Asian immigrants represent growth opportunity for Realtors®
Kim Shindle
Aug 3, 2011
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The Asian population is one of the fastest growing demographics in the United States and many of those immigrants are extremely interested in owning their own homes, according to Kathy Tsao, national vice chair of the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA).

Kathy Tsao

“I think when people move to this country, they are attracted by the opportunities offered in the United States,” said Tsao. “We have a stable political and economic environment with readily-available mortgage products, such as fixed-rate loans. We often take our freedoms for granted. The American Dream of homeownership is on the top of many immigrants’ agendas.”

Many Asian immigrants are accustomed to high-density, multi-family communities where properties are very expensive. The price per square footage is much more affordable in the U.S., according to Tsao.

“The Asian population represents about 4 percent of the population nationally and it’s expected to double in the coming years. In the past 12 months ending in March 2011 based on a recent NAR survey, the total U.S Existing Home Sales was about $1.07 trillion.  Of these sales, $41 billion were by foreign clients and $41 billion were by immigrants, for a total of $82 billion which is up from $66 billion reported in 2010, ” Tsao said. This market presents a huge growth opportunity for real estate agents who understand how to work with Asian clients.

Tsao explains that it’s crucial to establish a relationship with Asian clients before doing business with them. A New York City Realtor®, Tsao emigrated with her parents from Taiwan as a teenager.

“I grew up in the United States, so my mentality is more westernized. I think we, as Americans, pride ourselves in being task-oriented and more direct,” she said. “In most Asian cultures, it’s important to be more subtle. It’s hard when you start a real estate transaction with someone you don’t know and you begin asking very personal questions like ‘how much money do you make?’

“Asian people believe trust is earned,” she explained. “So working with this market you need to learn to be patient and more understanding until they get to know you. I can’t stress how important it is to build a relationship.”

Once a relationship is established and a Realtor® has done business with an Asian client, the referral business will come. “A person may buy a property from you and then recommended his brother, sister, neighbor and/or someone from out of town, or even overseas,” Tsao said. “If you take the time to establish the relationship, they will be very loyal to you. But if you start off immediately asking them some of the pressing personal questions, you may initially scare them away.”

When it comes to financial information, it’s important to show the client that he is important. “You can ask them some questions about their family, make them feel welcome and show a genuine interest in them personally,” she said. “Find out if they need help in finding public transportation, hospitals or whatever their interests are. As you get to know them, you’re able to find out what is in their best interest. Sometimes I recommend that someone from overseas rent rather than buy for a year. I try to recognize that if it might not be the right time for them to buy.

“Even though you didn’t do a sale with them, you did the right thing and in a year they may be ready to purchase or they may introduce to you someone else who is ready to buy,” she added.

Tsao grew up in a diverse neighborhood which helped broaden her understanding and respect for different cultures and ethnicities. These experiences and this awareness aided her later on in life and allowed her real estate business to evolve to be more internationally focused as her clients referred her to people in their home countries.

Tsao earned NAR’s Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) designation about 10 years ago. She believes it has helped her become more culturally aware and has given her an edge over the competition. The transition of her business happened over several years and now a majority of her business is with international buyers, mainly in Asian countries.

“It’s important to educate ourselves when we’re working with international clients,” she said. “Many Asian countries have currency restrictions and unique financial and political aspects. Whether the client is in the U.S. or overseas, if you do a little research to understand more about their culture it will make doing business with them a lot easier.”