A blue house has a real estate for sale sign in front of it. A house is seen for sale in Rochester in 2017. (EMC file photo)

A house is seen for sale in Rochester in 2017. (EMC file photo)

Rochester-area group aims to increase Latino homeownership

It’s very different buying a house in Puerto Rico or Mexico than it is in the Rochester area, said Orlando Rivera, a real estate agent with ReMax Realty Group in Greece.

Trying to learn what’s required here — knowing how to get approved by a mortgage lender, understanding such current market trends as overbidding and waiving inspections, and what it takes to keep up with maintenance and taxes — can be overwhelming, Rivera noted. Plus, he added, Latinos seeking to become homeowners face such obstacles as bad credit and not having enough money for down payments and closing costs.

That’s why in January the Greater Rochester Association of Realtors launched the Hispanic Real Estate Professionals of Rochester — known as HREP Roc — a group of nearly two dozen Latino real estate agents throughout Monroe County.

Rivera, who is HREP Roc’s president, said the group’s goal is to increase the number of Hispanic homeowners through education. Advice on the importance of owning a home — and how to get one — is free, and meetings last between 60 and 90 minutes anywhere that’s comfortable for potential homebuyers.

“We all take the time to walk our folks step-by-step through the process (of homeownership), because we know our own, and we know there’s a need for that education,” Rivera said. “They need us, and they trust us. It makes homeownership that much easier when you have someone in your corner.”

Buy a home to create wealth

Rivera knows this firsthand, as he grew up moving from one Section 8 apartment to another.

“We didn’t have a home, and we didn’t talk about it,” he recalled. “It was all about survival and renting, so that piece of financial literacy was lost.”

As a homeowner and real estate agent, Rivera understands that homeownership is a wealth-building asset. And given his background, he is passionate about making sure others understand, for example, that a home’s equity can be used to cover the costs of property improvements or college tuition.

“A home is that first step in being able to create the ability to have wealth if you need it soon, and to build generational wealth” down the line, he explained.

A home is an investment

First-time homeowner Fernando Munoz describes his purchase as “an investment — an investment in the near future and the far future.”

He and his wife, Francisca, bought a three-bedroom, split-level house in Irondequoit in March 2017.

In the short term, Munoz said, he’s building wealth by paying an extra $100 per month toward the mortgage principal, which will reduce the length of the mortgage. In addition, investments in new windows, a new furnace and other upgrades increases property value and decreases monthly expenses.

The couple is considering buying another house while renting out their current one, Munoz said

“Probably in the next five years or so we’ll be ready to start (again) the cycle of real estate ownership and real estate investing,” he said.

Latinos around the country are increasingly eyeing homeownership, according to statistics from the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals. The group reported that the Hispanic homeownership rate across the U.S. increased to 48.4 percent in 2021, up from 47.5 in 2019. Twenty-nine percent of Latinos in New York, meanwhile, are saving money to buy real estate.

“Hispanic millennials are an important part of that (picture),” said Rivera, who is a member of NAHREP.

More help for Latinos

To further help local Latinos become homeowners, HREP Roc plans to offer seminars for both sellers and buyers and provide referrals to programs that offer grants for first-time homebuyers.

The point, Rivera said, is to help Latinos more easily navigate what can be a very confusing process and to ensure stability once that process is over.

“Not only do we want them to be able to make a purchase, we want them to be able to stay in their homes, too,” he said. “Working together is what’s going to make the community better.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information on homeownership or joining the Hispanic Real Estate Professionals of Rochester, email hreprochester@gmail.com.

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