How foreign buyers search for international real estate

The habits and preferences of foreign real estate home-buyers are of interest to our Global Agents, so in July, we surveyed over 700 buyers who used Properstar portals to find out more. In this article, we will look at the buyer cycle for global real estate, from its origin to what really matters in online property searches.

Our findings include the buyer’s search journey, the relationship of foreign buyers to agents, and how Global Agents can use this information to become more successful in international sales.

Global Agents will especially be interested to learn about the way buyers search and how to improve their connection with these foreign leads, which will lead to winning more real estate sales.

Having an online presence in real estate has never been more important than in today’s global community.

About the survey respondents

34.5% of the respondents spoke French, about 33% spoke English and the remainder of the respondents spoke Portuguese and Spanish. Of all respondents, 77% were active buyers, while about 16% of them had paused or postponed their buying project and 7.4% reported that they completed the purchase of a home in the last six months!

Global Agents, active international home buyers are your best leads. Here is how you can connect with them!

The majority of our survey respondents indicated that they were looking for property in Portugal (38.6%) or Spain (35.9%), while the remainder of the leads were interested in a property located in Switzerland, Turkey, or Greece.

Countries of the buyers

The country of origin of those buyers was as follows:

  • France – 42.2%
  • Portugal – 19.2%
  • USA – 11.8%
  • UK – 11.2%
  • Germany – 8.0%
  • Switzerland – 7.7%

The buyers were predominantly in the 55-64 year age group with 39.7% of respondents from this demographic. Those over the age of 65 years comprised about 25% of the respondents, while about 24% were in the 45–54-year-old category of respondents.

As they approach retirement, many foreign buyers are considering buying a property abroad.

Budget and type of property

Respondents were asked about the budget they had in mind for the purchase of their foreign property. The price ranges of respondents still searching for a home are as follows:

  • up to € 250K – 57.6%
  • €250K- €500K – 20.4%
  • €500K – €1M – 9.0%
  • €1M – €2M – 8.4%
  • €2M- €5M – 4.6%

Of those respondents who purchased a home recently, the average purchase price was close to their initial budget, although there was a budget increase of 10.5% in the 1M-2M purchase price range. Buyers know what they can afford and what they want in today’s foreign property market. These findings are also supported by our recent Luxury Buyer Report.

The predominant type of foreign property that respondents purchased was a city apartment (48.5%) while 27.3% said they purchased a single detached property, 15.2% reported buying an attached or semi-attached home and 9.1% of respondents purchased a beachfront home. Half of the respondents (47.5%) who plan to purchase a foreign property plan to use it as their second, or vacation home. Those looking for a property as their primary residence were 44.3% of the respondents, while about 8% of buyers are looking for investment opportunities.

Homebuyers rely on web content, making online property searches the norm for the vast majority of buyers. However, real estate agents are still the most important source of information once buyers have narrowed down their search and are getting ready to move forward in the buying cycle. Our respondents indicated that they used portals that contained the most listing results. They also preferred features like convenient filters, drawing on maps, and the ability to save their search parameters.

At ListGlobally, we are working hard to meet the property buyer with services and platforms that suit their searching habits. Our Global Agents are finding success through the leads that we generate. Read more Global Agent Testimonials.

The buying cycle of foreign buyers

Almost a quarter (23.5%) of our polled home buyers reported that they finalized the purchase of a property within 6-12 months from the time that they started searching. However, a significant number of respondents (19.6%) indicated that the buying cycle for them only took about 2-3 months to finalize the purchase of their property.

Foreign buyers and Global Agents

Let’s look a bit more closely at the way that online foreign buyers interact with real estate agents. When our polled buyers reached out to the agents, they indicated that the response time of the agent was predominantly good for English and French-speaking buyers, with an average response rate of over 80%. The market information that is available both on the real estate portal and via communication with an agent are as follows:

When we asked buyers if they had reached out to an agent for assistance, 33.75% of all respondents reached out to a real estate agent for assistance. The largest group to query an agent were from Portugal and the least queries were from French buyers.

21% of foreign buyers didn’t hear back from the agent!

One of the pain points for portal users in our survey was that they had messaged agents on the real estate portal and received no response. With an average rate of almost 21% of our foreign buyers saying that they did not hear back from the agent, there is a great opportunity to be realized by agents. Make sure to reply to your buyers as soon as you get their message!

Although foreign buyers do begin their home search independently online, the role of the global real estate agent is still paramount at the point in the buying cycle where leads ask for more information.

What makes a property purchase easier

We asked survey respondents specifically about their experience with Properstar, highlighting the categories that buyers say would make the buying process easier for them when searching for properties online.

Of all the buyers who shared comments, 8.7% of them were interested in more details about the property and its location, (like more description about the rooms, knowledge about the surrounding region, and pictures of the view from the house and the street), and information about the country where the property is located. These are great opportunities for the Global Agent to showcase their expertise and start a relationship with more foreign leads.

