BOGOTA, Colombia – Representatives of Florida Realtors traveled to Colombia in December as part of Gov. Rick Scott’s trade mission. Colombians accounted for 3 percent of Florida’s international property sales in 2011 and over 4 percent in 2012; and the country is Florida’s No. 2 trading partner, second only to Brazil.

“Colombian interest in Florida real estate is increasing exponentially,” says Francisco Angulo, chairperson of Florida Realtors Global Business Committee. “Like the U.S., Colombia was hurt during the recent recession, but they’ve been doing well recently and present a great opportunity for Realtors. (Many Colombians now) have a lot of money and property in Colombia, and they’re looking to invest in the U.S. and Miami.”

In addition to Angulo, Florida Realtors Senior Vice President of Public Policy John Sebree and Ileana Bogaert, the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) president’s liaison to Colombia, participated in the trade mission.

“Every Colombian Realtor we talked to has spent time in Florida – and most already own property here,” says Sebree. “Visa challenges can sometimes impact Colombians’ ability to buy Florida property, but we had a chance to meet the U.S. Ambassador and representatives of the U.S. Commercial Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce. In those meetings, we pressed the case for visa reform to provide greater incentive for prospective Florida buyers.”

According to Angulo, who is also committee liaison for NAR’s Global Business and Alliances Committee, the first step to entering the Colombian market is to forge a relationship with a Colombian Realtor. In Colombia, Realtors are organized by city and state; and the best way to make inroads is to “attend a trade mission like this one,” Angulo says.

In addition to interest in Florida property sales, the Colombians hope for U.S. commercial investment in Colombia. “They appreciate Florida’s efforts with urban planning, and they believe they need ‘urban reform,’ as they called it,” says Sebree. “They’ve already approved some funds for doing projects, but they need somebody to execute airports, highways, bridges – all infrastructure. They’re looking for investment – capital – to help sell properties in Colombia as well, such as real estate investment trusts (REITs).”

Gov. Scott’s trade mission, which included a meeting with Colombian President Juan Manual Santos, involved 250 meetings held over two days with 190 business people attending.

“We had a very successful trip to Colombia,” says Scott. “I look forward to the continuing benefits our partnership will bring to Florida families.”

© 2013 Florida Realtors®