As real estate agents we all have our niches—something that sets us apart from others in the business. Sometimes it’s a neighborhood. Sometimes it’s a type of dwelling. Sometimes it’s a certain price-point. For me, my specialty, which I’ve polished over the past decade, is working with non-US citizens.
Because I work with foreign nationals a lot people seem to think I speak multiple languages. I don’t. But, I do speak real estate and corporate relocation, quite well. And I’ve noticed over the years that the majority of real estate agents don’t truly understand what an international corporate relocation encompasses, and they think its quick/easy money; so I’ve decided to pen the particulars of my most recent assignment, for them.
PRIOR TO US ARRIVAL
February 28, 2014
I receive an email from a corporate relocation firm, stating that a foreign assignee is moving to the area. I am given his contact information. I contact him, via email, within the hour to schedule a consultation call, to access his needs in order to implement a plan of action for his international move.
March 5, 2014
10:00 AM (EST) Consultation call deems that the “assignee” is moving with his wife and two children who do not speak English. Public Schools with successful ESL (English as Second Language) programs are desired and a thirty-minute commute to and from his office will be the metric used for neighborhoods. He is still waiting for his visa approval, but feels that he should be able to plan a home finding trip to the US mid- April. Additionally, since he does not have US credit we discuss loan options for purchasing a US residence and rental alternatives.
10:45 AM (EST) I follow-up with the relocation firm summarizing my call with the assignee.
March 6, 2014
Via email, I send neighborhood profiles and properties, within the 30 minute radius, to the assignee.
March 7, 2014
Assignee has requested information for one area in particular. I advise the assignee that I have spoken to his loan officer and due to the loan process for non-US citizens (and the translation of his documents) takes at least a month to two months for a pre-approval, so he needs to provide them with the necessary documentation, to kick-off the process, immediately.
March 8-24 2014
• I have multiple phone conversations, on his behalf, with the local schools. Gathering the paperwork that’s required for his children, based upon their ages, language needs, and immunizations, so that we can enroll his children quickly, once he arrives.
• I contact two major hospitals in the area, requesting a list of pediatricians who speak the assignee’s native language. Unfortunately, there are none. So, I contact an award-winning pediatric group in the area and speak with a doctor, gathering information for the assignee. Send obtained information to him via email.
• Contact the assignee’s relocation contact, mentioning that it would be helpful, if he was given a corporate apartment option in or near the desired school system for his children. (Per his relocation benefits he qualifies for 60 days of corporate housing, for a smooth transition in the US)
March 26, 2014
The tentative home-finding trip for April is delayed due to the arduous translation process for the pre-approval by his lender. In the meantime, I continue to send properties to him in the area, explaining that the area has limited inventory and properties have not been staying on the market for very long—and multiple offers on a single property are common, currently.
April 7, 2014
I receive flight and hotel schedule for the assignee. Even though we do not have a loan pre-approval, he will be flying with his family to the US a week prior to his official office start date, April 28. I clear my schedule for April 20-26, so that I am available to work with him and his family, exclusively.
April 17, 2014
Received loan approval!
HOME FINDING TRIP
DAY ONE April 21, 2014
I pick-up the assignee and his family at his hotel. I take them to Starbucks and we go over the properties that I’ve scheduled to show them for the day, and make a list of items, outside of purchasing a home, they need assistance with: US Bank accounts, local dentists, organic grocery stores (they are vegan/vegetarian), dance schools, soccer teams, Social Security applications, Drivers’ License(s), etc. Then we hit the road to find their new home! Due to his requirements and the climate of the real estate market in the area he’d like to live, I only have five properties to show them. They’d like me to find-out more information on one of the homes, as they’d like to make an offer.
Prior to taking them back to their hotel, I ask them if they’d like me to take them to a grocery store, to purchase a few items for the hotel. So, I take them to Whole Foods. While they are shopping, I contact the listing agent for the home they’d like to purchase, and I contact the admissions director for the local school(s), making an appointment for us the following morning.
DAY TWO April 22, 2014
I draft a purchase agreement for the desired property, printing three copies.
Pick-up the family and take them on a tour of the local community center and show them where the two schools are located for the children.
We meet with the board of education admissions director. She goes over all of the necessary paperwork and advises that the children cannot be enrolled in school without a local residence. I advise her that we will have an executed purchase agreement for a home within 24 hours (she doesn’t really believe me). I ask to be excused from the meeting, go outside to phone the listing agent for the home that the assignee and his family would like to purchase. I inform the agent of the offer price and terms, verbably. He offers to lend me his office for the signatures. I take him up on it, since his office is closer than mine!
Line by line, I go over the six page contract as well as the additional paperwork with the assignee. This takes a little longer than usual because English is not his primary language and I want to make sure he understands everything that he is about to sign. He signs, I provide him copies, and hand everything over to the listing agent. I inform the agent that I need to have an answer from the sellers by 7:00PM, as stated in our contract, or our offer would be withdrawn. (Due to the climate of the market, I did not want the agent to “shop” our offer, baiting others who might be interested in the same property, resulting in a bidding war).
