Hispanic buyers boost US housing market
Hispanics are experiencing the largest homeownership gains of any ethnic group in the U.S., a turnaround for the population hardest hit by the housing boost that could help buoy the market for years.
The homeownership rate for Hispanics has increased more during the past several years than any race or ethnic group, including whites. The rate, which hit a 50-year low in 2015, has risen 3.3 percentage points since then, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. The overall U.S. homeownership rate bottomed in the second quarter of 2016 and has grown 1.3 percentage points since then.
While Hispanics comprise only 18% of the U.S. population, the group accounted for nearly 63% of new U.S. homeowner gains over the past decade, according to the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals. New homeowners include people buying first homes and those coming back into the market after a foreclosure.
The group’s homeownership has risen alongside gains in income and education and a growing familiarity with the U.S. mortgage market. The Latino community also has a large millennial population entering the age of homeownership.
Hispanic home buying stretched from towns in southern California to rural Texas and suburban Minneapolis.
“The housing market would look very different today if it weren’t for a tidal wave of Latino homebuyers,” said Gary Acosta, NAHREP’s co-founder and chief executive.
Minorities bore the brunt of the 2008 housing bust and their return to homeownership has been mixed. African-American homeownership tumbled to an all-time low in the first quarter of this year.
Now a growing population of young Latinos increasingly eager to buy homes offers fresh hope to a slowing housing market, where sales of existing homes have fallen on an annual basis for the past year.
That slowdown has been driven, however, by a lack of starter homes and prices that have risen out of reach of many young buyers in major cities—challenges that have hit the Hispanic community, which is concentrated in many of these places.
Down payments can also be a barrier to minority communities. A recent study by the Urban Institute found that 4.6 million Hispanic millennials earn enough to afford a home in their area but are blocked by a lack of down payment and inventory for sale. The Hispanic homeownership rate remains at 47.4%, well below the rate for non-Hispanic whites, which was over 73% in the first quarter.
Jason Madiedo, chief executive of Las Vegas-based Alterra Home Loans, said 80% of his company’s loans are to Hispanic buyers and 70% are to first-time buyers who are fearful that if they don’t buy a home now they won’t ever be able to afford one.
“The FOMO—the fear of missing out—has sort of set in,” he said.
Eyra Colindres, a 30-year-old Starbucks manager, began looking for a home last year after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Ms. Colindres, who came to the Los Angeles area from Mexico when she was five years old, wanted to care for her parents by purchasing a home where they could live together.
“Her biggest stress factor was how is she going to stay here,” Ms. Colindres said of her mother.
Through a friend, Ms. Colindres met a loan officer at mortgage lender New American Funding. The loan officer helped her repair her credit so that she could get approved for a mortgage.
In September last year, she closed on a $235,000 two-bedroom in San Bernardino, Calif. She surprised her mother with the purchase and they all moved in together. “It took her about a week to stop crying,” Ms. Colindres said.
Hispanics and blacks saw significant gains in homeownership during the housing bubble, aided by lenders that targeted minority buyers with risky loans that eventually led to wide-scale foreclosures. The Hispanic homeownership rate hit a high of more than 50%, before plummeting 6 percentage points over the next eight years, according to census data.
Houses in Hispanic communities were 2.5 times more likely to be foreclosed upon than homes in white communities between 2007 and 2015 while homes in black communities were twice as likely to be foreclosed on, according to an analysis by Zillow.
Artemisa Boston, a realtor in Minneapolis, often has to reassure buyers that most mortgages nowadays have payments that are fixed for 30 years.
Many come from countries where credit and mortgages aren’t available so they are used to buying homes in cash. Ms. Boston will sometimes tell buyers to come back when they have been in the same job for two years so they can qualify for a mortgage.
Lenders are also targeting Hispanics. These borrowers took out 9.4% of mortgages in the U.S. last year, versus 5.8% at their recent low point in 2010, according to ComplianceTech’s LendingPatterns.com.
Eva Angelina Romero, a real estate agent in Nashville, said that more small lenders are offering programs geared to Hispanic buyers. One uses a tax identification number instead of a social security number, which a buyer wouldn’t have if undocumented. She said that while most of her clients used to be non-Hispanic, now 80% are Latino.
“Mortgage companies are looking at that segment even more so now than before because refinances are not as plentiful [and saying] this is an opportunity we can no longer wait on,” Mr. Madiedo said.