What Makes an Asian Client a Repeat Client?

Elizabeth Wilson
September 27, 2013

Trust-building relationships with Asian clients

As of 2012, Asia had 3,680,000 millionaires, and somewhere between 25,000 and 44,500 super-rich, with fortunes of $30 million or more.

Video: Luxury Real Estate Regional/Asian Market Trends

That kind of money moves across borders to wherever the good life is. Vancouver offers stunning beauty, pollution-free air and water, stable government and good schools. And the Vancouver brand carries a lot of cachet in Asia. So Vancouver is a magnet for Asian immigrants and investors.

If you're a local agent or developer, how do you get in on that action?

Local and international speakers addressed that very question in the recent Asian Real Estate Association of America Vancouver (AREAA)Summit. And one theme came up time and time again:


Here are some expert insights on how to build a trusting relationship with Asian clients.

Patrick Prinster, Founder, Dominion Grand Development Group

"My experience in going to China five years ago is that trust is the main factor. It took us two years to do our first deal in China. For many days and months there was frustration, there was lots of money spent, there was lots of time wasted because we were culturally ignorant and were not prepared for the challenges ahead of us in trying to access Mainland Chinese capital to bring to Canada."

Kevin Wong, Vice-President, Deloitte, Vancouver

"You have to make sure that they are able to trust you. And it's not necessarily just the ordinary definition of trust that we have. You're an agent you have your fiduciary duty etc.

"But trust with an Asian investor, especially a Chinese investoryou're really looking at being an expert: they can trust you, they can trust the information that you provide, they can trust you in your expertise, and they can trust you to be there when they have any questions."

John Geha, President, Coldwell Banker Canada

"You have to know the economy here, so that you can address your clients when they read an article that has a headline. You need to educate yourself so that you can educate your client and address their fears with knowledge at your fingertips."

Patrick Prinster, Founder, Dominion Grand Development Group

"You must demonstrate expertise. The Chinese are very unforgiving. If you give a fact that's incorrect, if you change a deal partway through you've lost the deal. Or in order to rescue the deal it takes a huge amount of time. So you must be credible, and the deal you present must be clear, it must be transparent, it must be verifiable through third-party verification approaches."

Kevin Wong, Vice-President, Deloitte, Vancouver

"And if you think about all the stories we hear about counterfeit items in Chinaa lot of pirated goods, etc.they come from a market where you don't know if something's true or not. So you have to establish that rapport from the first, so they know the information you're presenting them is accurate, it's true and it's not fraudulent."

Tina Mak P.R.E.C., President, AREAA Vancouver

"Trust is the main issue from Asians coming over to this part of the world. We need to let them know that we're really professional, because there's no professionalism in that part of the world. We need to let them realize that there are standards here. We have rules and regulations."

Georges Pahud, Chair, International Consortium of Real Estate Associations

"In BC we are blessed. We have best system anywhere in the world. I have traveled in Asia, South America, Europe and the United States. We have it better. We have so much information that is provided by the local real estate boards, by the provincial association and the Canadian Real Estate Association. There's so much data, you can appear to be professional, have so much knowledge, you can give so much information to your clients.

"We have virtually no corruption here. Other countries are different. So the cultural shift is when people come from abroad and they come to you, well of course they're not going to trust you because where they live they don't have this level of professionalism. They don't have this level of information. We have to get used to that so we have to demonstrate to them all that we do."

Sandra Wyant, President, Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver

"You have to respect that the experience of your international buyer can be so different from what you're used to.

"I've had the experience of having international clients come to city hall with me. Oh my goodness. They asked 'What do you mean we're going in to City Hall and asking questions and getting this information? You didn't pay them anything!' That's happened to me with three different clients, all from either Hong Kong or Shanghai. They were just really surprised."

Patrick Prinster, Founder, Dominion Grand Development Group

"As part of this whole process, you must develop cultural fluency. I don't speak Chinese, unfortunately, but you must be aware of customs, traditions and expectations. If you truly are willing to make this commitment, you will be successful. You have to be patient and you have to be understanding, but if you make the commitment it will work."

Sandra Wyant, President, Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver

"I learned a cultural lesson very early. I was very young in the business. I met these wonderful clients from China, wrote an offer, got it accepted on the very first go, brought it back to them and they said, 'Oh no no no no. We've got to negotiate.'"

Kelly Deck, Interior Designer, Founder, Kelly Deck Design

"When you're taking care of offshore clients, the thing that they're very concerned about is protection. They're worried about being taken advantage of. So I feel that one of my jobs is to be a custodian of their asset and to accrue people who have the same values as I do. All of the commissions in my company are completely transparent and standardized, and we submit all of our invoices for auditing. That way the client feels that nothing is ever being held back from them and that no one is benefiting from them not being present.

