In an effort to better understand the nuances of international real estate, the Chicago Association of Realtors’ Global Real Estate Council hosted a trade mission to Thailand this July. The trip focused on Bangkok, though practitioners from Phuket, Chiang Mai, Cambodia, Malaysia and Laos helped attendees understand other markets and the connectivity of Thailand to the rest of Southeast Asia.
Maurice Hampton, president-elect of CAR, said the experience was valuable for Chicago Realtors, whether or not they could make the trip. “[It] will definitely benefit the members of the association in knowing that they have a trusted connected source in Southeast Asia,” he said in an interview with Chicago Agent.
The trip plays into Hampton’s goals for the organization. When he steps up as president of CAR next year, he hopes to ensure members have the tools and the skills needed to continue to thrive in a shifting market.
Thailand was chosen as a destination after the National Association of Realtors appointed CAR to be the ambassador association to the country. There were 29 people on the trip, and the trade mission was open to any member willing to pay the registration fee. CAR used funds from NAR’s Real Estate Sales and Marketing Association, corporate sponsorships, registration fees and funds raised from previous events to pay for the initiative. Individuals covered their own airfare; trip fees ranged between $900 and $1,300 for members and $1,050 and $1,450 for non-members.
“The goal is to trade business between both associations as well as trade information and data to help our practitioners better serve their clients in both markets,” Hampton said. “We want to be able to refer our agents to trusted sources in Thailand.”
Hampton said the trip not only helps CAR become better known on the international field, but also has helped individual salespeople such as himself expand their sphere of influence. By making connections with investors in Asia, CAR members will gain the opportunity to participate on a global scale. “It’s extremely important for my clients to make connections with investors in Asia and all around the world,” he said. “When anybody has a client who is going to invest in the U.S. or Midwest, they can come and find a broker with CAR who can serve their needs, and vice versa.”
In addition to building relationships with Thai associations, attendees learned firsthand about the Thai market and the real estate opportunities available in the country, as well as opportunities for people looking to invest in Illinois, Chicago and the Midwest.
Thailand’s unique market
Understanding foreign buyers’ real estate prices in their home country is helpful, but it’s also important to have a feeling for local housing requirements and motivations. “The needs of Thai people in terms of real estate in Thailand are fairly simple. They’re looking for new construction; strong, livable housing layouts; affordability as well as price appreciation for sale in the future; and for a home that multiple generations of the family can stay in,” Hampton said.
Thailand is an emerging housing market where people can make investments now and expect decent long-term returns. Other aspects of Thai real estate include a thriving Airbnb market that is stronger than Chicago’s, according to Hampton. Destinations popular among U.S. tourists, including Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai, have seen a rise in interest in short-term rental properties.
Thailand’s luxury market is closely aligned with Chicago’s, despite being slightly more expensive, and in some luxury developments, there is mixed-income diversity among residents.
“There’s quite a bit of growth going on throughout the country for affordable as well as luxury housing, much the same as we’re seeing in the Chicagoland market,” Hampton said, adding that overall, Thai people want to live in brand-new properties.
On the commercial side, there is also a considerable amount of development across the entire region. “Office space is almost dead in line with ours; they trade at the same prices, [and have] very stable, robust office and commercial space,” Hampton said.
Major corporations are moving out of China due to international trade developments and moving into secondary markets throughout Southeast Asia for cheaper labor. As a result, “investment is booming,” Hampton said. “The restrictions on trade are less, and the politics are a lot more stable than they are right now in China.”
Global real estate is a passion for Hampton. He’s been involved with international real estate for nine years, having been vice chair of the Chicago Global Council and currently serving as the chair for both Illinois’ and NAR’s Global Council forums. “My committee involvement has led me to several trade missions with other organizations around the world, and it gave me the opportunity in the planning stages to help the other members understand what will produce business and results back home,” Hampton said.
He is also a Certified International Property Specialist instructor, which has helped him understand international cultures and currencies, different product types, and tools for working in the global market. “It’s helped my agents build a more robust real estate business,” Hampton said. “When we have clients who are selling their homes and relocating out of the country, we’re able to facilitate a seamless transaction for them and ensure that they’re working with the right trusted professional.”
For Chicagoland real estate professionals looking to further their business while traveling, Hampton advises them to place themselves in a foreign buyer’s shoes and consider what concerns they might have. “Understanding and researching cultures, business practices, accepted norms, unaccepted norms [is] also a must,” he said.
While there are no new trade mission trips planned at the moment, Hampton intends to apply what he gathered overseas in future projects by reaching out to wealth managers and exposing them to new products in Chicagoland and abroad.