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Strategies for Selling a Foreign Property

Selling foreign property requires extra planning to ensure the process runs efficiently in the seller's absence. Most international real estate markets don't offer the multiple listing services that operate in the U.S. and Canada, which allow real estate agents to reach a large pool of buyers.

Therefore, sellers should choose the right real estate partners to sell their property on the foreign market. Industry experts offer the following suggestions for a smooth sale.

1. Become Familiar with Market Resources

Some international markets - such as Israel and Costa Rica - do have their own multiple listing services, though they tend to be less comprehensive than the U.S. and Canadian databases. Typically, these listings must be posted by an agent who will charge commission.

“Often the agents will have buying guides for local areas with tips on why to buy there.”

— Edward de Mallet Morgan, associate partner at Knight Frank

For-sale-by-owner websites, which generally charge a flat fee to list a property, also are prevalent online. These sites can attract buyers, but when individuals live far from the place they're selling, they will need to arrange for someone else to show the foreign property.

2. Find a Reputable Partner

Even without the benefit of a multiple listing service, it's helpful to work with a local real estate partner who can cultivate relationships with buyers, schedule property tours and help set a listing price.

In most foreign countries, there is no local professional organization for agents. "Almost anyone can move to a place like Belize or Honduras or Panama, hang out a shingle and sell real estate," says Dan Prescher, special projects editor for, who lives in Cotacachi, Ecuador.

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There are some exceptions in regions that cater to expatriates. Cotacachi, for example, has a Re/Max office, Prescher says. Where there is no professional group to vouch for an international real estate agent, those selling a home should talk to several people in the community to understand the reputations of individual agents.

A local agent may understand a region's attractions better than a buyer who lives in another country. "Often the agents will have buying guides for local areas with tips on why to buy there - because of the proximity to an airport, for example," says Edward de Mallet Morgan, associate partner at Knight Frank, a London-based global property consultant.

3. Take Advantage of Technology

Cecilia De Freitas, certified international realtor in Woodbridge, Ontario, who specializes in sales to foreign buyers and sellers, creates an online "virtual tour" of each home with large photos showing each room in flattering light.

De Freitas recently worked with a local agent in Costa Rica to market a house in that country to international buyers. Thanks to the Internet, she doesn't have to be on site to oversee the process.

"I do all the research for what Costa Rica has to offer, the homeowner sends me everything about the property, the realtor has their own website [in Costa Rica], and then I market it throughout North America," she says.

When an individual finds the right agent - and eventually the right home abroad - he or she can make a down payment and ongoing mortgage payments with the help of a trusted online foreign exchange service. Signing up for email market-rate alerts can alert buyers to preferred exchange rates, which can lower the cost of foreign homeownership. 

Live Cross Rates

USD 69.3440 1.3139 0.7857 53.2670 1.0000 0.8780
CAD 52.7470 1.0000 0.5978 40.5230 0.7604 0.6680
AUD 50.4280 0.9555 0.5715 38.7410 0.7268 0.6386
EUR 78.9250 1.4956 0.8945 60.6340 1.1377 1.0000
GBP 88.1960 1.6713 1.0000 67.7560 1.2713 1.1169

Example: 1USD = xx INR

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