Within the real estate industry, there is a long history of racial discrimination against the Latinx community. As a Latina and co-owner of Coldwell Banker The Omni Group brokerage in Southern California with my husband Richard A. Hernandez, I have often found myself to be the only Latina at leadership tables. My husband Rich and I both realized that elevating more people who looked like us— and spoke our language, knew our traditions, and lived in our neighborhoods—would go a long way in changing the entire industry.
Our journey has been a long, challenging, and rewarding one. For the majority of our real estate careers, we’ve proudly served clients of diverse and minority backgrounds to help them buy their ideal homes and help build generational wealth. But as an independent brokerage with limited structure and resources, we were only able to do so much.
That’s why when we came across Coldwell Banker’s Inclusive Ownership Program, we didn’t think twice about applying for the program and affiliating with the well-known and well-trusted franchise.
Having worked in the real estate industry for 30 years, I’ve seen many buyers face discriminatory obstacles and faced my own. Both as a woman and Latina, working my way up to the broker-owner level took a lot of proving myself. I had to fight harder than my male counterparts for a seat at the table, and always felt pressure to prove to prospective business partners that I am successful and can help them be successful too.
I challenge potential partners and employees to ask themselves, What does success look like to you? The answer is different for everyone. As a grandmother, Latina business owner, and successful real estate agent, I am what success looks like.
Looking back at my career, a lot of good has happened for my community. After predatory lending practices and the 2007-08 housing crash hurt my community hard, the Dodd-Frank Act certainly helped. However, there is still a lot farther to go. For example, expanding alternative credit options for Latinos and people of color would be a great start.
In my experience, Latinx buyers today are still shown fewer listings, called back less often, given heavier application forms, and quoted higher fees than other ethnicities. They are also at a major financial disadvantage—they have high debt relative to income, have smaller down payments, and have more vulnerable incomes. According to the Urban Institute, a higher share of Hispanic workers is employed in the industries and occupations that were most vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic ramifications than any other racial or ethnic group.
Additionally, Latinx buyers in today’s hot market are often at a loss against wealthier buyers with the power to bid much higher or provide all-cash offers, simply because those buyers were historically given more opportunity to grow generational wealth than Latinos. For example, I have a Latina buyer who put an offer on 19 houses before we had a seller accept!
The power of partnership
Rich and I attribute much of our success to connection and collaboration. As part of Coldwell Banker’s Inclusive Ownership Program today, our business now has the exposure it needs to reach more clients of diversity and effectively serve them. Through the program, we’ve been given the tools, structure (something independents don’t always have), mentorship and confidence boost to back up the hard work that goes into our business every single day to serve our beloved community.
In an industry where there is still much room for improvement, it is crucial for leaders to look like the people they serve and show them that their dream can be achieved. As diverse leaders, we must look in the mirror and ask ourselves, Who are we bringing along? Who is on our leadership team? Do our employees look like us, and, in turn, look like the people we serve? Because all good decisions are made when diversity is at the table.
A bright future ahead
According to the latest data from the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, 52% of new homeowners in 2019 were Latinos. Progress like that is what keeps Rich and me hopeful that discrimination will one day be a thing of the past. With the resources and partnership of Coldwell Banker behind us, we have never been in a better position to serve our beloved community and drive much-needed change for Latinos and all other communities of color.
We look forward to continuing our journey as a Coldwell Banker-affiliated brokerage. We encourage other diverse owners looking to align with a partner who gives you a boost of confidence, cares about your causes, and has state-of-the-art resources to apply for the program and forever be a changed company for the better.