Speaking the Language Ethnic Real Estate Agents Help Immigrants Feel at Home

By Murphy, Jean | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), July 23, 1999 | Go to article overview

Speaking the Language Ethnic Real Estate Agents Help Immigrants Feel at Home


Murphy, Jean, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Jean Murphy Daily Herald Correspondent

When Gloria Palosic emigrated to the United States from the Philippines in 1971, she knew the English language, but little about how business is conducted here.

The same was true for Tony Arce when he emigrated from Mexico and Lorisa Maryasin, when she came here from Moscow.

All three had to immerse themselves in the culture of their new land to find their niche.

But they had help along the way from friends and relatives who came to America before them.

It has never been easy to leave the country of one's birth and learn a new language and customs in a foreign place. But that process has long been made easier by the tradition of immigrants who have already been assimilated into American culture helping recent arrivals learn the ropes.

Palosic, Arce and Maryasin are carrying on this tradition in their roles as real estate agents who cater primarily to immigrants from their home lands or other regions of the world.

They are part of a growing trend in suburban real estate: immigrants getting their licenses and then specializing in helping other immigrants negotiate their way through the daunting process of buying their own piece of America.

Similar customs

Palosic, an agent and office manager for Coldwell-Banker Gladstone in Darien, works with Asian immigrants from many countries, including China, India, the Philippines, Japan, Pakistan and Korea. While her languages are limited to English, Spanish and three of the many Filipino languages, she is able to work successfully with Asians from different countries because they share similar customs.

"Most of them speak English. The language is not the problem for them. The old country mentality is the problem," she says.

Palosic says she has been successful because she takes the time to explain the process of buying real estate in the United States and is sensitive to how immigrants see their world.

"Before I can work with an Asian family, I usually have to earn their trust by going to visit them in their home two or even three times before we ever go out and look at houses," Palosic explains. "And I know that it is very important to show respect for the oldest member of the family before you even talk to the actual buyer because once the oldest member of the family approves of you and shows it in their body language, then you have a client."

That is when the education begins, she says. Palosic shares personal experiences with her clients. By using her background as a teacher, she explains the ins and outs of real estate in America.

"In the old country, you had to save and save for years to pay cash for a house and they carry that mentality with them here. I have to explain about mortgages," she says. "They are also used to haggling for everything in the old country. I have to teach them not to do that and how to make and counter real estate offers here."

When working with Asian immigrants, real estate agents also have to beware of the hard-sell approach. It definitely does not work, Palosic says.

And if you are invited to attend a gathering of Asians, you never pass out business cards.

"Those who invite you will be your talking business cards," she says. "It is really very beautiful. Everything is passed word of mouth. Once you get one Asian family, you get them all because in the old country, the question of 'who do you know?' is all important."

Once a family becomes clients, the relationship continues. Palosic says her clients often cry at the closing because they are so emotional about buying a home and are grateful for her help. Their gratitude can go so far as dropping off lunches at her office and even inviting her to family parties.

"This is a relationship business. Ninety percent of my business is referral," Palosic says.

A sense of ownership

Tony Arce, an agent with Century 21 Real Estate Finders in Wheeling, works primarily with Hispanic home buyers. …

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