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Selling foreign properties using referrals

publication date: Aug 22, 2008
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cyprusIt must be an easy life, selling villas in the sun. What you do is you get yourself a little apartment (to start with) boasting a direct sea view, advertise a development or two on your website, get a table for the balcony, a lead for your laptop and put in a bit of sunbathing while you wait for the phone to ring. Bingo, up come the buyers, blown away by the lovely weather and the price of property compared to the UK; you take them for a quick look around a couple of places and they choose the most expensive one. By nightfall they’re happy and you have a nice fat commission in your pocket. 

Well its not quite like that. We have all read – and some of us have written – about selling homes in the sun. A new income stream; a new challenge, a chance to travel and earn money. But what is often missing is the mechanism to actually make the dream come true. It is a very big deal to set up an agency and sell homes abroad – if you want to do it properly. 

There are languages to learn, premises to find, marketing, advertising, promotion, staffing. Then there is the really hard bit, finding developers to work with, legal advisers that you can trust, lenders, translation and foreign exchange services. 

In some countries (including Portugal) you even need a licence to operate – and they are not easy to come by; in fact very difficult to come by if you don’t speak the language – requiring a three month course and a very tough exam in Portuguese! How is your Portuguese? 

OK, so now you are discouraged. Its all too much trouble, there are too many pitfalls. 

But there is another way...
What if another professional agency did all that hard work and all you had to do was tell your clients that you worked with experts in that particular corner of the world? That would be simpler. You could carry on with your normal duties and just collect the commissions when they have done all the work. Too good to be true? No. 

Referrals. 
Not a new concept in estate agency but certainly more developed in other parts of the world than it is here. Many agents don’t quite believe it can be possible to simply introduce a potential client and then (provided, of course, that a purchase is completed) bank a cheque for several thousand pounds; they fight shy of the opportunity thinking there has to be something wrong, that it is just too easy. 

But when you look at it logically, these agents work with lots of developers who all want to sell their properties. They are outside the UK and do not have the access to the people on your lists. They can advertise but many buyers are nervous about going direct to people they do not know. If their local estate agent has connections they may well be more comfortable. 

It is easy to put up a small window display; its simple to add a line in your printed advertising “We are also able to help you buy property in Portugal”, a small section on your website “Contact us for details of first class properties in Cyprus”. If you have a window display with a monitor how simple is it to add a few frames about your overseas connections? 

With just a couple of introductions a month you could be making a huge difference to your profitability – with very little effort. 

So how do you find such an agency? 
NAEA members Trevor Brewer and Craig Vile of Carnival Investment Properties went down the rocky path to establishing an international agency. With a financial services background, Trevor first tiptoed into the unpredictable waters of overseas property when several of his clients; depressed with returns on stocks and shares, shrinking pensions and low yields on other investments asked him what else they could do with their money. 

What started as an associated service quickly grew and three years ago Trevor and Craig made the break and now concentrate solely on overseas property sales, specialising in Portugal and Cyprus. While Spanish property prices are taking a dramatic dive Portuguese and Cypriot sales are holding up very well with strong interest but affordable prices.

 Trevor said: “There is a tendency to think about Spain and Portugal’s property markets in the same sentence but this is a massive injustice to Portugal. Planning, building and selling regulations are all very, very tight in Portugal. 

Capital growth of 10% per annum is still being enjoyed in some areas and rental yield is high all year round as the holidaymakers come from June to September and the golfers flock to the amazing golf courses from September to May!” While Trevor and Craig are based in the UK and make regular visits to Portugal and Cyprus, Touchelle Smyth, Sales Director for Carnival Portugal, is based in the Algarve and works with developers, agencies and Carnival clients every day. 
In Cyprus the market is slightly different,there are many areas of the island that offer excellent investment opportunities, some of which are much less developed than Portugal’s Algarve. The entry level for properties here is still very low - €62,000 – less than £50,000 – will buy a studio in a small village near Coral Bay. A townhouse can be had for €152,000 and detached villas from about €200,000. 

With their strong financial services background Carnival Properties provide all the help their clients need to arrange the best mortgages (where needed),the best and safest foreign exchange facilities and even finance for plots and self build.

Their connections across their two countries of specialism are impeccable, with almost every good developer offering their properties through Carnival and strong local relationships with legal professionals. 

So how does it work for UK estate agents? 
Carnival currently works with 150 introducers and would like to do even more with fellow NAEA members across the UK. The introducing agent tells his clients that he can help them buy in Portugal or Cyprus. 
When someone is interested and happy to be referred, the introducer registers the client with Carnival. Carnival take the client through the what, where, when discussions, arrange an inspection visit, look after the client’s needs and, hopefully, secure the purchase. 

During this process Carnival give regular updates to the introducer who has no more to do, other than bank the commission cheque when it arrives. Commission percentages vary depending on the country, the builder and the development so Carnival make this simple as well; the introducing agent will receive 25% of the commission received by Carnival. “Working with fellow NAEA members is great for us and great for them. We understand each other and the system really works,” says Trevor. trevor brewer

For further information visit the Carnival Properties website: 
Or call Trevor Brewer on 01342 719710 / 11 / 13 
Email: enquiries@carnivalproperties.co.uk