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Real Estate Group Helps Latinos Achieve the American Dream

April 29, 2001|From Inman News Service

Latinos often view debt, even if it's a mortgage on the family home, differently than most other Americans do.

"In Latin America culture, debt is a negative," says Gary Acosta, vice chairman and chief executive of the National Assn. of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals. "If you can go your whole life not owing anyone anything, that's a positive, but obviously here, that will work against you."

This cultural idiosyncrasy is one reason why only about 47% of Latinos own their homes nationwide, compared with a 70% homeownership rate among non-Latinos.

It's also one of the factors that led to the association being founded in 1999 in San Diego with the twofold mission of helping Latinos realize the American dream and promoting the success of Latino real estate professionals.

The organization is focused on members of the Latino community and most of its members are Latino, but real estate professionals of other ethnic backgrounds also can benefit from being members, says Acosta.

"We realize the typical profile of the Hispanic home buyer is different than that of the non-Hispanic," says Acosta, who is also president of San Diego-based Century Finance USA.

These differences include the facts that 80% of Latino home buyers nationwide are first-time buyers and that 50% prefer to communicate and negotiate in Spanish, according to the association. In addition, many also are first-generation Americans. That means they have learned different attitudes toward banking and disclosure, says Acosta.

"It's just completely different," he explains. "Bank failures and government impropriety are much more of an issue in Latin America than they are here."

Acosta says his association sees the Latino sector as an underserved market and a good opportunity for real estate professionals, particularly in California, Texas, Florida and New York, where 75% of the nation's Latinos live.

The association, with 6,000 members in 42 states, emphasizes four areas it believes will help Latino home buyers, sellers and real estate professionals. The group supports or opposes legislation that is material to its members and consumers; sponsors an initiative that will create more consistency in Spanish-language literature and information about buying houses; offers professional education--including courses that will start this summer--to help members better serve Latinos; and creates business relationships that will enhance memberships.

The association recently entered into a partnership with Freddie Mac and the National Council of La Raza. The three entities are working with affiliates around the country to counsel Latinos in low-to moderate-income areas about buying houses. Freddie Mac put forth $2 million for the effort.

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