5 percent of that population, the Irish at 19.8 percent, the British, 11.8 percent, Italians, 8.7 percent and Poles, 5.6 percent.
“Ten percent of all jobs on this island are real estate so to reach out with a foreign group like ours, I think that if we can market it the right way and reach those foreign buyers, it will really have an impact,” he said.
The International Group is still in the planning stages where the shape and form of its processes are concerned.
“We’re coming up with agendas, we’re coming up with ideas on how to really make our team presentable to the public and what kind of benefits we will offer them and what kind of unique selling points,” said Bolsen.
He believes the team is tapping into an unfilled niche, saying he’s not aware of any other realty companies on Marco that have a team focused on international clients.
Bolsen and his colleagues cited a variety of characteristics that can differentiate foreign clients from their American counterparts, one being the fact that they tend to pay in cash rather than take out a loan.
“They pay cash and they pay a higher sale price,” he added. “It’s usually about 25-to-30 percent more in sales price, versus the average American buyer. In my career, I’ve kind of focused on the international buyer and seller and I’ve almost never done mortgages.”
It’s common for these clients to have more disposable income and a mindset of “if I don’t have the money, I’m not going to buy it,” said Bolsen.
He and his colleagues said that cultural differences can loom large when dealing with international clients, such as the fact realtors in America can legally handle more elements of a transaction, as compared to realtors in many countries.
“A lot of times, in their home culture, real estate is a whole different animal,” said Palmero, who is a native of the Domin- ican Republic. “A lot of times, they have to go to the listing agent to do just one thing. So to have a realtor that does everything for them, they’re not used to that. So we have to educate them, not only about how real estate works in the U.S., but about taxes, about all the different laws and about the process of purchasing or selling a home.”
“That makes a big difference because when an American person speaks to someone who’s from another country, they don’t know that that person doesn’t know a lot of these things,” she added. “We know because we come from there. We’ve had the experience already.”
Bolsen said that in Germany, an attorney must oversee the signing of a real estate sales contract, while in America, realtors perform that function.
“There are so many differences in the system and in the culture that it’s really imperative for somebody from a foreign country to choose and international practitioner,” he added.
Where spreading the word is concerned, Jordan is investigating establishing a CBIG website and Bruni said the office’s marketing materials will be updated to include mention of the international client specialists. They’re also looking into having CBIG become part of the overall Coldwell Banker International website, while also hoping teams will be established at other of the company’s offices.
Coldwell Banker has an international footprint, with 3,000 offices spread among 49 countries and six continents, and the team members have been alerting the company’s overseas offices to their group’s existence.
“We’re trying reach out globally, no borders,” said Palmero.
The Marco Island office of Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate is located at 928 N Collier Blvd. To learn more, call 394- 8121 or visit www.coldwellbankerhomes.com/fl/marco-island/office/marco-island/ oid_ 894.