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Find an International Real Estate Agent

When buying a foreign property, it's important to find a reliable partner who can navigate local customs and recommend desirable neighborhoods. Individuals who want to buy a home abroad can use these tips to locate a reputable international real estate agent.

1. Gather the Names of Local Agents

Buyers should try to compile a list of real estate agents based on referrals from expatriates and locals, says Dan Prescher, special projects editor for Prescher, an American who now lives in Cotacachi, Ecuador, says it's also important to ask about which real estate agents come with the highest recommendations.

If a buyer has trouble finding referrals in the target foreign country, he or she can always compile the initial list of real estate agents via an online search. Websites such as and list international houses for sale represented by real estate agents who often have specialized training in a foreign market.

Just like finding a new home, finding the right real estate agent is a matter of balancing logic and practicality with emotion and gut instinct.

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2. Pay Attention to Certifications and Experience

While word-of-mouth recommendations are a great starting point, buyers should take their research a step further by asking about agents' credentials. For example, the Association of International Property Professionals (AIPP), a London-based trade group, requires new members to have at least three years' experience in the international property market. "We also require references, preferably from a lawyer or accountant," says Dave Burgess, acting chief executive. It's always wise to ask for references who can attest to an agent's skills.

In addition to asking about certifications, Burgess recommends asking aboutlocal features including beaches, schools and transport to gauge agents' market-specific knowledge. Once a buyer has narrowed down the list of potential real estate agents, it's important to visit the top candidates in person.

3. Know What to Expect

It's important to understand that agent fees differ significantly among different countries. Likewise, it's important to ask the agent what to expect during the international payment process.

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Burgess recommends following tips from the AIPP 2013 consumer guide "How to Buy Overseas Property Safely," such as never viewing an agent as a substitute for independent legal and financial advice.

In addition, buyers may want to ask their agents about the best methods for sending international payments for their mortgages. For example, homebuyers can lower their costs by signing up for email market-rate alerts which alert them to preferred exchange rates through a trusted online foreign exchange provider. Buyers can also choose the delivery method - using electronic funds transfer (EFT) when value is the priority or wire transfer when speed is the most important factor.

Just like finding a new home, finding the right real estate agent is a matter of balancing logic and practicality with emotion and gut instinct. By taking the right steps up front, buyers can ensure a more enjoyable property search abroad

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