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Commentary by Alejandra Autry

RISMEDIA, Feb. 21, 2008-So many times I hear the same phrase, “I have been thinking about learning Spanish so I can get a piece of that market.” How easy it must be to get new clients by speaking a second language.

First of all, I would like to say that I love my job and I never take it for granted. I have been helping the Spanish speaking community obtain the American dream for the last ten years. One thing that most people do not understand is that a lot of Latino agents in that market work very hard and usually have to go an extra mile for to help their clients.

It is not just about the language, it is about the culture and about trust. Most of my clients are referred to my company by previous clients. The pressure is always there to do the best possible job for these new homebuyers.

You have to understand where they come from and also have extra patience to deal with their needs. I cannot begin to tell you how many times my clients have thought of me as a marriage counselor, accountant, divorce attorney, social worker, banker, translator, doctor, etc.

What do I mean by this? For example: I had a sweet young single mother trying to purchase a small property. She was not able to afford anything higher than 60K, options were limited and it took great effort to find her the financing and the right house for her and her children. I became her best friend; she would call me for anything and everything. One day she called me on the phone because she had just received her bank card and was trying to pay for her gas. I asked her if she used the Debit or Credit option on the pump. Of course, she had no idea what I was saying. All she knew was that she slid the card in the machine and was afraid to drive off for fear the police would chase her for nonpayment.

At first I didn’t know what to say. After all, I was in a very important meeting. The first thought in my mind was to have her walk into the gas station while she had me on the phone and ask the attendant to speak to me, which is exactly what she did.

This is just a small part of what our clients think our jobs are. We are not just here to help them buy a house. In most instances, we become their best friends and that means we should be available for anything. I know of many agents, including me, who take their buyers to Doctors’ appointments, school meetings, etc. because we can speak their language and they have a connection with us.

Another thing that is very different in dealing with the Latino community is that, overall, they are very loyal. If you treat them right and do everything you can for them, they will let their family, friends, and co-workers (anyone they know) know about you. You can have a great referral business if you do a good job for these clients.

I am fortunate to have Spanish speaking clients as well as American buyers, and I can tell you that I personally don’t feel like I have earned my commission whenever I help an English speaking buyer buy a home. I do my job as always, but there are no extra expectations or duties other than being a good real estate agent. It is a very different world. I do not need to help them translate all of their paperwork, or make doctors appointments for them, etc.

I thought this story would be helpful for people to understand that culture is a big part of dealing with the Latino community – not just the language. I personally would find it very hard to be the best agent I could be if I was helping someone from another country with a language that I did not understand. I do not agree with using small children as translators. It is a very complicated process and often the buyers do not understand when a child translates. It is not fair to the buyers when they do not completely understand what they are signing and what is involved in buying a home.

I have to say that my job is very rewarding. A lot of my clients have become very good friends. I would not change that for the world.

Alejandra “Alex” Autry is the broker of HDH Real Estate.