So that the assignee, who is now my client, is not stressing over whether he and his family will “win” the property or not, I decide to show-off our vast city! I take them on a tour of our museums, cultural centers, and downtown Cleveland. Knowing they are vegetarian, I take them to lunch at TAZA, a Lebanese resturaunt, on West 6th, downtown. After lunch, I show-off East 4th, Sport Venues and Playhouse Square.
Prior to dropping them off at the hotel, I suggest that he should fill out all of the paperwork for the schools, just so that we are prepared for the next morning, in case we do have an executed purchase agreement. He agrees.
I receive a fully executed purchase agreement signed by all parties. I call my client at his hotel, to inform him of the news. He and his family are thrilled! I answer a few questions he has on the school applications, and we plan to meet the following morning to register his children for school in the USA.
DAY THREE April 23, 2014
Leave a voice message for the admissions director that the family is in contract for a home, and I am meeting them at 10:00am to take them to a notary to have the affidavits witnessed, and we’d like to stop-by afterwards, around 11am to register the children.
En-route to pick-up the family the admissions director calls me, stating that I just can’t say that we’d like to stop-by at 11:00am to register, as she has other appointments, and she doubts that we have completed all of the paperwork. I assure her that everything is completed. She responds, “Well, the only time I have available is 10:30am, and that doesn’t appear to work with your schedule.” I advise her that we can be there at 10:30. I’m a little pressed for time, now, and slightly embarrassed that I’m so “pushy.”
After having the documents notarized at a local bank, where my client will be able to open an account (without an address or social security number) later on, we head to the board of education. I pull into the parking lot there at 10:27AM and my client and his wife realize that they forgot the children’s birth certificates at the hotel. I inform the father, “That’s okay. You and the children go inside to register and your wife and I will head back to the hotel, pick-up the birth certificates, and come back in 15 minutes.” Just a little hiccup, right?
Once we are all united at the board of education, and the children are registered, I request to meet with the woman in charge of the ESL program. We meet with her and she relieves some of their nervousness. I then request that children have a tour of their schools prior to their first day, the following Monday, as it would help them prepare and not be so scared to start school, especially since they do not speak English. I am informed that there is one woman who coordinates the tours and I will have to contact her to set that up. I leave her a message and take the family back to their hotel.
• I hear back from the “school tour” director. She is not in the office all week, and feels that the kids will be just fine starting school on Monday without a tour. I politely disagree, explaining that it would relieve some of the children’s nervousness if they could just see their schools, etc, even if it is only for 15 minutes. She still states it cannot be done this week, and will call me back. (She doesn’t)
• I contact Social Security to see if my client has been cleared through TSA/Homeland Security, so that we can apply for his Social Security number on Friday (This involves an hour and a half of “on-holds”)
• I contact the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, obtaining specific requirements for my client and his wife to obtain a local drivers license. (Again, on-hold multiple times)
• Follow-up with the Home Inspector to confirm our appointment for the next morning at 9:00AM
• Draft three separate emails to client—with information for obtaining driver’s license, with the study book, Social Security documents needed, and a “reference sheet” for area points of interests—Museums, Dance Schools, Metro Parks, etc.
• Send an update to the relocation firm.
DAY FOUR April 24, 2014
Arrive at the Home Inspection, where my client informs me that he still doesn’t have a corporate apartment and he needs to be out of his hotel in 2 days. I inform him that I’ll make some calls, while he focuses on the Home Inspection.
Phone my contact with the Relocation Company, trying to cure the corporate apartment mix-up. In the meantime, I hear from the primary school, as they are trying to get in contact with my client (I was listed as their emergency contact for the children) about a concern they have, regarding a medical condition for children—and a new form needs to be completed. I mention that we will stop-by, in person after noon, to complete the form in person, and request a quick tour of the school. They agree and also coordinate such with the middle school. (I am very relieved that the children will now be able to visit the prospective schools prior to starting on Monday!).
Home inspection is running late, so I leave my client with the home inspector and owner of the subject property, and escort the children and their mother to the schools, acting as their American liaison, since they do not speak English.
• Client sets-up bank account
• School items are addressed
• Address car purchasing versus leasing
• Review items of concern in the Home Inspection Report
DAY FIVE April 25, 2014
• Still working-out a corporate housing location
• Escort Client to the Social Security Administration to apply for a Social Security Number
• While waiting at Social Security we complete the “Contingency Removal” document with the conditions.
• Drop-off the signed “Contingency Removal” to the listing agent’s office.
• Later that evening, I send all documentation to the lender, title company, and follow-up with all parties involved.
APRIL 28, 2014: Client starts his first day of work in the US and his children start school.
Finally, there’s still a distance to travel before my client and his family are completely settled-in in the US and have closed on their new home purchase. And I have omitted some details from above list, but I feel this is a good Cliff’s Notes version on becoming a corporate relocation agent. It’s an exciting niche, that’s for sure!