"In terms of the residential sector, sales of foreign units to Asian buyers have increased tremendously over the past two years, favourite destinations being London and Sydney," says David Watt, international director and head of business developments and client services for Asia Pacific at DTZ. "The main buying groups have been high-net-worths from Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and, more recently, mainland China," he adds.
Agents require very specific, additional skills to be able to make foreign sales. "It is important that the agents have both a good understanding of the markets in which the properties are located, and of the preferences and customs of the foreign buyer," Watt says. "For those agents who can bring both sets of skills to the table, as well as being a good salesperson, there are plenty of opportunities for employment."
The importance of local market knowledge is advantageous. "Examples would be locals who have worked in the London or Sydney markets. Even if they have just been students there, a short course with the residential sales team in that market can bring them up to scratch," Watt says, adding that sales teams are often built around people who combine unrelated but complementary skill sets.
"Often, these skills or market knowledge can't be found in a single person, so we see teams that combine foreign market knowledge - often by employing an expat - coupled with good local salespeople who know their buying customer," he says.
An executive at another major global property player concurs with this view. "Yes, there is an increase in interest. In Hong Kong, we have a designated international properties desk. And we've seen a significant uptick in offshore interest," says Richard Kirke, managing director of Colliers International Hong Kong.