By Stefanie Hahn
Power brokers breaking it down, discussing emerging markets at the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in D.C. this week. What could be cooler than that? (What can I say? I love real estate.) I should note that while the session was called, “Expand Your Horizons, Boost Business: Understanding and Capturing Emerging Market Business,” the panelists all agreed that these markets have already emerged.
The panel, hosted by RIS Media, focused specifically on recruiting and working with agents and consumers from the Hispanic, Asian, and LGBT markets. Here are a few of my takeaways:
1. Understand diversity in your local market. I’m not going to use the M-word, but it was interesting to hear that Hispanics are the youngest ethnic group in the U.S. with a median age of 29, according to the State of Hispanic Homeownership Report presented by panelist Joseph Nery, 2016 president of the National Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP). Has your company embraced millennials? They should. (OK, I used the M-word.) The Asian Real Estate Association of America also reports a younger population of U.S. home buyers, with a median age of 36. Panelist John Yen Wong, founding chairman of the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA), also points out that Asian Americans live an average of nine years longer than any other U.S. population segment.
Power Broker Forum, 2016 REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo. ©REALTOR® Magazine
2. It’s time to embrace local diversity by getting involved. AREAA, NAHREP, and the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals are great organizations and assets to the industry. If you join, let consumers know that you are a part of these groups. Have your membership prominently displayed on your websites and online profiles. As one panelist pointed out, some of the larger brands are already members and support these groups – share that affiliation as well. Let the world know that you embrace and value diversity. Brokers: Survey your existing agents on what languages they speak and share that with potential clients too. Also, visit to the association websites above and read their reports – they are packed with useful demographic information.
3. Find and use the appropriate tools to communicate with clients abroad. For example, Facebook and Google are blocked in China, so your Gmail will be useless for reaching a Chinese buyer or investor. If you are going to target this market, you need to check out WeChat, an all-in-one communications super app.
4. Understand that if you want to work with global markets, it will require some education on your part. Obviously, you want to hire the right agents that speak the language, but you should also have some understanding of the laws and financing in the countries you target. Learn to appreciate the cultural nuances. Panelist Gary Scott, president of Long and Foster Real Estate, has hired an executive to chart a course for the company’s Hispanic, Latino, and Asia Pacific initiatives. He also recommends hiring social media experts who reflect the markets you want to serve.
Still not sure about trying to break into these diverse markets, abroad or domestic? Consider this: In a 2013 article from Nielsen, “Significant, Sophisticated, and Savvy: The Asian American Consumer,” Asian American households spent 19 percent more than the U.S. general population in many categories, including housing, and they are 30 percent more likely to invest in real estate beyond their primary residence.
Or maybe this will convince you: In 2015, Hispanics achieved a net increase of 245,000 owner households, accounting for 69 percent of the total net growth in U.S. homeownership. Hispanics were the only major racial or ethnic group to raise their homeownership rate in 2015.
I’ve got more: The LGBT buying power is also a force to be reckoned with, estimated at $830 billion in 2013. More than half of LGBT consumers will choose to do business with companies that are committed to the diversity/equal treatment of the LGBT community.
One sad and strange observation about this panel: None of the “power brokers” featured were women. And some women in the audience noticed. We need more women out-front in this industry that is, in fact, dominated by women agents. And let’s go there too: Thanks to rising incomes, single women are poised to make up 15 percent to 20 percent of purchasers in 2016.
Stefanie Hahn is the vice president of operations at Coldwell Banker Hearthside, REALTORS® in Collegeville, Pa. Visit her website: www.StefanieHahn.com.