With the real estate market struggling in many areas of the country, real estate agents and brokers are finding that playing the role of “financial planner” is almost as important as sales. Traditional sales approaches simply don’t cut it in many markets today. As the real estate industry becomes more globalized and more and more properties are being listed online, real estate agents are being pushed to new levels of customer service and professionalism.

Technology is a huge factor in the overall tendency of real estate trends. The free flow of intormation on the Internet, combined with increasingly savvy computer usage by buyers and sellers alike, continues to be a driving force behind change affecting the industry. As many as 75% of homebuyers are surfing the Internet in search of their dream location. Gone are the days of “driving ’til you drop” with buyers who just can’t seem to find that perfect property.


The “best practice” real estate marketing methods are evolving as well. Potential buyers, who now have reams of knowledge right at their fingertips, are much less tolerant of anything less than speedy customer service. They want their real estate agent to give them what they want, and now. Otherwise, they will quickly consider other options.


Another recent trend is the increasing emergence of foreign buyers in the American real estate market. According to the National Association of Realtors, about one in five American real estate agents sold a second or vacation home in the year ending April 2007 to a purchaser from another country.


Because of the weak dollar, many foreigners see American real estate as a bargain. While buyers come from all over world, Europeans, Asians and Latin Americans are the most likely to buy a vacation home in the United States.


Some foreign real estate buyers are looking for a vacation home, some are real estate investors, and some are both. Foreign buyers tend to purchase in the Sunbelt states and/or the west while staying away from the economically challenged “Rust Belt” states. They also favor vacation hot spots, where properties tend to hold their value even in challenging times. Foreign buyers are likely to spend more than Americans on houses they buy, and are also more likely to purchase a condominium than the average American.


Despite the positives, some real estate agents worry that foreign buyers face too much pressure due to rising U.S. nationalism and the fight against terrorism. They point out that foreign real estate buyers, rather than living on welfare, are bringing money into the economy without taking American jobs, and that this type of investment should be encouraged.


Although the real estate sector will continue to evolve in the coming years, there doesn’t appear to be any going back. As they have with so many other industries, technology and globalization have changed the real estate market forever.