A: Obviously, foreign language proficiency is a huge advantage as a Realtor living and working in the greater Bay Area. There are ways you can get around your foreign language deficiencies and still work with international clients successfully. In the international business world, you’ll find that English tends to be the common language. While Americans, generally, are not as aggressive when it comes to learning foreign languages, in countries throughout the rest of the world, it is not at all uncommon for people to speak more than one language.
According to U.S. Census data, the San Francisco Bay Area is one of the most linguistically diverse in the world with 112 languages spoken. Under census classifications, the San Francisco metropolitan area includes the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo. The San Jose metropolitan area (the counties of Santa Clara and San Benito) has 103 languages represented, putting it at ninth out of 195 regions around the country.
If you plan to grow your global business it’s advised to concentrate the majority of your efforts on a specific country or region, learning not only the language, but the culture of your clients. Even if you learn only a few key phrases, knowing how to greet your customers in their native language will go a long way, and ultimately make your job easier.
Mark Attarha, Sotheby’s International Realty,
A: My partner Anne Knuut and I have helped clients from Brazil, France, Germany, Korea and China buy homes in Marin County.
Language has never been an obstacle, though at times a translator has been necessary. Chinese clients in particular often need to know much more than the real estate transaction process. With this in mind, our company established the Pacific Union China Concierge Program. Full time fluent Mandarin speaking counselors staff our China Concierge desks in San Francisco and Beijing.
They assist buyers with associated real estate, financial, insurance and legal matters; connections to education and health care advisors; and other needed local resources. Our Mandarin-language website ( pacificunion.com.cn) gives potential clients easy access to featured home listingsand detailed regional descriptions. The site is hosted in China on local servers providing superior speed and responsiveness to the Chinese audience.
Social media marketing in Mandarin is provided through Weibo, Youku and WeChat. All of these resources allow us as agents to provide full service to our Chinese clientele.
Paul Bragstad, Pacific Union, (415) 246-5060, paul.bragstad@pacunion,com
A: The San Francisco Bay Area is a global marketplace. It’s no secret that people from around the world are flocking to buy real estate here. One of my goals as an agent is to inform my clients about anything I think will help them become more savvy buyers. This is hard to accomplish if we don’t speak the same language.
At Redfin, Bay Area agents can tell you about homes in a variety of tongues, including Spanish, Cantonese, Japanese, Tagalog, Arabic, Russian and Swedish. I speak Mandarin, and I know that being able to communicate to a homebuyer the nuances of a real estate transaction in a language that they understand best can really help a buyer feel more comfortable with the biggest purchase of that person’s life.
At the end of the day, I think it’s about trust. I want the people who work with me to trust everything I tell them. Communication is a key component of trust, and speaking the same language can help build the trust that is needed in a real estate transaction.
Jim Mu, Redfin Realty, (650) 260-8648, firstname.lastname@example.org