Are you missing the boat on outbound international sales?

How many times has a friend or an existing client told you they just bought property outside of Canada? According to the 2015 Profile of Home Buying by International Clients study from the National Association REALTORS® (NAR), Canadians spent $11.2 billion on U.S. properties alone during the last year. We’re talking just the U.S.; this figure doesn’t include Mexico, Costa Rica, or other countries.

Despite the fact we all seem to know someone who has purchased real estate down south or overseas, according to CREA’s Membership Survey, only 10 per cent of members have participated in an outbound international transaction. What is even more startling is that 71 per cent from this group did not receive a referral fee or commission.

It would appear that REALTORS® in Canada are leaving significant money on the table. This presents a huge opportunity for you. Here are eight tips to help you get started:

  1. Get educated. A couple options to consider:
    1. The NAR’s Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) designation provides the knowledge, research, and tools to help globalize your business. The designation can be completed online, in classroom, or a combination of both. Once designated, it also connects you with a network of over 2,800 CIPS designees in 47 countries to help collaborate globally.
    2. The Transnational Referral Certification course (TRC) was designed to help increase international business opportunities for brokers and agents interested in making and receiving referrals for foreign buyers and sellers and takes about half a day to complete online.
  1. Leverage your existing network. If you work for a franchise, you might already have an internal global network and referral process set-up. If so, get familiar with it.
  2. Tap into other networks. Beyond the CIPS designees’ network, the Asian Real Estate Association of America (which now has Vancouver and GTA chapters),, and FIABCI are a few examples of organizations providing referral networks.
  3. Ask. If you are part of the already-active 10 per cent, tip #1 is to ask. Before you make a referral to a foreign broker or agent, ask what the referral fee will be. You’d be surprised by how many expect to pay a referral fee but are not asked to.
  4. Set-up a referral contract. CREA’s WEBForms® provides two options:
    1. The NAR’s Referral Contract Form can be used when collaborating with a U.S. REALTOR®; and
    2. The Transnational Referral Contract can be used when making referrals to agents from countries that are members of the International Consortium of Real Estate Association (ICREA), including the U.K., France, and India.
  1. Tell. If you want to become active with outbound international, tell your existing and potential clients that you can help with the first few steps.
  2. Take care of your REALTOR® profile. Canadian buyers and foreign agents can search for a REALTOR® based on languages spoken, specialties, and designations. Also, don’t forget to include your website, email, phone number, and links to your social media profiles. These best practices also apply to your other profile pages, from your broker’s website to your Facebook Page.
  3. Understand markets of interest to your Canadian client(s). ICREA’s is one resource that provides overview profiles on countries’ economic and market conditions, purchasing and financing details as well as business and industry information.

There are significant opportunities for REALTORS® to enhance and diversify income through international real estate sales. Are you taking advantage of them already? Share with us in the Comment section below!


Patrick Pichette, Vice-President,, is responsible for the development and growth of Canada’s leading real estate website, and other technology services that help REALTORS® in Canada and their businesses. As the head of the Product Management and IT Services departments, he is constantly evaluating the latest technology trends. Patrick is also the staff liaison on CREA’s Technology Committee. Prior to joining CREA, he held marketing and product management leadership positions with MD Physician Services (a subsidiary of the Canadian Medical Association) and the Canadian Tourism Commission. When not at work, Patrick can be found at a local rink or baseball diamond coaching his favourite sports.

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