By Michelle Miñagorri
Headlines everywhere are talking about international real estate buyers flooding into South Florida looking for deals. However, a reverse trend is being overlooked, which consists of high-income buyers looking for deals in international markets. One place that really exemplifies this trend is Mexico, where financial and lifestyle incentives are attracting large numbers of interested buyers looking for their own slice of paradise. As a South Florida Realtor, there are many ways to get involved with, and benefit from, this emerging trend.
Why South of the Border?
The main factors that are attracting buyers south of the border include high-end amenities bundled with unparalleled natural resources, direct access by major airlines and year-round sunshine – all at a fraction of the comparable cost in the U.S. Also contributing to Mexico’s property appeal is the region’s lower property taxes and maintenance fees when compared to our country. As an added attraction, the hospitality deeply embedded in traditional Mexican culture enhances the buying, and living, experience for purchasers.
Particularly, in places like Puerto Vallarta on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, there is still limited property inventory, but this is a good thing. Coupled with the beauty and privacy of its coastline, Puerto Vallarta and adjacent towns have been unaffected by over-development and maintain an exclusive feel while still offering buyers affordable pricing. The ability to offer the same luxury product for approximately one-third of the U.S. cost has attracted pioneering developers and eager buyers alike.
How do you as a Realtor reach these buyers?
Demographically, baby boomers make up a large percentage of these buyers. As the richest generation in history, boomers have a tremendous amount of spending power and, most importantly, are active candidates for retirement. While many international destinations are popular with boomers, Mexico was crowned the No. 1 place to retire in 2008, surpassing Panama. The number of Americans and Canadians buying in Mexico is a little less than equal to the number of Mexicans buying in their own backyard.
For example, at ICON Vallarta 43.5 percent of buyers in Towers I and II of the tri-tower condominium project were American or Canadian compared with 54 percent from Mexico. Considering American feeder states affecting the trend, Florida, not surprisingly, has emerged as one of the top states. Large boomer and international populations have undoubtedly contributed to the state’s importance as a feeder market and they present an advantage for local Realtors looking to capitalize on the international migration. Dig into your existing database and broaden your networking reach to include more international and boomer contacts. Another important tip is to utilize South Florida developers with existing or planned projects in international markets. Buyers feel more comfortable buying internationally when the developer has projects in the United States, as it assures quality of the product and provides the reassurance of credibility.
How can I be successful at this trend?
The first step is to build relationships with international projects that have a sales presence in South Florida, as ICON Vallarta does at Fortune International. It’s easy to visit these local offices, introduce yourself, and then take away as much information on the project as possible. They can often supply you with collateral materials and DVDs as well as assist you with hosting events for potential buyers. Ultimately, they can act as ambassadors should you and your clients choose to visit the project’s sales center in the country where the property is being developed.
Another simple step is to reach out to your network of clients and inform them of international projects, including any incentives for buying. To enhance this step, it’s important to attend seminars and do your own research on the challenges and opportunities of doing business in international markets. This is essential when dealing with interested parties from different cultural backgrounds and it helps you learn to speak the real estate language of the country in which you are trying to sell property. Lastly, create a blog or e-newsletter to send to your database. These become viral when forwarded along, thereby reaching a whole new audience of prospects.
So update your passport, because there’s literally a world of opportunity in international real estate sales.
Michelle Miñagorri is the director of sales for Icon Vallarta, Fortune Related International Sales. She can be reached at [email protected].