Building a Powerful Real Estate Business Beyond Borders

January 13, 2020

Keller Williams’ focus on expansion has propelled agents Jessica Ye and Lisa Joa’s homegrown international businesses to the next level.

From her office in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Jessica Ye has built a vast international business, helping foreign investors and overseas developers – mainly in Asia – accomplish their real estate goals. In the last 20 years, she’s sold nearly half a billion dollars’ worth of real estate.

Now, Ye has embarked on a major expansion by partnering up with two pros in the industry: Lisa Joa, an agent with Keller Williams in New York, and Jim Park, national chairman emeritus of the Asian Real Estate Association of America. Ye and Joa recently co-launched a new expansion team operation, Marquis International. Their business model is leading to phenomenal success.

“Our model is to focus on real estate investments and development opportunities with an emphasis on working with high-net-worth individuals from Asia who want to buy a second luxury home in the U.S., or invest their money in the U.S. real estate market,” says Ye, who founded Keller Williams Realty Cambridge in 2006.

Ye, Joa, and Park have also built relationships with large real estate development companies in Asia to help them find projects to develop in the United States. Joa says it’s having the same mission and similar values that’s made the partnership work.

Now, working together to grow their international business, Ye and Joa have created a successful system to help their international clients – many of whom they’ve never met in person – identify, buy, and develop properties.

Ye and Joa point to the following five tips for agents interested in building a successful international business from home:

1) Develop your network. Without the strength of the Keller Williams network, Ye and Joa may never have met. Ye’s team leader introduced them during a networking dinner at Family Reunion. An agent’s network is important, Ye says, and especially when working with clients from Asia, because relationships and trust are key to earning business. Ye makes multiple trips to Asia each year to build new – and nurture existing – relationships. It’s also important to stay in touch in between trips, she says. She uses WeChat and social media to continue to build her brand.

2) Find a niche. A niche sets an agent apart from other agents. Focusing on a specific segment of the market is an important part of an agent’s business strategy, Ye and Joa say. Ye, who speaks and writes fluently in Chinese and has experience in real estate investing, chose to focus on international clients eight years ago when she noticed more and more international buyers coming into the Boston market to invest in real estate, and particularly from China. To find your own niche, write down your strengths, unique skills, and current market trends and opportunities. Then, identify your ideal customer and the market segment you want to focus on based on your list.

3) Perfect your models/systems. Streamlined systems and solid data are essential when it comes to clients you may never meet in person. Key for Ye and Joa is arming their international clients with the essential statistics and helping to educate them on different neighborhoods and their various pros and cons. Having high-quality online pictures and videos is also essential, they share.

4) Know your clientele. Take the time to understand your clients’ needs. Why is your clientele interested in real estate in the U.S.? What needs do they have? For Ye and Joa, a significant number of their clients want to buy properties their children can live in while attending college in the States. “It’s a whole new country for them, and they need someone to help guide them to safe, fun neighborhoods for their kids to live in,” Joa says.

5) Be flexible. Working with often busy, high-net-worth clients overseas means agents building an international business may not always be working traditional hours. One recent client of Joa’s, for example, from Beijing, never saw the $2 million property they closed on. After the purchase, Joa helped direct her client to the right resources so they could find a trustworthy renter for the property.

“We can expand so much quicker following the KW models,” says Ye. “It’s been a very successful model for us. This model can work in any city, and we’re looking to expand it.” For Ye and Joa, possible locations for future expansion include California and Seattle.

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