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Be An Amigo To Latinos

Embrace the family, be nurturing, and understand the cash mentality

Be An Amigo To Latinos
Managing Director

We have witnessed the tremendous buying power of Hispanics as their homeownership rates skyrocket. And yet, many Spanish-speaking customers run into roadblocks when it comes to financing. According to the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, Latinos experienced a 19.1% home purchase denial rate for conventional loans and were 81% more likely to be denied than their non-Latino counterparts.

In my experience as a Cuban American and managing director of Ameriuno, the bilingual division of Amerifirst Home Mortgage, I see several reasons for this disparity. For one, many Hispanics save money in nontraditional ways and that presents barriers under existing underwriting guidelines. In addition, many in the Hispanic community strive to improve their economic condition by living in multi-generational households and move jobs more frequently to improve their cash flow. These realities are not acknowledged in the current system and can actually count against a loan applicant.

This is complicated by the fact that a large faction of the Hispanic community is unfamiliar with the document-intensive process, all of which must be completed in English. Right from the start there is confusion and fear surrounding the largest financial decision most people will ever make, compounded by the fact that many harbor distrust toward financial institutions, having experienced corruption in their home countries.

Many applicants come to the U.S. from Central and South America, where buying a home likely means paying in cash. They are not familiar with the particulars of managing credit, keeping tax records or even establishing a savings account. A lot may not understand how to manage credit or how the things that they do can affect their credit. Little things like not paying a cell phone bill on time may seem inconsequential, but it can be the reason their loan is denied.

Financial education helps bridge the gap, so we developed a “Home Opportunity Center” in Kissimmee, Florida to support them.

Hispanics are very family-oriented and gain comfort from community. Like most people, they are drawn to those who are familiar to them and quite frankly, speak their language. The center has the feel of a welcoming community center, not a loan office. We encourage customers to bring their family members to participate in their decision.

If you are trying to reach Spanish speaking homebuyers, here are some things to consider:

Be Nurturing Not Negative

If an applicant’s credit is not where it needs to be, it doesn’t mean “no.” Instead, the answer should be, “not yet.”

To get to “yes,” many customers need to get their credit up to par so they can qualify. They need to learn details such as how long they need to have been at their job. If they are self-employed, they should fully understand how to document all their income.

Some customers benefit from referral to an outside CPA who can organize their finances. That way, if a customer needs to be in a downpayment assistance program, or needs help with filing taxes, they are getting the professional advice they need to get a loan.

Assistance Programs

There are different assistance programs across the country that should be offered to qualifying homebuyers. It is important that every loan officer knows these programs inside and out.

Be An Amigo For Life

Your work should not be over once the loan is closed. At Ameriuno, we assign an “Amigo” who is available to answer any questions that may arise through the entire process and afterwards. Often the phone rings when it is time to make their first payment or when their first escrow increase occurs. This may be a tall order for most traditional lenders but Amerifirst services most of its loans. The point is to answer the phone long after the deal is done.

Many Hispanic customers report less than ideal lending experiences that I believe were the result of a language barrier or an unwillingness to take the time to educate the customer. It is an investment of time that has paid off for us.

It reminds me of a Puerto Rican customer, Yaiksa, who came to us after a previous lender said her credit was poor and asked for fees. She consulted with one of our officers who laid out the facts with no up-front charges. Three months later, she closed on her first home. She continues to call her Amigo for advice and referred a family member to us.

“That kind of service says a lot about a person,” Yaiksa said. “She left the door open for me to continue to ask her questions. That makes me feel comfortable and I tell people, go see her.”

In my opinion, for all that we must do to close the cultural gap, trust and personal relationships matter most.

This article was originally published in the NMP Magazine May 2022 issue.
About the author
Managing Director
Andy Insua is Managing Director of Ameriuno Home Mortgage with offices in Florida, Texas, California and Arizona.
Published on
May 16, 2022
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