By Erika Villegas
Are you leaving money on the table by not working with Hispanic clients?
I am still surprised to hear an answer of “no” when I ask agents from different parts of the country whether they work with Hispanic customers. I help buyers and sellers from all walks of life and with many different backgrounds and ethnic groups, but at least half of my business is comprised of Hispanic clientele. This is, in part, due to my office being in a heavily Hispanic populated neighborhood of Chicago. But I am also a bi-lingual Mexican-American who has lived both in the U.S. and in Mexico. I can relate to many of my clients.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be Hispanic or speak Español to work with such clients. There are many Latinos who only speak English or who prefer to do business in English since it is the primary language of many first- or second-generation immigrants.
Hispanics are the largest minority in the United States. As of 2013, there are an estimated 54 million Hispanic people living in the U.S., according to the Census Bureau.
The 2014 State of Hispanic Home Ownership Report, published by the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, finds that four out of 10 new households between 2010 and 2020 are expected to be Hispanic. And Hispanics are expected to comprise 50 percent of all new home buyers by 2020. NAHREP has published this report for five consecutive years and it’s a must-read if you want to be better informed about the Hispanic market. It can be downloaded at nahrep.org/report.
The 2013 Fannie Mae National Housing Survey found that nearly half of all Hispanics (48 percent) say this is a good time to buy a home and that they are more likely than the general population to prefer owning, particularly for lifestyle reasons. At least 84 percent see home ownership as the best investment plan, a way to save for retirement, or a way to build wealth.
I know that many Hispanics have home ownership at the top of their goals, and are very optimistic about one day achieving this goal. The challenges that I see are similar for buyers across the board, a lack of affordable housing inventory and credit hurdles.
If I can give you one piece of advice about working with Hispanic families, it’s be prepared to work with the “whole” family. If a daughter is buying a home, she will most likely bring her parents and her siblings and vice-versa. It’s a common practice, especially if they’re purchasing their first home. Working with multi-generational families was especially challenging early on in my career because I had to explain terms that were not only new to them, but new to me as well. I didn’t know many of the real estate terms in Spanish. I took the time to translate terms and make a glossary both in English and Spanish, which I now have readily available as reference that my clients can take home, read, and discuss with their families.
I have helped many clients since becoming licensed 10 years ago, and my Hispanic clients refer me at least three times more often than other clients. I have gained their trust, and because of that I will be their practitioner for life. Yes, you will be invited to share a meal at their home, or even attend a wedding or
quinceañera; then you will know you are part of the “familia.”
Hispanic clients will always be grateful because you helped them with the most important purchase of their lives, which will allow them to build wealth, or send their kids to college, or maybe even open a business.
How will you grow your business by working with the Hispanic market?
Erika Villegas is a broker associate with ERA Mi Casa Real Estate in Chicago. Connect with Villegas at www.erikavillegas.com.