Local Global Council Established for Guidance to International Real Estate Clientele

Submitted: Baldwin County Association of Realtors

Foreign buyers continue to see the U.S. real estate market as a secure and safe investment as Realtors® are experiencing an increase in the number of international clients over the past five years, according to a report from the National Association of Realtors®. In Alabama, the southwest region in particular, is seeing an influx of both residential and commercial sales from outside the U.S. due to international companies landing close by.

"Alabama has been a strong player in the international commercial arena for some time now,” said Frank Malone, broker of Bellator Real Estate and Development in Gulf Shores, and chair of the Baldwin County Association of Realtors’® (BCAR) Gulf Coast Global Council.

The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) 2018 Commercial Real Estate International Business Trends report analyzed cross-border commercial real estate transactions made by Realtors®during 2017.

Of the 59 percent of Realtors® who indicated they completed a commercial real estate transaction last year, 18 percent reported closing a deal for an international client. Realtors®have the expertise and knowledge of working with clients from different countries and real estate practices, so international buyers using a Realtor®can rely on their global market perspective.    

While many Realtors® deal with the commercial aspect of buying or selling for an international client, our county seems to see more of residential sales and investment properties.

With the large companies such as Austal and Airbus making south Alabama home, Baldwin County has seen some residual effects from global commercial suppliers.

"And with this global investment also comes international buyers for residential properties,” Malone explained. "As the many global companies move to Alabama, the employees soon learn of the vacation properties in Baldwin County, and we have seen an increase in these investors.”

The NAR study found that most Realtors® who specialize in commercial real estate reside in smaller commercial markets where the typical deal is less than $2.5 million. Foreign investors are attracted to smaller-sized properties in secondary and tertiary markets, helping the profile of smaller commercial markets grow.  Also, 70 percent of Realtors®reported that international clients view U.S. prices to be about the same or less expensive than prices in their home country.    

The top countries of origin for buyers were China (20 percent), Mexico (11 percent), Canada (8 percent) and the United Kingdom (6 percent). While sellers were typically from Mexico (20 percent), China (15 percent), and Brazil and Israel (both at 10 percent).

Florida and Texas were the top two states where foreigners purchased and sold commercial property last year, with California being the third most popular buyer and seller destination.

Foreign buyers of commercial property typically bring more cash to the table than those purchasing residential real estate. Seventy percent of international transactions were closed with cash, while NAR's 2017 residential survey found that half of buyers paid in cash.

When international buyers come to the U.S., there’s not a set place to look for local resources or someone to assist with a foreign transaction. This is where BCAR’s Gulf Coast Global Council (GCGC) comes into play.

The mission of GCGC is to not only be the liaison for the international community and those who can serve them, but to also compile a list of resources (attorneys, title companies, local groups, etc.) to give to foreign nationals that can assist them with the purchasing process, becoming acquainted with the area, and more.

According to a survey sent to BCAR members in June, 38 percent of members who responded had an international transaction in the last five years. Over 20 countries were represented in those transactions.

BCAR’s global council hopes to continue to gain momentum and become a primary resource for those not only buying or selling property, but for any foreign nationals that already live in the U.S. The group is starting to build a database for professionals in the fields that work with foreign nationals, or those who may want to buy or sell internationally.

This is the first step of many to position Baldwin County as a place to invest and live for our international businesses.

For more information regarding the Gulf Coast Global Council, email allison@baldwinrealtors.org.

About BCAR

The Baldwin County Association of REALTORS® (BCAR) is a professional trade association supporting the success and advancement of over 2,000 REALTORS®® in the Baldwin County area. BCAR supports members through professional education, peer networking, and MLS services. We work for the protection of private property ownership and promote the work of our members in the local community. REALTORS® are held to a high standard of conduct by their peers and the National Association of REALTORS® code of ethics.

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