Amy Albert is editor-in-chief of Professional Builder and Custom Builder magazines. Previously, she worked as chief editor of Custom Home and design editor at Builder. Amy came to writing about building by way of food journalism, as kitchen design editor at Bon Appetit and before that, at Fine Cooking, where she shot, edited, and wrote stories on kitchen design. She studied art history with an emphasis on architecture and urban design at the University of Pennsylvania and has served on several design juries. 

International Relations

Data from the Migration Policy Institute and the Pew Research Center show that in the past six years the U.S. has seen an influx of migration, with foreign enrollment at American universities almost doubling since the Great Recession. While New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, Miami, and Chicago are major destinations for newcomers to America, smaller cities in the Plains States, South, and Southwest are also proving desirable.

With no disrespect to research intended, we’re guessing you may already know this. A designer friend, who has operated her own clothing label and boutique in Los Angeles for two decades and has a faithful clientele, says she can tell much about market conditions by the traffic in her shop. She insists that talking to small-business owners about what’s going on is far more revealing than what pundits and prognosticators are saying. You’ve likely done business with international buyers yourself and could probably tell us a thing or two about the most effective way to market and sell to such a clientele.

But in case courting international buyers is unknown territory, senior editor Mike Beirne provides an excellent introduction. Starting on page 18, you’ll find how-tos on multicultural fluency at the conference table, including the etiquette of negotiating with buyers from other cultures, rules of the game, and specific bargaining tactics. Designers and builders who have been there offer insight into the idea that, in many cultures, bargaining is just as much a part of the custom home building experience as is touring examples of a designer’s work, examining floor plans, and looking at tile samples. We also offer a brief overview of feng shui and vaastu shastra­—the venerated and ancient design principles used in China and Southeast Asia for channeling energy in the home for auspicious results. Think of it as the Eastern interpretation of the healthy home. 

Beirne says that in reporting the story, one of the biggest revelations was that skill at doing business with those from other cultures doesn’t just mean dexterity in negotiating. It involves deep and broad understanding of what buying a home means across cultures, be it providing a legacy for generations to come, a sanctuary for extended family, or an investment designed, above all, to appreciate in value.

For builders who are seeing an influx of foreign buyers, just a little multicultural fluency goes a very long way. “If you figure out what buyers are doing and why they’re doing it, you’ll do really well,” Beirne says. It’s a principle that business owners and diplomats alike have lived by for a long time.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017 - 11:00

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