Living the American Dream: Hispanic Homeownership Increasing

December 27, 2006

Rodney Tanaka -- San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Calif.

More Latinos, both nationally and locally, are fulfilling the "American Dream" by buying a home, real estate professionals said.

Between 1995 and 2005, the number of Latino owner-occupied homes increased by 3.1 million, reaching 6.9 million. That's an 81 percent increase compared to a 19 percent increase for all other non-Latino owner-occupied homes, according to the National Association for Hispanic Real Estate Professionals' Web site.

In the next 20 years, Latinos are expected to make up 40 percent of all first-time homebuyers, according to the Web site.

Of the top 10 home buyer surnames for 2005, eight were Hispanic surnames, according to the California Association of Realtors.

"The Latino buyers for us has been a market that has been increasing," said Henry Nunez, owner of Arcadia-based Henry Nunez Real Estate Co. "Immigrants -- especially Hispanics -- have a very strong desire to own their own properties."

Latinos have made great economic strides, and coming to the United States and buying a home represents success, he said.

"It's part of the American dream," he said. "That's what it really is, part of the American dream."

As home sales slow, more real estate companies are catering to immigrants, Nunez said.

Lenders have created specific loan programs to make it easier for immigrants to qualify for a loan, he said.

Nunez's company has 65 employees, and nearly three-quarters of them are minorities and can speak in at least two languages, including Mandarin, Farsi, Spanish, Tagalog and English.

"This helps our firm to service minorities in their native language," Nunez said.

The market slowdown has resulted in more inventory, he said.

"Buyers can take more time to make a decision in buying, so prices dropped a little bit," he said. "It made the market more available to people. That's why we have a focus on minority home ownership to promote that."

When the market was hot, real estate agents would instantly receive offers for a new listing, said Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

"Now you have to work harder at it, and given that the Latino community is the largest ethnic community in Los Angeles County, it represents a rich market," he said.

Home ownership improves communities, he said.

"When somebody buys a home, they're taking a stake in the community," he said. "They're going to be concerned with public safety and school quality. It's important to connect to the local community."

Owning a home is important because no one is dictating what your rent will be, said Marty Rodriguez, owner of Century 21 Marty Rodriguez in Glendora.

Half her staff is bilingual and they deal with a lot of Latino buyers, she said.

One belief her father instilled in her was "we're Americans first before we're anything," she said.

"We live in a great country that has so much to offer," Rodriguez said.

Source: Copyright (c) 2006, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Calif. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.