Bilingual Agents

by Chicago Agent

By Deborah Hess

In the current economy, many of us in the real estate industry are taking a second look at our business practices in an effort to refine and improve our methods for generating new business, and how we are providing service to our clients to ensure high levels of referral business. 

The Conlon company mantra of “Back to Basics” has motivated me to take a look back over my career to examine what has helped me achieve the highest and most consistent levels of success over the years. One of the things I have come to realize, is that my bilingual skills (English/Spanish) have allowed me to serve a broader client base and have given me the ability to diversify my efforts, often straddling two markets instead of just one. 

For example, when interest rates were circling 11 to 12 percent back in the late 1980s, many native-born Americans were reluctant to jump into the real estate market. Meanwhile, the Reagan Administration had just provided amnesty to illegal immigrants from Latin America, creating an impetus for many in Chicago’s Hispanic community to begin making their dream of establishing roots and purchasing their first home a reality. It was shortly after this period that I first became licensed to practice real estate, and was lucky to have a whole new community of prospective buyers to tap into during my rookie years. 

Although I learned to speak Spanish years before becoming a Realtor, it was paramount in launching my career. I did not have the benefit of a large family or network of friends to provide referrals, so I was left generating leads from open houses and cold calling. The dreaded cold calling technique was, and still remains, every Realtor’s worst nightmare. But when I would reach someone who was Spanish-speaking, and was able to respond to them in their own language, I found an immediate bridge to building rapport and developing trust. It was even more dramatic when the client would meet me for the first time, and realize that not only was I not of Hispanic heritage, but I had a fair complexion and blonde hair to boot – it was a great ice breaker! 

There is often the usual barrage of questions: “Where are you from?” and ”How and Why did you learn to speak Spanish?” — which gives me an opportunity to tell them about my Argentine husband, and how we raised our children to be bilingual, allowing me to connect with these clients on a personal level. 

Bilingual real estate agents are in high demand among Hispanics, one of the fastest growing segment of Chicago’s real estate market.

I would strongly urge my colleagues to take at least a short Workplace Spanish for Realtors course to enhance your ability to explain – especially important information about the paperwork involved in buying a home — in the client’s native language. Not only will it allow you to respond to a greater number of potential clients, but will enable you to make the client much more comfortable and at ease with the process. This extra effort will undoubtedly endear you to your clients in an extraordinary way, and completely enrich your professional experience. 

Deborah Hess is an agent with Conlon: A Real Estate Company. She can be reached at 773.865.3327 or by e-mail at

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