WESTPORT, Conn. -- Real estate is evolving into an international business, and a team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties in Westport is uniquely positioned to showcase Fairfield County homes.
Mary Crist, the office leader for the Westport office at 272 Post Road East in Westport, has seven agents who are former overseas residents. Jane Jones, Helen Toama and Lisa Kaplan have roots in England. Tina Crosby grew up in Greece, while Cynthia Teng and Ginger Zhu lived in China. Suzy Ryan is a walking United Nations advertisement, with previous ties to Holland, Malaysia, Lebanon, Kuwait and London.
They are all part of Crist’s Westport team and have various degrees of experience. All of them, however, are eager to become more involved in using a new International Multiple Listing Service. The global portal and membership platform will bridge the needs of agents, buyers, sellers, brokers, associations and developers.
“I was working with a woman in England,’’ said Jones, who has been a Realtor for six years. “When she was on the phone me, she said you sound like my husband. She was doing much of the work behind the move. She just felt like if she could find a British Realtor, her husband would be more inclined to move back this way.”
Many families moving from abroad have found homes in Fairfield County. Its proximity to New York City and having the headquarters of global businesses in the region has helped lure a lot of people looking to move to the United States.
“The challenge is you have to know what the needs of the people moving,’’ Crosby said. “They want to invest in a house, but they also want a good return, because the chances are they may be moving back in a few years. It’s different for everyone. Some come here to stay. There are a lot of expats that come for a few years and move back.”
Teng, who has lived in Fairfield County for 28 years, believes Fairfield County is a “gold mine” for Chinese buyers. “Not too many Chinese people know about Connecticut,’’ she said. “Once they find out all the great things Connecticut has to offer, you will see an influx of Chinese buyers or investors.”
Ryan believes her experience living in other countries helps her connect with international moves. “I understand the culture of a lot of countries and how they respond to certain mannerisms,’’ she said. “The Dutch are very casual. The Arabs also have their customs. There are certain things you can only know if you’ve lived there. I think it’s a big plus.”
Jones moved from Britain with her husband and family in 2000. She said transactions are much different in American compared to the United Kingdom. “The process as a Brit was very intimidating,’’ Jones said. “It’s very structured here. There are timelines and contracts and there’s a real commitment. In the UK, it’s very unstructured. You don’t know if you’re going to close until closing day. It’s a loosey-goosey process. I think I’m a good resource to know the difference between the processes.”
While many other industries have conducted business globally, local real estate has been centered around a particular region. With the advent of the Internet and now the International MLS, the world is shrinking. Buyers can find homes in Westport or Madrid or Melbourne in seconds.
“There is no boundary any more,’’ Crosby said. “The internet has changed everything. We’re all becoming global. My mother moved back to Greece, and people were showing her on an iPad where I lived. That’s pretty cool.”