News Column

Tapping the Lucrative Hispanic Home Market

February 13, 2003

Frank Moraga

A new group is illustrating the growing buying power of Latino consumers in Ventura County and the nation.

As Ernest J. Reyes spoke last week at the Tower Club in Oxnard, more than 100 Latino real estate professionals listened intently during the first installation dinner of the Ventura County Chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals.

As founder and chairman of the board of the San Diego-based association, Reyes spoke of the growing influence of Latino real estate professionals, as well as the challenges Latinos have in trying to purchase a home in Ventura County, one of the 20 most expensive markets in the nation.

Reyes provided statistic after impressive statistic from a recently published Pepperdine University report, "Rewarding Ambition: Latinos, Housing and the Future of California." He topped it off with this item: By 2007, Latino spending power in California will exceed $259.9 billion.

For Latino real estate professionals, the news especially was good.

In Southern California, six of 10 home buyers had Hispanic surnames.

Seventy-eight percent of Latinos prefer to work with Latino real estate agents.

Almost 65 percent of potential home buyers prefer to conduct the home-buying process in Spanish.

Sixty-three percent of Latinos preferred to work with Latino lenders.

"The Latino community is coming of age," Reyes said. "It is no longer the future, it is here right now with $500 billion in annual spending power nationally."

Prior to the event, Reyes spoke about the special requirements of Latino real estate professionals.

"I always found that there was a need for Latino real estate professionals and real estate practitioners to get better service," he said from his Network Realty office in San Diego. "The Latino buyer has language barriers and cultural barriers. I went looking for a program" to address those challenges.

"If you wanted to specialize in commercial real estate, rentals or single-family residences, there are all kinds of training for that, but if you wanted to learn about the Hispanic market, there was nothing," he said.

As a result, Reyes, Gary E. Acosta and others founded the association in 1999, held their first board meeting in 2000 and now have more than 12,000 members. They soon will have more more than 40 chapters nationwide.

"Amazed is an understatement," he said of the membership growth. "I never realized the potential of the Latino market and the void we were filling for practitioners in the U.S. The Hispanic market is growing by leaps and bounds. I knew we needed to create something to focus on them."

One result was the creation of the local chapter that began organizing in early 2002, said Argelia Marin, owner of Century 21 Tri-Star in Port Hueneme and recently installed vice president of the group.

"This organization was formed to fill a void because Hispanic real estate professionals have special needs, mostly cultural," she said. "Our mission is to increase the Hispanic ownership rate by empowering Hispanic professionals that serve the Hispanic consumer."

While Marin said there are 30 members in the group, the dinner drew more than 150 people, with Oxnard Mayor Manuel Lopez presiding over the installation.

Reyes, who spent some of his youth growing up in Saticoy, believes the chapter will be a strong force in helping to address some of the concerns of Latino home buyers in Ventura County.

"The Ventura County market is an incredible place for Latinos when you take into account Oxnard, Ventura, Camarillo and Santa Paula," he said.

A recent report that said Ventura County was the 19th least affordable area in the nation, however, points to the challenges for Latinos to get into affordable housing, especially when many are looking to put down $10,000 to buy a $150,000 house, he said.

The association is now working with groups like Fannie Mae to come up with a software program to help bridge the financing gap through loans and other programs, he said.

While many Latino home buyers might prefer working with Latino professionals, Reyes said they are not adverse to look for the best deal possible.

"If you don't do it, they will find someone who can," he said.

Source: © 2003 All Rights Reserved.

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