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Go Global but Stay Local

April 1, 2011

No matter where you live, you can help your members attract the growing international buyer audience. Skeptical? Just hear me out.

At a time when domestic buyers are hesitant, foreign buyers are eager. Last year, roughly $66 billion of U.S. real estate was sold to immigrants and buyers residing primarily outside the United States. NAR is working to ensure that your members are aware of these opportunities and equipped to successfully reach out to global and multicultural buyer groups in their areas.

With more than 1.2 million REALTORS® to serve, local boards have become our most effective conduits for member information and education. The latest international outreach tools are the global business councils, also known as international local councils or committees. Housed within local boards, these groups provide globally-themed programs, educational opportunities, and networking events for members wishing to engage global buyers at the local level. Usually overseen by a local association staff member and led by a committee of REALTOR® volunteers, global business councils offer a wide range of programs covering a variety of globally relevant topics.

The Denver Board of REALTORS®, for example, hosted a forum in March addressing how REALTORS® can help meet the increasingly environmentally conscious expectations of global buyers. The Seattle-King County Association of REALTORS®, which serves as the ambassador association to Japan’s top trade associations, is working with Japanese counterparts to organize an outbound trade mission to that country (see sidebar copy for more on this and other ambassador association relationships).

Building Blocks to Global Success

NAR stresses the notion that a strong global program must meet the specific needs of an informed membership base. A local association can achieve this by focusing on three building blocks essential for creating a successful council: awareness, collaboration, and service.

Awareness: Are your members aware that global and multicultural business opportunities exist in their local markets? Find out by conducting a membership survey. This survey can help you determine what percentage of members’ business comes from global sources, how many members speak a foreign language, how many members have actively marketed themselves to global or multicultural clients, and what barriers prevent members from successfully reaching out to global buyers.

This information can help your council focus on the development of the most effective and valuable programs for your members.

Collaboration: NAR encourages councils to collaborate not only with their counterparts at boards with similar goals, but also with various local organizations that can work in tandem with REALTORS® to contribute to the economic development of the community. Chambers of commerce—both cultural and economic—as well as local economic development offices are often valuable sources of information that can help councils discover the various cultural groups existing in their communities. Cultural and ethnic clubs, consulates, foreign language “meet-up” groups, and other culturally specific organizations can also be important partners in a board’s efforts to identify and reach out to global communities at the local level.

Service: Working with other local businesses and professional groups offers global business councils a means to expose their members to globally minded partners. Councils often act as community organizations that incorporate local immigration attorneys, mortgage brokers, and other local businesses that stand to benefit from REALTORS®’ engagement of global clients. Some councils, like those from the Denver Board of REALTORS® and the Orlando Regional REALTOR® Association, have found sponsorship within the local business community. But a council’s ability to serve its members can also hinge on the extent to which it collaborates with other associations and professional groups.

In an effort to encourage local boards to establish their own global business councils, NAR recently launched the Race to 100 campaign, the goal of which is to drive and assist in the creation of 100 councils by the end of 2011. Recognizing the challenge in doing it on your own, NAR is ready and willing to help jump-start this initiative within associations. As part of its new global business development program, NAR will help boards effectively grow their group and promote global business to their members. NAR’s comprehensive three-year plans are tailored to the goals of each local board and are a free benefit of NAR affiliation.

With dedicated association executives guiding active councils, the Race to 100 campaign is on its way to accomplishing this goal. For more information and resources, visit NAR Global’s Web site for association executives.

What is an Ambassador Association?

Similar to a “sister city” initiative, the Ambassador Association program links a foreign cooperating association with a U.S. state or local REALTOR® association. The ambassador association works closely with a president’s liaison and regional coordinator to expand global business opportunities.

Ambassador associations often collaborate with their foreign partner associations on events, trade missions, and initiatives in both countries to facilitate networking, referral opportunities, and overall awareness among its members.

To learn more about this, or to find other ambassador association relationships, visit http://www.REALTOR.org/global_alliances.