As the country transforms, so must the ways in which we approach housing. On the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, it seems that our country has made great progress in some areas to become more inclusive and provide equal opportunity, but the overall culture of the housing industry remains fairly stagnant compared to the multicultural growth in our surrounding communities.
Leading companies are using multicultural marketing strategies on the front line as part of their total market strategy. The ones who are effective are not simply translating their flyers or adding diversity to their ads. Through their marketing efforts and customer experience, the best companies are reflecting the country’s shift in cultural norms and expectations to connect with today’s diverse consumers.
For example, in a recent Zillow commercial, “Mijo,” features a Latino man, his wife, and his mother preparing to move to a new home that the couple recently purchased. This reflection of multigenerational living arrangements may be relatively new to mainstream culture, but it resonates with most of the country’s fast-growing minority buyers. As the percentage of minority homeownership grows, so does acceptance of the understanding of who makes up a household.
While minority purchasing power continues to increase, homeownership rates have not kept pace with their growth. In 2016, Hispanics and Latinos were the only minority ethnic group whose homeownership rate increased. Among the reasons for this are increasing average household income, as well as more, and better, targeting in effort to leverage often underserved or ignored Hispanic communities across the country. Though rates of homeownership among Hispanics grew, the gains have not kept pace in proportion to their population expansion, according to analysis of U.S. Census and Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data by Urban Institute. Meanwhile, homeownership among non-Hispanic White people grew in proportion to their expanding population.
Based on our assessment of companies who are effectively reaching diverse markets, there are a few best practices to capture new sales and encourage growth in minority homeownership:
Speak their language
Alterra Home Loans and Century 21 Real Estate have partnered recently to better support borrowers who wish to have access to bilingual loan officers with an understanding of their cultures -- two factors necessary to leveraging opportunities in the growing Hispanic population, as well as building wealth through homeownership. As noted by DEVAL president Debbie-Garcia Gratacos, “Having a bilingual origination team is very important.”
Hiring bilingual loan officers and developing partnerships that leverage this value are a couple of ways to offer tailored service to more potential borrowers. As the most-spoken language in the U.S. after English, it may seem wisest to load up with Spanish-speaking loan officers. Consider also your surrounding region and lesser-served communities. Depending on where you’re located, it may also be beneficial to hire loan officers fluent in Mandarin, Arabic, or even Tagalog.
Reach out, teach out
Lower-down payment mortgage loan options through products such as Fannie Mae’s HomeReady and Home Possible mortgages from Freddie Mac require borrowers to attend financial workshops or seminars to ensure they are educated about their obligations and their rights. One way loan officers can, and do, get to know and connect with minority borrowers is to host educational workshops or seminars around the community.
For example, one of Alterra’s branch managers, Julia Adame, shared that her success largely stems from her commitment to educating the Latino community. “Last year I had a monthly homebuyer’s class, only in Spanish, and I also write weekly articles for this cause.” Other leaders are partnering with nonprofit agencies and corporations to share homebuyer education through channels less reached. This opens new opportunities for business and supports underserved communities.
Meet your borrowers where they are, which remains, in high numbers, on phones and other mobile devices. All ethnic groups, according to Pew Research, possess smartphones, and that number doesn’t decrease much in low-to-moderate income groups.
Companies like Blend, Roostify, and Simple Nexus are making it easier for lenders of all sizes to create a digital, mobile-first experience that satisfies today’s consumer demands for transparency and on-demand features. However, a mobile app is not the end-all for companies’ user experience strategy. Technology should not replace the relationship. It should enhance it.
Particularly in multicultural communities, borrowers want the ease and convenience of an app, but they want a personal guide to answer any questions they have. Don Maxwell, expert in helping lenders reach the African American community, shares the digital experience must be paired with an excellent personal experience. “Minority communities often need higher touch from their loan officer.” Additionally, many younger buyers want to have at least one meeting in person with their loan officer. A combined 58% of millennials and Gen Xers reported beginning their mortgage origination process online and completing it with a person in Ellie Mae’s 2017 Origination Insights Survey.
Ensure Cultural Competence
Loan officers can try all the gimmicks in the world, but if they don’t at least make a passing effort to get to know the community they’re courting, their actions will ring hollow. Acknowledging and respecting cultural differences between borrowers isn’t a recipe for discrimination, but an antidote: The more loan officers know and understand their clients’ culture and values, the better loan officers can serve those clients individually with a benefit to the larger group.
Companies like National MI and WFG are providing their employees and customers with access to multicultural sales education. Companies across the mortgage industry are finding training essential to drive new sales.
Remember: cultural generalities are meant to be guideposts, not givens. Get to know your borrowers as individuals, and follow the above steps with a genuine desire to help more families build wealth and stability through homeownership. With that mindset and a few key strategies, you will find great success with multicultural sales in 2018.