Embracing Diversity Is Good for Business

 Debbi Conrad  |    April 08, 2010

As the data from the 2000 United States Census Bureau confirm, Wisconsin has become increasingly diverse. Wisconsin, once predominantly white except for Native Americans, became more Asian and more Latino during the 1990s, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The number of Latinos in the state doubled from 93,194 in 1990 to 192,921 in 2000. Asians totaled 52,782 in 1990; in 2000, 88,763 listed Asian as their only race and a total of 102,768 chose Asian as one of their races, an increase of over 50 percent.

The growing Latino and Southeast Asian populations in Wisconsin constitute a growing proportion of first-time homebuyers. The number of persons from other countries and cultures in Wisconsin also seems to be on the rise. For example, Somalian refugees are settling in northwest Wisconsin and Minnesota. As a result, the fair housing emphasis for the successful and profitable REALTOR® entails not only guarding against discrimination, but also being prepared to provide an equal opportunity for housing to people with different cultures and customs.

According to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, minorities will grow ever more important to housing markets in the coming years, accounting for an estimated two-thirds of net new households. Minority population growth has become critical to sustaining housing markets, employment bases, school enrollments and commerce in almost every large metropolitan city in the country.

A survey by the Texas A&M University Real Estate Center in 2004 showed variances among ethnic groups with respect to their experience, attitudes and expectations when it comes to purchasing real estate. Latinos have the least experience with real estate agents or home ownership, are very financially conservative and turn to family as the primary source of information and advice. Many Spanish-speaking Latinos want or need a real estate agent who speaks Spanish because they do not feel comfortable conducting transactions in English. The survey indicated that African Americans are often receptive to real estate agents, are likely to seek information and advice from them, and are also financially conservative. Asian Americans were shown to be receptive to real estate agents, to rely upon them for information and advice, to show interest in expensive homes, to be likely to prefer new construction and to feel fairly comfortable with the overall home buying process. Buyers from these groups generally comprise around 40-50 percent of first-time homebuyers in many market areas.

It is good business for REALTORS® to develop the skills to reach the growing multicultural market of prospective homeowners. In today’s housing market, where client profiles are changing rapidly, earning the confidence of a potential homebuyer is more complex than it used to be. The increasingly rich diversity in culture, religion and tradition found in our society in the 21st century means that real estate professionals who successfully interact with these different populations should become aware of different values, manners and gestures that may need to be observed in order to successfully interact with people from various ethnic groups:

  • Shaking a client’s hand isn’t always the key to sealing a deal now.
  • An improper form of address can turn a business transaction sour.
  • Translating key phrases into your client’s language generates success.

Debbi Conrad is Senior Attorney and Director of Legal Affairs for the WRA.

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