It may be no surprise that the age of the buyer influences their search habits and requirements. The 25-34 year-old age group is largely both familiar and satisfied with the features of Properstar and easily navigate through the filters, maps, and results in the early stages of their property search. More market information was requested by 20% of this cohort. Note, as the age groups increase, so does the budget for the property.

35-44 years

  • 13.6% wanted property location information
  • 9.1% wanted more market information

45-54 years

  • 12.5% wanted property location information
  • 6.9% wanted more market information

More 35-44 year-old recipients than any other age group (9.1%), believed that language differences are an area that could be improved upon to make their searches easier. Our Concierge service will be of special interest to this group, so be sure to inform your clients that we are here to assist them.

In conclusion

We have summarized foreign buyer feedback on their online search experience to give Global Agents some helpful insights to effectively connect with today’s real estate buyers. As an agent, staying informed about buyer habits is one of the best investments you can make in your business.

We’ve discussed where buyers are, where they are looking and how they are feeling about the process. Now, let’s look at the respondents' intentions for their future home purchases and consider how this information can connect you to them and help you win more international sales. 

Respondents have told us that 75.6% of them will continue their search for a foreign property and that 19.1% of them will make a purchase within six months. 

The biggest reason why buyers have paused their search varies slightly between the markets we polled. English speaking clients cited that personal reasons have caused a pause in their purchase (40.7%), while Spanish-speaking clients say that reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic have caused an interruption in their search efforts (36.8%). The most common reasons to pause a home purchase for French and Portuguese-speaking clients are both regarding property prices (25.5% and 41.7% respectively).

Buyer pain points

Here are four common ‘pain points’ from our survey respondents. Many of their frustrations can be addressed successfully, and eager agents will appreciate knowing what foreign buyers have to say and step in to offer them solutions.

1. Language barrier

When buying and selling across international borders, the language barrier is an unsurprising pain point for both clients and agents. The Properstar Concierge offers to bridge the language gap. As a Global Agent, make sure to educate your clients about the full suite of services you can make available to them, in order to make the buying process run more smoothly for all parties.

2. Agent did not respond

We’ve covered this already but we cannot emphasize enough, the importance of being diligent with inquiries if you are serious about capturing more foreign property sales.

3. More market Information

Our survey data showed that clients are reaching out to agents with inquiries about two categories: market information and property information details. Here are the top-ranked types of market information requests from clients :

  1.  Expenses attributed to the property and the country of its location
  2.  Property tax, transfer tax, capital gains information
  3.  Differences in the buying process between another country and my home country
  4.  Lifestyle, culture, cost of living, in the location of the property
  5.  How to buy a foreign property and the process with an agent

Arm yourself with an arsenal of information pertaining to these top requests for market information, and when you respond to your leads with this, they will be impressed with your professionalism and helpfulness. You will win more leads when you meet foreign buyers where they are encountering frustration or concerns. On this topic, note that our Properstar country guides provide useful information that agents can share with their customers. If you want to share some insightful information with international buyers, get in touch with us, we are happy to publish it on the blog!

4. More property information

Foreign buyers shared that they are interested in more detailed information about the property of interest. Here is the type of information that agents should be ready to provide to foreign buyers:

Regarding photos:

  • More of them, for every room
  • Exterior and façade photos (we mention this in our Quality Real Estate Photo article)
  • Floorplan with measurements, including yard and patio

Regarding property description:

  • Number of stairs in the home
  • Maintenance costs per year
  • Information on the area, neighborhood, and access to parks, restaurants, etc.

These details are often provided by the seller and we understand that you may not have additional information to provide at the time. Your quick response to these buyer requests will earn you their favor and ultimately, maybe even the sale!

Global Agents can provide buyers with solutions to their problems and ListGlobally works diligently to provide agents with current, relevant statistics and information to keep you at the top of your game. We offer many tools, tips, and services that help you showcase your international marketing presence to your sellers.

Differentiate yourself

ListGlobally is a full-service platform that allows you to easily and conveniently connect with foreign buyers. The ease of syndication, the user-friendly elements of our platform, and the attention of buyers you would not encounter in the domestic market will make you stand out.

Get International

The Global Agent program is a low-cost monthly program that provides participating agents with elevated listing placement and the ability to promote their properties across ListGlobally’s International Network in 60+ countries. All listings are translated into 25 languages, to better engage with consumers around the world. The Concierge team also helps you to better communicate with inquiring consumers and to qualify your leads! If you have any further questions or would like to know more about the Global Agent program, do not hesitate to be in touch with us.

More about ListGlobally

ListGlobally operates the largest real estate network in the world, advertising across +100 property portals in +60 countries and reaching a monthly consumer audience of over 150 Million potential buyers. We invite you to reach out or open a chat with us on

Contact our team and we will help you get started with your enhanced global marketing strategy.

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