Being culturally aware is fast becoming a key factor to successfully selling real estate in Australia.
A quick snapshot of Australia’s population shows how diverse we’ve become. Last year just over 28 per cent of Australia’s population was born overseas – a relatively large proportion compared to other Western nations (to compare, the US’s migrant population is 13 per cent of its entire population).
To give an idea of how this impacts local suburbs, more than half the residents of Hurstville in Sydney report Chinese ancestry, while in the Melbourne suburb of Footscray, over half of residents speak a language other than English.
Real estate agents need to reflect this diversity, both to avoid driving away potential clients and to better engage modern buyers. Many agencies are already on board with multilingual teams and flow charts in different languages to better meet buyer needs.
So how do you sell property – and write compelling real estate copy – for a culturally diverse marketplace? Here are our three top tips...
Do the research
Cultural differences can be nuanced and complex; two people of Asian appearance, for example, may not come from the same region or share the same cultural background. To avoid making unintentional mistakes and to better target your marketing, it pays to do the research and learn about the cultural demographic break-up of the area you are selling in. A good place to start is the interactive map on the SBS website, which allows you to see the cultural composition of your suburb.
Be aware of how different cultures interact
We can all act differently in social situations, so learning how people from another culture relate can help make interactions smoother and more effective. One aspect is touch during conversation. Broadly speaking and depending on the level of relationship, cultures with higher levels of touch are the Middle East, Spain, Italy and Greece, while cultures which feature less touching in social settings are England, Japan, the US and Scandinavia. Something else to consider is the flow of conversation: in Anglo-Celtic cultures, it’s normal for two or more speakers to often overlap each other when talking, while in Asian cultures, it is considered polite to let the other person finish and not interrupt.
Avoid non-inclusive language in your copy
Check your marketing copy for any words that may exclude certain groups, especially if they’re potential buyers in your area. For example, mentioning a property is near the local church may not be helpful if your target demographic is predominantly Muslim. This also applies to groups that aren’t based on nationality. Terms such as ‘his and her vanity’ can be non-inclusive towards the LBGTI community, while you may want to watch out for assuming women will enjoy a spacious kitchen while the basement makes a perfect ‘man cave’. Rethinking your marketing strategy or changing some words in your copy to make it more inclusive may seem like a hassle, but it’s worth it in order to better engage the market.
Case-study: How to sell to Chinese property investors
Chinese investors are currently the largest foreign buyers of residential and commercial property with $24.3 billion of proposed spend in 2014-15, according to the Foreign Investment Review Board.
For those keen to tap into this growing market, cultural insight can help. Some Chinese attitudes are anecdotally well-known: properties with the number eight, for example, are linked to good fortune as the number is similar to the Chinese word for ‘prosperity’, while the number four can be seen as unlucky because it resembles the Chinese word for ‘die’. A number of small property developers are also constructing residences with Feng Shui principles in mind.
For many Chinese buyers, though, price and finding property with good value are the biggest motivators. To that end, clear communication from agents is appreciated – especially when making purchasing decisions from overseas.
Successful realtors need to be across all the details and able to provide clear floor plans, detailed photographs, and accompanying documents. Understanding the government legislation that is relevant to foreign residents for tax purposes is helpful too.
For more tips on selling to Chinese foreign investors, Chinese property site Juwai.com is a useful research tool with a number of articles on Chinese customs, etiquette and buyer behaviour.
 Roger Axtell, Gestures: The do's & taboos of body language around the world, 1997