Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Hispanics Drive Housing Market

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Hispanics Drive Housing Market

Article excerpt

To 36-year-old Juan Pablo Cruz, the decision to buy a home was a no-brainer. It was just a matter of reaching that goal, which he started working toward the minute he stepped foot in the United States.

"I had my goals clear when I came to this country," said Cruz, who moved to North Jersey from the Dominican Republic five years ago and works as an area manager at a parking company. "I always had my dream to buy my own house."

Last year, that dream became a reality for Cruz when he purchased a two-family home in Garfield, where he now lives with his wife, daughter and parents. As Cruz put it, it was an investment; instead of spending his income on rent, which he did for years, he put his money in ownership.

Rise as others fall

Home buyers like Cruz helped drive the Hispanic homeownership rate last year, when for the first time in 10 years the rate rose while overall homeownership rates decreased. That's according to the 2015 State of Hispanic Homeownership Report conducted by the Hispanic Wealth Project and National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals.

According to the 22-page-report, Hispanics were the only major ethnic or racial group to raise its homeownership rate last year. In 2015, Hispanics achieved a net increase of 250,000 owner households, which accounted for 69 percent of the total net growth in U.S. homeownershi.

North Jersey Realtors, like Johnny Rojas, owner of the Century 21 office in Garfield, said local home buyers are following that trend. Rojas, who helped Cruz close on his home, said Hispanic home buyers make up about 75 percent of his clients.

Rojas, a member of the national association, said the rising homeownership rate among Hispanics is a result of collective efforts from organizations like the association and real estate agencies to educate prospective Hispanic clients of the buying process, then guide them through it. Century 21 has a website specifically for Hispanic clients, who can access all of the agency's online resources in Spanish.

The website, he said, is a valuable tool that helps Hispanics become more comfortable with the process -- whether it's to help find answers to their questions or to help them find a Spanish- speaking agent in their community.

Loans hardest part

Rojas said the hardest part of the process is getting approved for a loan. "A lot of lenders are taking steps to the next level to make sure [home buyers] can afford to keep the house," he said, adding that at times clients need to be convinced that they can afford to buy a home.

Eleonoro Paula, who is getting a loan approved for his first home purchase, said he, too, found the approval stage the hardest part of the buying process, so far.

"We're buying now because we have the right qualifications to do so," Paula said in Spanish. "Everyone's dream is to have their own house. …

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