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Arielle Dupertuis, real estate agent at Sotheby’s International Realty — Los Feliz Brokerage; Rosemarie Deane, real estate associate at Sotheby’s International Realty — East Side Manhattan Brokerage; Daphne Lamsvelt-Pol, real estate agent at Sotheby’s International Realty — Greenwich Brokerage; and Randy Lombard, real estate associate at Sotheby’s International Realty — Downtown Manhattan Brokerage.
International moves are not uncommon for clients at the higher end of the real estate market. While they have the means and mobility to relocate around the world, they also understand the complexity of such a transition. That’s why they look to luxury real estate experts to help and advise them through the process.
What is the first thing you say to an international buyer to help them prepare for their move?
Randy Lombard: For clients moving to New York City, size is always the first thing on my mind. Apartments often have small storage units and limited closet space, so I tell my clients how important it is to edit their belongings. Over-shipping items abroad creates unnecessary expense and clutter. They often don’t realize that there are professional organizers who can help them.
Rosemary Deane: If a buyer moves into my area, the first thing I do is give them a detailed neighborhood survey, pre-qualify them financially to see what they can buy, and meet with them virtually or in person to find out. your wish list for your next home.
Arielle Dupertuis: As an expat from Switzerland, I can relate to what the client is experiencing. If you are moving to the US, my best advice always focuses on how things work differently here with regards to real estate transactions and the various steps involved.
Can you share some examples of the real estate processes you walk them through?
AD: I try to guide you through the steps I went through when I moved from Europe to the US. For example, credit scores are crucial here, while in Europe they are completely non-existent.
Daphne Lamsvelt Pol: Exactly. When a buyer moves to the US from abroad, the biggest challenge we face in trying to finance the purchase with a mortgage is that they don’t have a credit history. I advise you to talk to a financial advisor about the best way to build credit, as this is a system unknown to many foreigners.
AD: Beyond financing, buying a home in the US is also a very different process. Most of the time, one agent works with both the buyer and the seller in Europe, while in the US there are separate agents for most transactions. The pre-approval process is different here than in Europe, and the pace of a transaction is much faster. For buyers who have children, I also try to give a general introduction to the differences in school systems.
DL: Also, if you bring funds from abroad for a down payment, that money generally has to be in the US for a certain period of time before you can qualify for the mortgage.
DR: Sometimes they are working with a relocation expert attached to their company. If that’s the case, I contact the relocation agent and make sure I have all the relevant information. If the company will guarantee part of your housing costs, I request it in writing, since many of the employment contracts are complicated and urgent.
What about clients moving abroad? What unique challenges or considerations apply to them?
RL: One of my clients was a Swiss expat who asked me to sell her beautiful house in Manhattan before she moved back. The idea of an international move was pretty daunting, but I assured her that working with a certified mover would be very helpful as they would help coordinate all the work needed to make the move a success. With the help of an organizer, the apartment was spotless and sold quickly, while others remained on the market.
DL: It’s a good thing you sold before you moved in because many homeowners are still unsure if they’re ready to sell and often consider renting first. Although this may seem like an easy first step, once the house is occupied by tenants, trying to sell it later becomes much more complex. This can really hurt the sales process and result in a lower price. Also, if you do not receive the proceeds from the home sale while you are still in the US, there are tax implications if you are not a US citizen. Therefore, I always recommend that you discuss the process with your attorney ahead of time so that you are aware of all the technicalities.
DR: And not only lawyers. I recommend that you contact the Sotheby’s International Realty office where you are moving. I also provide them with local banking and mortgage contacts and direct them to relevant websites in the country they are moving to.
Do you often collaborate with colleagues abroad to coordinate international moves?
AD: Every time I travel back to Europe, I make a point to stop by the local Sotheby’s International Realty offices to introduce myself and speak with the agents. It’s all about who you know, and if I can help connect the dots for my clients, everyone wins. Nothing makes me happier than bringing people together across borders or oceans to facilitate a complex move or real estate transaction. In the end, it’s about helping people realize their dreams.