From Brazil to Mongolia - Women's Council Covers the Globe!
Brazil is not a typical target for community outreach in a local Women’s Council Network, but that’s exactly what happened when Lori Howard responded to an announcement about an upcoming Council trip to Brazil in 2016.
At that time, Lori was doing community outreach for her local Network in Texas and was the self-described “wallflower in the room.” When she read about the Women’s Council travelling to Rio de Janeiro to participate in the first-ever International Real Estate Women’s Conference (Encontro), she thought it was time to experience something new. Lori picked up the phone to ask if “anyone could go,” and quickly found herself joining a group of 15 members and speaking on a panel.
“I was just one step ahead of my audience, but I was a great example of someone who saw an opportunity and went for it,” says Lori. “I told the audience, ‘No fear, no excuse, just do it!’” The response was tremendous. Lori returned to Texas, energized to apply her new-found confidence to leadership opportunities within the Council. Council leaders took note and she is now president-elect for her local Network and, as Lori says, “learning from the top down.”
Global real estate activity is happening everywhere — from Brazil to Mongolia (see sidebar) — largely through referrals. The Women’s Council of REALTORS® is moving further into the international arena to enable members to more easily participate in the global marketplace while simultaneously serving as a model for the role of women in real estate.
Modeling Best Practices
The 2016 invitation to travel to Brazil provided an opportunity to share information about how the Women’s Council is organized, how local Networks are formed, what information is provided to members and more. “We want to empower others to do what we do, but in a way that is right for them,” says Women’s Council President Sherri Souza. There are many industry groups around the world, but an entire organization dedicated to the advancement of women as leaders is unique.
“The Brazilians are very much like us,” says Sherri. “We share the same thoughts and concerns about women in business. We know we need to level the playing field and be at the table for important decisions.”
After the success of the 2016 Encontro, plans were made to make it an annual event. A group of Council members (including Lori and Sherri) returned to Brazil last month to continue the good will and networking. “The connections are important,” says Sherri. “Attending the first event put us on their radar screen to have a conversation. By attending the second event, we confirmed our interest in keeping the conversation going.”
The Council’s efforts are paying off. Lori reports that one Brazilian agent she met was motivated by the experience to move from being an agent in a male dominated office, to become a broker, hiring many women agents. Some of the women from the conference plan to travel to Chicago in November where they are excited to meet up with their counterparts from the Women’s Council and learn more about leadership roles.
Bottom Line Benefits
While the Council’s altruistic commitment to sharing best practices globally is important, there can be a real bottom line benefit for members. Lori has expanded her global focus to include Costa Rica where U.S. clients look to her to be their on-the-ground eyes and represent their interests in the purchase of second homes. She stresses the importance of working with local agents who know the local laws and practices.
Since the 2016 trip to Rio, Lori has developed about two dozen international contacts who want a reliable professional in the U.S. to refer their clients. Of these contacts, Lori says, “These women have cash-paying clients. While they can’t see our MLS, they can see listings on my website. Through What’s App, I answer questions and share info about properties in my area and refer them to other Council members for properties elsewhere in Texas and beyond.”
This is exactly what Sherri hoped for in supporting the outreach. “We want to open the door for our members to participate in global deals — whether directly through events such as those in Brazil, or through referrals that come from members like Lori. I was very happy to be in Brazil and to build relationships that I hope will benefit our members as well as women real estate professionals in Brazil.”
Tips for working in the global market
While agents around the world share many of the same interests and concerns, the way real estate is transacted can differ greatly by country. Consider these basic tips before diving into the global market.
Pick an area of focus. As in the U.S., you can’t be effective everywhere. Choose a market where you have a connection, a specific interest, language skills, a love for the culture, etc.
Explore global opportunities at home. There is a tremendous amount of in-bound business across the U.S. Check your local business chamber or the Internet for international organizations that might help you develop a global business niche. Check out NAR’s Profile of International Home Buying Activity and state-by-state international business reports.
Educate yourself. Once you’ve identified a market, plan a trip to learn first-hand how real estate is transacted. Look for an international or national industry event — particularly one associated with a professional organization. NAR has agreements with some 80 associations worldwide. Note that in some countries, you must be licensed in that country to transact a sale.
Develop relationships. Relationships are an essential aspect of global business, but don’t expect those relationships to pay off overnight. Global business requires an investment of time, but it can be extremely rewarding — personally and professionally.
Leverage local contacts. Some of the most accessible international business opportunities may be right in your backyard. After returning from Brazil, Lori attended a REALTOR® association sponsored meet-up at the Emporio Brazilian Café, where the owner was also a REALTOR®. Although they work for competing franchises, the two have crossed company “borders” to combine their talents and cooperate for residential and commercial cross-border referrals.
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