"Our opportunity and our responsibility as professionals working with offshore clients is to consolidate communication, provide the right information, and always come to the client with solutions so they feel that things are moving forward in a very efficient way, even when they're not."

Kevin Wong, Vice-President, Deloitte, Vancouver

"Real estate is an asset class many Asians prefer to have. In terms of risk and risk tolerance, being a foreigner coming to the country, you need to understand how the marketplace functions. So real estate is one thing that they prefer because they know it's tangible, it's something you can look at, it's there all the time, unlike China where you don't actually own the land."

Sherry Chris, CEO & President, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate

"With the individuals coming over and buying real estate, it's all about cash. They believe and feel as cash buyers that they can make a better deal. With our agents who are dealing with Chinese or Asian buyers, we instruct them to make sure that the money is in place beforehand. You go through the whole process of selling a high-end property and then suddenly it can't close [ because they can't get the money out of the country], and that is a problem.

"And they're buying for long-term investment. They're buying to send their children over for an education. And buying property in the major metropolitan areas such as Manhattan, San Francisco, LA, Toronto, Vancouver those are long-term holds."

Kyle Dunn, CEO & President, Meyler Capital

"I think access to branded product [is important]. Branding can be the nature of the city. It's hard to push an Asian person outside of this local market because Kamloops isn't cool... Kamloops is cool to me, but not to them."

Patrick Prinster, Founder, Dominion Grand Development Group

"In breaking down trust into manageable parts, the first and most obvious thing is the concept of brand. We all anecdotally hear stories about the Chinese buying designer goods it's an issue in their mind of brand. For those of us who do not have a brand, we have to access other ways to get to these potential investors.

"Our experience has beenafter making many mistakesthe best way is to align yourself with a trusted local partner. It can be a formal partner, or an informal partner in the sense of someone you know and trust yourself who is connected there and who has contacts that they can refer you to."

Georges Pahud, Chair, International Consortium of Real Estate Associations

"You need to know somebody. And that's why you need to network. That's why you need to know people across the country, because high-net-worth individuals don't own one house or two, they own five or six or seven in different countries. So somebody might be buying a house in Toronto and say, 'You know, I wouldn't mind getting a little pad in Vancouver; I hear it's great.' Well their agent can say, 'Hey, I know somebody there. You've gotta talk to them.'"

Philip Soper, President & CEO, Royal LePage and Brookfield Real Estate Services Inc.

"At the beginning of this year we did a piece of research in Canada in which we looked to buyers of real estate and asked them what they were looking for in terms of advice and counsel. We were very interested in two specific ethnic groups: East Asians and South Asians, the two biggest immigration cohorts in Canada. And we wondered if they were looking for something different in real estate services from Canadian-born real estate buyers.

"And much to our surprise, there were no differences.

"We don't have to re-invent the wheel. If you know how to address the needs of real estate consumers, you don't have to get hung up on changing your whole focus and approach. That said, it's very important for a real estate company to have management, leadership and front-line salespeople reflect the consumers that they're selling to."

Patrick Prinster, Founder, Dominion Grand Development Group

"Another critical item is that Chinese people want to do business with their friends. You must expect that you have to take the time and you have to feel in your heart a willingness to access yourself to these people. Once you achieve that type of relationship with an investor, then you become a friend on all levels. That investor will ask you about buying a house in Vancouver, educating his children, the Canadian medical system, the best wine to buy from the Okanagan all of these types of things. And it's a friendship that you develop. Andnot that this is unique to the Chineseif the friendship is insincere it will be felt immediately as well.

Kelly Deck, Interior Designer, Founder, Kelly Deck Design

"I think that stereotypes are just blind spots. I think they're ways of putting people in boxes and not understanding that every client has needs, every client has sensitivities, and there are obviously cultural barriers. But I have worked with clients from the Philippines, Hong Kong, China, India, the Middle East and Europe, and I think when you start treating a client as a stereotype rather than a person, you miss an opportunity to really exceed their expectations and endear yourself to them as a human being."

LuxuryHomes.com and the Asian Real Estate Association of America conference in Vancouve

Elizabeth Wilson
As content editor, Elizabeth spends every day immersed in real estate news and opinion so she can deliver fresh, relevant articles to REW.ca’s visitors. She comes from a varied background in Internet marketing, book publishing, multimedia writing and radio, but what prepared her best for this position is her experience as a renter, seller and buyer in the Vancouver real estate market.