Happy Hispanic Heritage Month! Three Agents Share the Powerful Intersection of Heritage and Business
In 1968, Hispanic Heritage Week gave way to Hispanic Heritage observance under President Lyndon B. Johnson. By 1988, the celebration was expanded to 30 days under President Ronald Reagan. Observed annually between September 15 and October 15, Hispanic Heritage Month serves as a celebration of the rich histories and cultural tapestries of American citizens of Spanish, Mexican, Caribbean, and Central and South American descent.
In the real estate industry, celebrating the Hispanic community and making sure they are thoroughly represented within the homeownership experience is of utmost importance. According to the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP), an organization which serves to advance sustainable Hispanic homeownership through its entrepreneurial spirit, cultural heritage, and member advocacy, Latino homeownership rates have increased for their sixth consecutive year – despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In the 10 years leading up to the pandemic, Latinos accounted for over 50% of homeownership growth in the U.S.,” reads the NAHREP 2020 State of Hispanic Homeownership Report. Between NAHREP and internal KW groups such as KW CHISPA; which focuses on fostering intercultural understanding and empowering Latino and Hispanic associates, staff and leadership, and having the voices of the community heard; there are plenty of opportunities for agents to get involved and become better advocates for current and future Hispanic homeowners.
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, Outfront spoke with three Hispanic agents whose own experiences have made them invaluable advocates within their communities. Here they are.
Culture and Business, Interconnected
Guille Garza, Keller Williams Integrity Realty
Twenty years ago, Guille Garza emigrated to the United States from Coahuila, Mexico, holding a bachelor’s degree as an engineer in computer science. Faced with a language barrier and a different approach within her field of study between Mexico and the U.S., Guille refocused her career path on technology, leading to her spending 12 years as a charter school technology coordinator. This experience, she shares, set her on the path to becoming a real estate agent. As conversations about buying and selling homes took place around her school environment, she became curious, ultimately leading to her pursuing her license. Now, about 90% of her business comes from Latino clients, many of them second generation, and some who were taking part in her classes. “I saw those kids being 13 and 14, and now they’re purchasing a home,” she shares.
A solo agent in the Minnesota area, Guille has a gift for forming relationships – especially those that help establish trust across diverse communities. To date, she has worked with multiple nonprofits in teaching first-time homebuyers about the process, connected her own trusted partners through her local Latino Chamber of Commerce, volunteered with the Mexican consulate, and even gotten involved with her local police department. “One of the things that I did was introducing the Mexican consulate to them, to work closely and understand the ideas of the Latino population,” she shares. “I’m trying to get my heritage, my knowledge, and the struggles of the Latino community out there for people to be aware.”
“I always knock on doors,” Guille shares. Some people don’t open right away, but that’s OK. I’ll knock again in a few months.” One of the safe spaces that has helped her open doors has been NAHREP. Alongside a lender friend, Guille co-founded the Minnesota chapter of NAHREP, over which she presided for two years. “I would like Realtors to be more involved in the committees where we can help and do better in our community,” she says. With her clients, Guille seeks to empower. “In my culture, many people think I’m doing them a favor by helping them purchase a home,” she says. “I’m not doing a favor at all. They have given me a job, and I want them to have that perspective.”
Raquel Lavender, Keller Williams Realty – Atlanta Partners / Stockbridge
This year, Raquel Lavender celebrates her 20th year in real estate, 16 of which were spent alongside Keller Williams. Born in Venezuela and making her way to the United States in the late ’80s, Raquel had heard a series of unfortunate stories of people getting taken advantage of when purchasing homes. “A lot of these stories were related to immigrants – people who a lot of times didn’t even understand the language,” she shares. So, she quickly decided to take matters into her own hands, setting shop under the tagline ‘making a significant difference.’ A solo agent with one transaction coordinator, Raquel is one of the top 10% of agents in her office, and, inspired by her blue-collar worker father, embodies a giving spirit who wants to see those around her succeed. “Those are my roots,” she says. “He always made sure that people would be able to come to us, knock on our door, and always be able to leave with something when they needed help.”
One of the most impactful ways in which Raquel is continuing this legacy is through the Dream Big Sport and Art Scholarship Fund, created alongside her family with the support of the Latino Community Fund in Georgia. With every transaction, Raquel makes a donation, so children in the community whose parents cannot afford for them to participate in after-school enrichment activities may do so. In 2020, the fund was able to provide 33 scholarships. In addition, she is heavily involved with NAHREP as the former president of the Atlanta chapter (recognized as a ‘Chapter of the Year’ by the organization), and currently her local chapter emeritus director and NAHREP’s advocacy South Region director, overseeing North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia chapters’ advocacy efforts. Raquel also holds a seat on the Georgia Association of Realtors, where she’s especially involved in diversity, equity, and inclusion matters, economic development, and strategic planning.
“In our industry, it is very important that we take into consideration what is best for others, regardless of what that means for us,” she shares. “The main thing is to make sure we can all educate ourselves on the issues that we don’t quite understand, put ourselves in other people’s shoes, and understand why they do what they do and the life that they live.” For example, in her own life, Raquel has joined AREAA, the Asian Real Estate Association of America, “Not because I’m Asian, but because I work with Asian clients, and I think it’s important for me to understand their needs and also to align myself with professionals in the industry that can help me better serve these clients.” Ultimately, Raquel believes that agents are in a powerful position to do a lot of good for everyone, and she lives and breathes that belief day in and day out.
Juan Grimaldo, Keller Williams Realty Elite Phoenix/Goodyear – Surprise
While working in banking in 2005, Juan Grimaldo realized that his career path was not going to be enough to support his family, nor was it furthering his life mission. “My mission in life is to help others in my own situation, especially in our community. We’re not taught how to invest and create wealth through homeownership,” he shares. Juan comes from humble beginnings: His father came to the United States from Mexico as an 18-year-old, and picked cotton, dates, and strawberries along the way. Juan himself dropped out of high school and received his GED. “For me, it became a mission to help others reach the American Dream.”
So, in 2007, Juan got his real estate license, and in 2011, he went full speed ahead and started building his empire. Now, he runs a team of 12, which he feels personally responsible for. Last year, they sold 117 homes, and this year they’ve already sold 90, bringing in more than $1M in commission income. “Right now, I am focused on my business and keeping it growing, so that I can provide for my team, my family, and all those that depend on the business,” he says. And, of course, he is focused on honoring his father through his work. “My father always had a smile on when he was going to work,” Juan shares.
In addition to leading his team, Juan is also an investor who owns several rental homes, a marketing department, and a transaction coordination department in Mexico. He is deeply committed to his community, participating in NAHREP events and being involved within his church. But, he’s particularly passionate about making sure those within the Hispanic community know that retirement and owning assets can be goals within reach. “People in our culture don’t think about retiring, they think about working,” he shares. “One thing I’m passionate about is calling back my clients that have equity and showing them how to invest. I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by very amazing, successful, abundant-thinking people. And I love sharing everything that I know with anyone that is willing to listen.”
Amplify Hispanic Voices
Vamos a celebrar! Throughout October 15, join us in amplifying the voices of the Hispanic real estate community by leveraging new graphics available in Designs.