Hispanic Americans – the nation’s second largest ethnic group – 15.1 percent of the U.S. population and the largest minority group with 46 million strong — represent a very clear and increasingly powerful consumer block (projected as $12.4 trillion by 2011). The recent Census revealed that for Illinois, the Hispanic population grew by 32.5 percent in 10 years, an increase of nearly half a million people to 2,027,578. Hispanics now comprise 15.8 percent of the state population overall.
For those of us in the real estate industry, Hispanic Americans are an emerging buying group with both population and purchasing power on their side – NAR recently said that 40 percent of first-time homebuyers in the U.S. will be Hispanic. They are also much more likely to own a home now than at any time in the past and some studies even say that they are less affected by the recent downturn in homeownership. In fact, during previous economic downtowns, Hispanics posted an increase in both income and spending. Why? Hispanic household trends point to multiple sources of income from immediate and extended family members that when pooled, affords them greater proportions of disposable income.
“Undoubtedly, the changes to the overall economic environment we face today has affected the financial product offerings that are available for consumers to purchase a home,” said Steve DiMarco, president of Baird & Warner financial services. “For the Hispanic borrower these issues have been compounded by regulatory changes that have just regulated the neighborhood mortgage broker practically out of existence.”
In the midst of watching this happen, DiMarco and his colleagues were quick to not only recognize this change but work to build a platform of reputable mortgage origination personnel that focus on the Hispanic market segment. “This population segment is powerful and unlike many others, they prefer to work with professionals with whom they have commonality,” he explained. “These consumers are driven by trust that comes from working with folks that are like them. Foremost, they speak the language, but they also want to work with professionals who may live in their neighborhood or come from a familiar region ‘back home,’ or have been referred by someone that has already established trust.”
One common theme or unifier for this audience – is the attainment of a dream – a wish for something better, in essence, to realize the ‘American Dream.’ “Homeownership plays perfectly in this dream because of the stability and security afforded the family unit,” says DiMarco.
Baird & Warner real estate veteran, Basilio Jimenez, who was acknowledged by the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals in late 2010 for his work, continues to enjoy a successful practice in the northwest suburbs for the very reasons stated above. “Mi familia,” he offered broadly. “It’s all about finding and establishing commonalities and then connecting to one another,” he explained. “For me, not only do I speak the language, but I understand the sense of tradition and culture, which includes a respect to the hierarchy within our households and within our communities.” Jimenez says that many Hispanic American homes are multi-generational and as a result you have to be able to understand, and speak to, everyone – from the grandparents to the parents to the children. “Our older population is likely to not be internet savvy, they may be fearful about providing personal information, and, in many cases, they were previously treated as ignorant,” he described. “As a result, a little more time and effort has to go into taking time to get to know them.” Jimenez explained that he’ll talk to the parents on a level they understand and then talk to their children or grandchildren on entirely different level. It’s the combination or coupling of these efforts, according to DiMarco and Jimenez that come together to install a level of trust. “As soon as I gain a client’s trust, they instantly become a huge referral network for me,” Jimenez said, “word of mouth is huge in my community.”
“Mortgage professionals need to be aware and sensitive to the multicultural differences within their selling practices,” said Javier Herrera, Key Mortgage Service. “Family and respect is very important to my community and I especially follow the cultural protocols in place when I work with my Hispanic clients.”
A 2010 study, “What Latinas Want,” conducted by Telemundo Communications Group and Meredith Hispanic Ventures says that when it comes to the home, Hispanic American women, or Latinas, are the influential buying force. They, in many cases, are the Chief Household Officers, i.e., the primary decision makers for the family, or the one who coordinates making the decisions in concert with their spouses or other relatives.
So how do you target, reach and market to this group? Here are a few strategies to consider:
1. It’s cultural. To this group, targeting your message should include respect for national origin, language and cultural traditions. When marketing to Hispanics, respect their differences, formality, the family structure, and their strong religious influence.
2. La Familia. Hispanic Americans are more inclined to patronize from brands that they feel a nostalgic connection. It is important to begin to build a brand relationship during the initial stages of acculturation and maintain this connection as Hispanics’ integration to American life increases.
3. Multi-generational. Keep in mind the many generations who influence household decisions, don’t exclude anyone from your expertise and advice regarding their home ownership interests.
4. And, keep in mind, the CHO – the “Chief Household Officer.” She’s heavily influenced by, and wants to see, women in positions of power, much more so than general market women. Tap into her aspirations and find a voice that is special to her. Remember to speak to her in a way that considers her culture and isn’t merely an English message translated into Spanish.