America’s population is ever-changing, and so is the ratio of home ownership in the country. If you are a real estate agent, broker, or aspiring professional in the industry, it is important to learn how to cater to diverse clientele. As the United States becomes more diverse, it is essential that real estate industry professionals consider cultural sensitivity in their interactions with buyers, sellers, and fellow employees. Understanding the intersection of culture with various elements of real estate will help you do just that.
Changing Demographics in Home Ownership
Researchers believe that the rate of home ownership among people of Latino and Asian descent will nearly double in coming years. The troublesome aspect, according to one member of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, is that so few employees in mortgage banking are Hispanic. While this is changing, it is still important for all employees in the real estate industry to develop an understanding of groups that will be purchasing and selling homes in the years to come.
Changing demographics means that you will also witness a change in needs. For instance, some cultures may emphasize the necessity of having elderly relatives living at home, which means you will be focused on finding houses without stairs or with ramps.
Cultural Insensitivity and Losing Customers
Not only will paying attention to cultural sensitivity help you gain customers, but failing to pay close attention could lead to customer loss. Consider this: if you were trying to buy something expensive but felt that the salesperson assisting you was not in tune with your needs, the process would be all the more difficult. If you felt that the salesperson was being rude or ignoring aspects of the product that were important to you, you might simply walk away and seek help elsewhere. The same applies to real estate.
Religious Cultural Sensitivity in Real Estate
Many social cues are specifically related to religious beliefs and cultural norms. Just as shaking hands and making eye contact are common in America’s business world, not making eye contact or initiating personal contact may be a staple of another belief system. Suggesting that somebody have a drink or making assumptions about clothing style may indicate insensitivity to a religious culture.
Language and Sensitivity
No matter what kind of business you are in, globalization means you might be interacting with those who speak more than one language. Language can be a significant barrier, even when it comes to the use of slang and casual terms. Even people who speak the same language experience miscommunications, so preparing for multilingual interactions is a key component of your training in real estate.
As a real estate agent, part of your job is to bring families and friends together.
The words you use in marketing material could have double meaning to those who are not familiar with English as a first language. Many of the idioms we use in real estate might not translate directly into another language either. A literal translation may be safer than creativity when you speak in another language.
Negotiations and Cultural Differences
Negotiating takes on a different meaning depending on which culture you are doing it in. When it comes to signing contracts, it is important to understand which norms are appropriate for the person or family you are dealing with. Some cultures do not encourage eye contact unless out of genuine emotion, and others might not place as much emphasis on shaking hands or making personal contact. Some business dealings are straight-to-the-point with no frills.
Real Estate Employees and Cultural Sensitivity
One of the best ways real estate companies are facing the issue of cultural sensitivity head-on is by hiring a diverse array of employees. When your office hires employees who are familiar with different cultural narratives, buyers and sellers feel a stronger connection.
Tips for Creating a Culturally Sensitive Real Estate Experience
- If you target a specific demographic or live in an area with a high cultural or ethnic population, it is a great idea to research cultural facets that may differ from your own. Also, it is important not to lump all cultures together in spite of similarities they may share with others.
- Understand certain cultural taboos in your area, which may include certain types of physical touch or use of alcohol and cigarettes.
- Become actively involved in community events, reaching out to those in your city who may not be familiar with your business.
- Consider taking a foreign language course to better understand those who may have learned English as a second language.
- If you do find yourself making a cultural mistake, it is smart to apologize and move forward.
- Brush up on your listening skills. Sometimes listening, rather than talking, is the best thing you can do for your clients.
- It is a good idea to be straight to the point when you are dealing with a language or cultural barrier.
Finally, you might consider taking a course related to cultural sensitivity. Real estate ethics and cultural diversity are interesting topics that may inspire you to take new action in your career. Contact us for more information about available classes in your state.