No one left behind
Ensure your marketing plan is applicable to and culturally inclusive of today’s diverse homebuyer
As the United States becomes more diversified, concepts such as cultural sensitivity that long have been underplayed or outright ignored in the real estate business will take on increasing importance to real estate professionals. And perhaps no segment of the housing market will carry more influence than Hispanic homebuyers.
A real estate marketing goldmine
According to the 2016 State of Hispanic Homeownership Report, 7.3 million Hispanic people in the U.S. owned their homes, a 209,000 increase from 2015, and one that accounted for 74.9% of the net growth in overall homeownership in the country. The report, a publication of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals and the Hispanic Wealth Project, also noted that the Hispanic rate of homeownership increased from 45.6% in 2015 to 46% in 2016, while the nation’s overall homeownership rate declined to 63.4%, a 51-year low.
Know to whom you are marketingting
Maria Zywiciel, a first-generation Latina, is president of NAHREP Consulting Services, a marketing consulting firm specializing in the Hispanic segment and housing industry. Zywiciel said it’s important that lenders and brokers approach working with the Hispanic market as more than an afterthought. “You have to have that buy-in from the top,” Zywiciel said. “You really need a culture that embraces the fact that this is where the first-time homebuyers are. It’s the fastest growing segment in housing. It’s not a niche market, and it’s not a diversity initiative on the side. It should be ingrained in the overall strategy.”
Cultural marketing: Am I getting through?
Becoming more familiar with one’s market also helps companies determine the best ways to communicate their message, Zywiciel said. Because the Latino population as a whole tends to skew younger than the overall U.S. population, she added, Latinos rely more on technology,, and social media and digital platforms as a means of communication. Another important distinction comes in looking at the concept of family. In the U.S., the head of household typically believes that what is good for him or her is good for the family, Zywiciel said. However, this concept is flipped in many diverse segments, she noted.
“When companies want to get involved in the Latino market, I think the tendency is, ‘OK, let’s translate our things into Spanish.’ But if you’re doing that, you’re literally and figuratively going to be lost in translation,” Zywiciel said. “It’s not culturally connecting versus having something that’s created from that perspective. That really changes the narrative, whether it’s recruiting, or marketing or acquiring folks to invest in a franchise.” The concept of family first applies throughout the buying process for many Latinos. Zywiciel said when it comes time for a real estate agent to show a Latino client a home, often they have additional family members along to view it as well. “At the closing table, bring more than two chairs. Especially with a first-time Latino buyer, it’s going to be a very celebratory experience, she continued. “(Home ownership is) still considered a status symbol for Latinos.”
This is not to say a real estate agent can’t market to a particular niche – Braznell noted that she specialized in homes for horse owners – as long as the agent is not being exclusive based on one of the protected classes. “What it comes back to is when I’m teaching fair housing, I’m not up there to change their most deeply held beliefs,” Braznell said. “What I’m trying to do is tell them that, in this extremely risky business that we’re engaged in, what the consequences are if they act on beliefs that are counter to the law. So you can hold beliefs that are against the law. The difference is, how do you act on them?” Braznell said cultural sensitivity should be a given in any kind of marketing plan, but it is up to the individual agent to build relationships in the market he or she serves.
The Hispanic rate of homeownership increased from 45.6% in 2015 to 46% in 2016, while the nation’s overall homeownership rate declined to 63.4%, a 51-year low.
Zywiciel noted that although states such as California, Texas and Florida are known for having a high percentage of Latino residents, other parts of the country are seeing what she calls “hypergrowth” in this market segment. She stresses to brokers and lenders that they know the market and market demographics, and to make sure they are recruiting talent into their organizations that come from these communities.
“What I pose to clients and prospective clients is to look at where the demographic changes are … and to ask themselves, ‘Do we have representation here?’” Zywiciel said. “So you’re not looking in the same places, you’re looking to expand.”
“At the closing table, bring more than two chairs. Especially with a first-time Latino buyer, it’s going to be a very celebratory experience.”– Maria Zywiciel
What to avoid Zywiciel cautions real estate agents to be careful not to steer clients toward neighborhoods or homes based on their race or ethnicity. There can be legal ramifications for such actions. Federal law prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of dwellings based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status and national origin. Beth Braznell, who recently retired after almost two decades as a real estate broker, teaches a course on fair housing for the St. Louis Association of REALTORS®, of which she is a past president. In addition to the seven federally protected categories, she teaches that there also can be state and locally protected classifications to consider.
Braznell said she has worked across racial and ethnic lines and that agents need to nurture the trust of those they serve. “That relationship is built on trust because it’s going to get very intimate very quickly,” she noted. “The agent … will aid them in making decisions that could very well influence the rest of their lives. “I think the key to working successfully with any kind of community is to listen very, very carefully to what is important to those people, and they will tell you if they trust you,” Braznell continued. “If a [buyer] asks you, ‘Has anyone died in this house?’ that’s a clue to what they’re thinking. And if somebody wants a house that only faces in a certain direction or they come from a culture where the elderly come to live with them … then it’s just cultural awareness to understand that and help them plan for those eventualities. “It’s just really listening to what people are telling you.”
The Fair Housing Act, which is the federal law governing housing discrimination, includes the following seven protected classes:

Race Color Religion National origin Sex Disability Familial status Source:
What are the federally protected classes?
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