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Success in the real estate business was dominated by local concerns: e.g. knowing the preferences of local consumers, local regulations, or the best skilled workers locally.  Increasingly, people are recognizing that the world is very big with many opportunities, both discovered and yet-to-be-discovered.  This pair of postings will consider how internationalized might change real estate markets, from a residential and a non-residential perspective.

Let’s start outside of Canada to demonstrate some surprises.  In China, some neighbourhoods copy famous places outside of China.  For international visitors looking to buy, some real estate agents here organize bus tours.  I think that the most interesting bit of this video is the questions being asked.

More locally, media reports worry about “too many” foreigners buying up local real estate.  As I see it, these worries mix two issues: tax evasion and an us vs. them mentality (where us is always better than them, as if “us” or “them” were a single type).  Mixing issues is always bad for logic.  Bad logic and ignorance is a common cause of stereotyping, and leads to bad solutions.

The real estate business in Canada is becoming more international because Canada is a nation of immigrants, with immigrants from different countries arriving in different decades.  While it may not be obvious in some of the smaller towns, you could learn a lot by listening to the variety of languages spoken on the busses and subways of the Toronto Transit Commission (when the people are not plugged into their electronics).  It is also true that immigrants are improving the quality of Chinese or Lebanese or Indian food compared to previous decades.  And immigrants need to learn about peculiarities that the “average” Canadian takes for granted.

Research shows that new immigrants tend to rent their home when the first arrive.  Over time, they want to own, but their tastes differ from the “average”.  With that in mind, attending trade shows is interesting because of the many suppliers located in other countries who are showing their wares here.  In a couple of years, I can foresee that these suppliers will know enough about Canada and there will be enough immigrants from their country living in Canada that they can start working directly with the final consumer.

The challenge when learning, since that is our business, is that recognizing languages and learning about the food preferences of others represents a very superficial kind of understanding.  We encourage our students to travel abroad for a semester, to live in a different culture; it can be a challenge since the main benefit of such a trip (and all forms of real learning) is not the things you expect to see but things which you never even considered.

International students who study here experience a similar problem.  It takes a certain personality to be willing to leave home when 18 or 20 years old, to travel to some place far away which they may have only seen on a website or heard about from cousins, to be self-conscious about the mistakes that you think that you are making every time you speak, and to excel.  By the time that they graduate, they have the knowledge of their home country and the skills plus contact information locally.  If you have not visited a university recently, you may be surprised at the numbers of first and second generation immigrants in the classes.

Smart businesses are constantly learning and exploiting opportunities.