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real estate services expanding internationally

Wednesday 7 May, 2008

Robert Manor contributed this article to the Chicago Tribune U.S. real estate expertise helps lead international developments which describes how US real estate firms are lending their expertise all over the globe. This is just another example of services leading the way in international trade. It’s a great way for Americans to leverage specific knowledge throughout the world.

I’m not sure I buy the REIT proliferation reasoning for this expansion as much as the realization of the rest of the world that real estate is a very basic investment & that pride of ownership betters whole economies. With the tax deductions the US government gives for mortgage interest, it’s what’s built America. Few of my friends/colleagues in Germany owned their homes, but have since learned their value. While residential real estate is 1 of the most locally-oriented businesses of which I know, commercial/industrial is increasingly international, as this article demonstrates. Especially with the high value of the Euro & other foreign currencies, foreigners are contributing greatly to the construction of the US.

While partnerships with local firms work well when selling products in foreign countries, I question their long-term viability for services companies. As long as there is a continuing need for product, there will be a need for international partners. But for services companies, the relationship with the client is as much if not more important than the service itself, & the client often will turn to the local partner before the global one because those are the people with whom they find the most affinity. Personally I often hear of services firms with international partners & think that these partners are just a convenient means to not learn & invest in other places where their customers are doing business.

Interestingly, while attending the British American Business Council event the day this article came out, I met Edward Lewis, (a scarily similar name to a dear old college roommate of mine), of Jones Lang LaSalle, whose firm was mentioned in the article. Edward had lived & worked in London for a number of years & even obtained a UK equivalent to a green card. If I remember correctly, I believe he also lived/worked in Zurich, Switzerland, but didn’t get so deeply embedded that he learned Suisse-Deutsch, the swiss bastardized version of German. It’s great to see that there are some globally aware people working in Chicago. 1 of my sales managers from Xerox many years ago (Frank…something I believe, help me if you can) moved on to what was then LaSalle Partners. I wonder where he is today?

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