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Opinion: Fostering Latino homeownership through workforce representation 

Diversification, representation and homeownership

Building a diverse workforce representative of today’s homebuyers is more than just good business strategy, it’s a moral obligation for the housing industry. 

The demographics of first-time homebuyers in this country are shifting, with Latinos playing an increasingly significant role. New household formation is a precursor to purchasing, and in 2023 alone, Latinos added 450,000 new households. In that same year, the Hispanic homeownership rate reached 49.5%, adding 377,000 Hispanic owner-households. Looking forward, US Census data projects that more than one in four Americans will be Latino by 2060, and the Urban Institute expects Latinos to drive 70% of new homeownership growth between 2020 and 2040. 

The National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) estimates there are 8.3 million mortgage-ready Latinos under the age of 45 in the US who are not yet homeowners. We need to do more to help these families achieve their American Dream, and we can start by working to close a significant gap in industry representation.

To best serve these aspiring homeowners, we must look beyond language barrier issues to recognize and embrace the multicultural backgrounds and values of today’s Latino (and all minority) communities. It is not a homogeneous group – for example, while the Cuban community in Miami shares a common language with the Mexican community in Dallas, each culture is unique, shaped by its rich history – and we, as an industry, need to be intentional about how we understand and support their journeys. 

Our mortgage and real estate professionals must grasp and authentically represent the diverse cultural perspectives and backgrounds of our customers. This involves a thorough understanding of the cultural nuances and financial behaviors of various communities.

Mortgage and real estate professionals who originate from the communities they serve build trust, comfort, and confidence among homebuyers, which is crucial for supporting their journey to homeownership. Latino homebuyers need to feel that their best interests are represented by professionals who comprehend their unique needs. Companies with diverse teams throughout their organizations excel in serving these communities.

Nearly 64% of the country’s loan officers are white, while only 15% are Hispanic or Latino, highlighting a gap that persists among mortgage professionals of color. To solve this, the housing industry must band together in purposeful ways to focus on community-oriented recruiting efforts. We need to draw a representative workforce from other industries where Latinos may be more prevalent, and we need to offer additional training and mentorship programs to set new mortgage professionals up for success. 

We should establish programs that cultivate a diverse talent pipeline from universities, and extend it to community colleges and high schools, where we can incentivize students with programs that support their pursuit of relevant degrees. Additionally, fostering affinity groups in the workplace allows diverse communities to flourish and contribute, while also enabling us to better understand the unique needs of diverse homebuyers through shared knowledge and experience. If we expand development initiatives, we can elevate diverse talent into leadership positions, creating a ripple effect that enriches the diversity of our talent pools across our organizations.

Importantly, support for diversity must start at the top with a commitment to fostering diverse teams that reflect the communities they serve. We are making progress, but there is more to do. Each year, NAHREP honors the country’s top performing Latino housing professions with the Top 250 Real Estate and top 250 Mortgage Originator awards. At loanDepot, for instance, 42% of our in-market loan originators are Latino, which was achieved through years of intentional recruiting and retention initiatives.

As Gary Acosta, NAHREP’s co-founder and CEO often points out, the economic prosperity of our nation is intricately linked to our ability to facilitate homeownership opportunities for all Americans, regardless of background. By prioritizing inclusivity and representation, we can better serve the needs of Latino families as we work to ensure everyone in this country has equal access to homeownership opportunities. It is time for the industry to come together to prioritize a workforce that reflects the rich diversity of our nation.

Jesus Cruz is Vice President of Community Lending for loanDepot.

Nora Aguirre is President of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of HousingWire’s editorial department and its owners.

To contact the editor responsible for this piece: [email protected]

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