The Real Deal New York

Wooing buyers from overseas

New developments target foreigners in their own languages

June 02, 2008
By Lauren Elkies

New developments that court foreign buyers are more aggressively tailoring marketing materials and presentations to those buyers’ needs.

Sales offices are translating marketing materials and Web site content into multiple languages, hiring staff fluent in more than one foreign language and providing sensitivity training to brokers to avoid offending overseas buyers.

For buyers who do not speak English as a first language, the Platinum condo has translated marketing materials into Spanish, Italian, French, Korean and Japanese for distribution and Web site posting, said Marketing Directors’ Carolyn Sebba, director of sales at the project at 247 West 46th Street. In addition, there is one broker who speaks Spanish and another who is fluent in French. That was not why they were hired, Sebba said, but “it’s coming in very handy.”

Marketing Directors also uses etiquette memos to help agents learn about working with buyers from other countries.

The memos “educate us on various cultural do’s and don’ts so we don’t offend anyone,” Sebba said.

American Properties Realty is among those targeting the Asian market. It recently launched a virtual tour in Korean for its Bellaire development in Demarest, N.J. Tarragon Corp., a developer, is devoting advertising dollars to Asian publications. Tarragon has brokers who are fluent in Korean on staff at two New Jersey developments: Trio in Palisades Park and One Hudson Park in Edgewater.

David Perry, director of sales for developer the Clarett Group, said that hiring multilingual agents has garnered business “because people are more comfortable hearing an explanation in their own language.”

Clifford Finn, director of new development marketing at Citi Habitats, said that while he has bilingual agents working at many sites and will sometimes have floor plan dimensions converted into the metric system, such measures do not necessarily increase sales.

What does increase sales, however, is “advertising in foreign marketplaces,” Finn said, which he does.

Running an international marketing company, Rodrigo Niño knows how to cater to foreign buyers — through foreign brokers. The president of Prodigy International, which is exclusively marketing Trump Soho Hotel Condominium and co-exclusively marketing the William Beaver House, educates international brokers on their home turf, brings them to the project site and sends them home to work with local buyers.

Since there is a contingent of New York City buyers who do not speak English, he has marketing materials translated into many different languages and a staff speaking 11 or 12 different languages.

“There is an incredible amount of sophisticated buyers from Spain that don’t speak a word of English. Same thing happens with Italy and France,” said Niño, who planned to move his headquarters to New York City from Miami by this month.

Patricia Cliff, senior vice president and director of European sales at the Corcoran Group, has found such efforts unnecessary. Her buyers, on the high end of the spectrum, are generally conversant in English.

Earlier this year, she wrote a guide to buying New York real estate for international buyers, albeit in English. Besides that, she only caters to foreign-language buyers by translating square feet to meters, but she doesn’t do that very often.

The bottom line is, she said, “I haven’t found anyone doing handstands to accommodate foreign buyers.”

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