The Cross-Cultural Real Estate Experience: Buying and Selling Homes in Silicon Valley vs Other Places

Buying and selling homes is stressful no matter who you are or what the occasion may be.  It is even more difficult for those for whom English is not their native language and for whom the US is not their native land.

First there’s a language challenge (depending on English fluency).  Even more, there’s a cultural challenge in terms of how homes are bought and sold. Add the normal stress to the cross-cultural confusion and there’s a recipe for misunderstanding, bafflement, surprises and upset.  One of the biggest areas for clashes is how negotiations are carried out.

I have had the pleasure of traveling to many places around the globe and to live in Italy for the better part of a year while in college (in Florence, and yes, I loved it).  I remember very vividly some of my own cultural frustrations and although I was fairly fluent, missing a whole lot of social cues. I had to work to learn to negotiate for simple things like fruit and sweaters in the open air markets.  And I was just 20, not trying to purchase anything as significant as a house or condo.

My clients today come from all over. Typically, at any given time, more than half of my clients are foreign* (and I love working with them and hearing about their experiences, customs and traditions).  Every once in awhile,  we discover that buying and selling expectations are vastly different from Silicon Valley to wherever they came from. Here are a few:

  1. Expecting to negotiate at every turn, starting from the time the seller accepts the buyer’s offer and continuing until close of escrow (not done here: you negotiate at most two times – first when writing and countering offers and second prior to removing contingencies, if something new is learned during the course of the inspections.  If you negotiate at every opportunity, you will have everyone angry at you!)
  2. (more…)