Saturday, March 26, 2005

Real estate group plans to cash in on new immigrants

The five-month-old Sonoma County chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals already has 125 members, according to the Press Democrat. Supporters include Bank of America, Century 21, Fidelity Title Co., First American Title Co., North Bay Title Co., and Wells Fargo Bank.

The PD quoted Ben Stone, director of the Sonoma County Economic Development Board, and Juan Nieto, a Frank Howard Allen agent and president of the new group. "Census figures show the Latino community here grew 92 percent between 1990 and 2000, and there's every reason to believe that trend will continue, Stone said. Those kinds of figures make it clear that Latinos are no longer an 'emerging market' but a powerful force.

'It's not emerging anymore. It's right in front of us. It's here,' Nieto said. 'If you're not tapping it, you're missing something.' " (3/26/05, Building Latino homeownership/Chapter of national real estate group combines education, networking, advocacy)

Local developers and businessmen have argued for years that without continuous growth, our own children won't be able to get a job and buy a house here. The median selling price of a local house recently topped half a million dollars. The merchants of growth have told us teachers, police, and firefighters can't afford to live here.

Yet the Latino immigrant population nearly doubled in ten years. And now, banks and real estate and title companies see Latino immigrants as a profitable new market for local real estate.

Kevin McCallum's story said, "Latinos are more inclined to involve multiple family members in different aspects of the real estate transaction. Whether it's friends or family members co-signing loans or a couple's children and parents attending a closing, the real estate industry needs to do a better job of understanding such cultural factors, Nieto said."

It sounds like the new, low-paid immigrants are networking family members and friends, and pooling resources to buy into the housing market. The same "cultural factors" have worked for years for other minorities: some Sonoma County gay men were pooling their money and labor as far back as the '60s, to buy and recondition crumbling Victorian houses in San Francisco.

The new immigrants are here because local business wants their cheap labor for the wine and tourist industries. It figures that other business interests would plan to profit again by selling them houses.


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