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As evidenced by a recent National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) report, real estate agents come from all different backgrounds, have varying skills and bring with them unique experiences. Diversity plays an important role in the real estate industry, which is why NAR offers an At Home With Diversity certification program, and, as Fair Housing laws and the REALTOR® Code of Ethics dictate, agents and brokers must treat all clients equally, regardless of their race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity. This is why it’s important that every group is represented within a brokerage. But how can brokerages benefit and gain business from the diversity of their agents? Some of real estate’s leading diversity trailblazers share their insights:

  • Jeff Berger, Founder of the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP)
  • Joe Castillo, Managing Broker of ERA Mi Casa Real Estate and past president of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) Chicago Chapter
  • Jeffrey Hicks, President of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB)
  • Desirée Patno, CEO and President of the National Association of Women in Real Estate Businesses (NAWRB)
  • Scott Berman, Communications and Policy Strategist of the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA)
  • Nicole Joseph, COO of Sharestates, a U.S. real estate investment platform

Tap into the community. Just like real estate agents, clients come from all walks of life. Having an agent that can relate to cultural traditions can make clients feel more comfortable during the buying and selling process.

“Having a diverse brokerage allows you to tap into those different cultures with people that actually understand them and live them. Simple things such as how to address the grandparents or how much to involve the children in a transaction can make the difference between lifelong clients or a lost lead,” says Castillo.

Each community brings in its own set of business, so it’s important that a brokerage hires agents of all different backgrounds.

“The LGBT community has nearly $1 trillion in disposable income, more than even the Asian American community. NAGLREP’s 2017 LGBT Real Estate Report showed that the LGBT community is showing increased interest in homeownership,” says Berger.

Patno says working with various communities is essential to treating everyone equally, stating that “The impact of diversity at the community level is vital, as it can importantly contribute to neighborhoods where residents from varied cultures are accepted and treated equally.”

Communicate in native languages. Communication is key when dealing with real estate transactions.

“Nearly two-thirds of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) residents in this country are foreign-born, and almost 80 percent speak a language other than English at home. Further, 80 percent of AAPI residents say they prefer to conduct business ‘in-language.’ Having agents who can speak the language of the community can open a business to many in the community who otherwise would likely never come through the door,” says Berman.

Joseph believes being multilingual is essential to forming relationships in real estate, stating that “The ability to speak multiple languages is an asset, especially in an industry as diverse as real estate.” She adds, “From brokers to investors to contractors, real estate is about relationships. The ability to communicate and negotiate effectively is a powerful tool, and being fluent in another language is a great advantage.”

This is also a great way to connect with clients and make them feel at ease. It’s one less thing they have to worry about. Also, if consumers know a brokerage is multilingual, they will refer their friends or family because they know their needs will be met.

“Although many Spanish-speaking individuals can and do communicate in English, their preference is to manage financial transactions in Spanish. For most people, the purchase of their home is the single greatest investment of their lives; having representation that can communicate in their primary language is valuable,” says Castillo. “If your office is capable of managing transactions in Spanish, you can expect word to spread of the ease in which your brokerage made the transaction, which of course adds new clients to your business.”

Use shared experiences to create a bond. While everyone lives through different experiences, there are always ways to relate them back to a client.

“People like to work with others who they feel understand their background and their experiences. It’s not about being the exact same as someone else. It’s about being able to relate, and being able to share experiences that connect you with clients,” says Berman.

People can share interests and beliefs—tapping into that is a great way to get business.

“From being aware of cultural customs to relieving language barriers, a diverse agent can provide familiarity and security to diverse homebuyers who are making the most important purchasing decision of their lives,” says Patno.

Every group also faces its own set of challenges. Hiring agents that have dealt with the same obstacles will make transactions smoother for all clients.

“By employing a diverse set of agents, companies are better able to serve the diverse needs within their market. The LGBT community still faces housing discrimination and NAGLREP has worked with NAR to support Congressional bills that would finally protect us,” says Berger. “LGBTs face other unique challenges in the home-buying process and need sales, mortgage and title professionals who understand the issues and can provide proper support.”

It’s also important that every group feels fairly represented. In turn, this will attract business from every community.

“NAREB is intensely focused on diversity. As the country’s oldest minority real estate trade association, we are charged with ensuring that all Americans regardless of ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, education or religion not only have equal access to homeownership opportunity, but also to live in the homes and neighborhoods of their choice,” says Hicks.

Attract consumers with your diversity. Having a diverse agent base is incredibly important in attracting new clients. Every consumer will have a different need and different expectations.

“Utilizing an ethnically diverse agent base provides a community with professionals that share culture similarities,” says Hicks.

Berger is a firm believer that working with diverse agents is the key to a successful brokerage, stating that “The more a firm embraces diverse agents, the more the organization benefits from opening up new marketing channels and becoming comfortable in working with the various diverse groups.”

By having a diverse workforce, a brokerage is prepared for any individual who is looking to buy or sell.

“Diversity is key to growing your business within new communities, but is also a way to keep your office culture lively and in tune with the changing demographics of our society,” says Castillo.

And with a diverse agent base comes the opportunity for innovative ideas to meld together and promote success.

“Diversity in the real estate industry breeds innovation. Leveraging diverse skillsets and technology, coupled with varied levels of experience, breeds ingenuity, generating new ideas and strategies that can move the real estate industry forward,” says Joseph.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

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