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Commentary: The Historic White House United State of Women Summit

Editorial Note: The following is a commentary written by Desiree Patno, CEO of the National Association of Women in Real Estate Businesses (NAWRB), after attending the first White House summit on The United State of Women last month in Washington, D.C.

The White House United State of Women Summit was an incredible high and energizer for all the work we have been doing here at NAWRB and for me personally! Jordan Brooks from the White House Council on Women’s and Girls did an incredible job in such a short time, pulling together over 100 speakers and 5,000 women in one venue for women’s equality centered on six pillar topics. To see women come from several different industries with the same vision and desires was such an incredibly exhilarating feeling. Personally, I know there are several of us still riding the high several days and even weeks after the summit.

Coming from an intense business model—from selling properties for corporate clients to running a trade organization—creating a new lane has been quite the challenge. Bucking the normal business model for women and women-owned businesses in the housing ecosystem, the White House Council on Women and Girls Summit rejuvenated and energized NAWRB by raising the public’s awareness and showing the federal government’s commitment to women.

Currently, the federal government doesn’t internally track women-owned businesses, but there are third parties who have been tracking these businesses through various channels. We at NAWRB are working to increase diverse spend and improve the inclusion of women in the housing ecosystem. It has been no easy feat these past seven years and we are eternally grateful to the White House Council on Women and Girls, which was formed the same year as NAWRB.

Recently, there have been major corporations and government agencies in attendance at a couple women’s conferences. The overwhelming sentiment among these entities has been, how can I find the women-owned businesses to add to my bottom-line diverse spend? Not all companies have the same corporate social responsibility, yet several in attendance have large checkbooks looking for women-owned businesses. Major competitors are working together to help each other in diverse spend without compromising their trade secrets. If you had told me five years ago I’d have competitors together on either side of me, truly supporting one another, I wouldn’t have thought it possible.

As an industry that is evolving with incredible growth, oversight and global challenges, we are so blessed to see the needle moving in the right direction, however slightly.

NAWRB recently created the Women’s Global Resource Center for women working in the housing ecosystem from government and trade associations to business owners. By creating a proactive tracking system, in a space where time is of the essence, we are giving back to our community to ensure the growth of women at all levels of employment and the diverse spend of women-owned businesses. It is essential to bring in fresh blood, raise the awareness of opportunities and educate both sides of the spectrum through the many platforms of communication and support.

From large companies with hundreds of millions of dollars in yearly gross revenue to small companies comprising the 91 percent of women-owned businesses employing no one other than the owner, the utilization of women-owned business classification is drastically limited. There are entities really looking for women-owned businesses to certify within their guidelines; there is demand. But how do we find the additional 10 million or more women-owned businesses that are not part of a depository?

You can’t certify or educate an empty cloud.  Opportunities will be lost and your bottom-line profits will be hurt by not finding these women-owned businesses. We need to find the needles in the haystack and grow the women’s culture. As I have stated before, “Women don’t have geographical roots like their diverse counterparts.” Instead of creating a new group, we need to come together, join forces and make a difference! Find out how you can be a part of this great women’s initiative from being a woman to the client looking for women’s diverse spend.

Thank you to the White House Council on Women and Girls for making this a reality and to all the women and men working for gender equality. NAWRB salutes you!

To learn more about NAWRB, visit www.nawrb.org.

Do You Know the Best State for Homeownership?

Owning a home is usually considered part of living the American Dream. But becoming a homeowner is neither easy nor affordable for everyone. Even if you manage to make the leap to homeownership, having a house of your own could seem burdensome if you’re stuck with high property taxes and insurance costs. Moreover, as a homeowner, many factors that affect the real estate market – including interest rates and the economy – are entirely out of your control.

SmartAsset wanted to rank the best states in America for homeowners. To complete our analysis, we considered nine different factors.

We ranked all 50 states based on factors including foreclosure rates, burglary rates and property tax rates. We also looked at the median listing price per square foot, the annual change in home prices (per square foot), home affordability and the annual cost of property taxes and homeowners insurance.

1.  Key Findings

• Watch out for Wyoming. For the second year in a row, Wyoming ranks as the state with the best environment for homeownership.

• The cost of homeownership is high in the Northeast. Owning a home can be expensive in places like Massachusetts and New York. When you consider that states like New Jersey and Connecticut have double-digit foreclosure rates and high housing costs, buying a home in this region might seem like a risky move.

SmartAsset_10_States_Homeownership

1. Wyoming

Thanks to its relatively low property tax rate and low average closing costs, many folks in the state of Wyoming can afford to own a home.

Wyomingites enjoy quite a few perks, including clean air and gorgeous views. And with an average burglary rate of 289.1 per 100,000 people, residents barely need to worry about someone breaking into their homes.

2. South Dakota

If you own a home, you generally want its value to increase over time. That way, you can build equity and hopefully sell your house one day for a nice chunk of change.

Home values in South Dakota are on the rise. In 2015, the home price per square foot went up by 7.5 percent. In our 2015 analysis, we saw the home price per square foot appreciate by 6.3 percent. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the median home value in the state is still only $142,300.

3. Idaho

Conditions for homeowners in Idaho have improved since last year. In 2015, home prices increased by 9.8 percent on a per-square-foot basis, making Idaho the state with the highest rate of price appreciation. In 2014, home prices per square foot only increased by 1.7 percent.

Homeowners in the Gem State might also be happy to know that foreclosure and burglary rates have declined since 2015 by 31.5 percent and 12.7 percent, respectively. Annually, property taxes and insurance cost just $1,777. That means homeowners in Idaho pay less than their counterparts in all but three states.

4. North Dakota

North Dakota has the lowest foreclosure rate in America. Data from RealtyTrac shows that as of May 2016, there was only one foreclosure for every 162,356 homes. While that’s certainly something to celebrate, falling oil prices could cause problems for the housing market in the state. We will watch the foreclosure rate to see how it is impacted, as well as North Dakota’s overall ranking in next year’s study.

5. Utah

If you’re looking for an affordable place to purchase a home, you might want to consider moving to Utah. On average, homeowners in Utah pay fewer closing costs than those in all but three U.S. states. The cost of homeowners insurance remains low as well and it hasn’t changed since we last conducted our study in 2015. Folks who own homes pay just $580, on average, each year to protect their property.

6. Colorado

In our latest study on the best housing markets for growth and stability, three Colorado metro areas ranked in the top 10. Based on the data we pulled for this analysis, we concluded that Colorado as a whole was a great place for people wanting to own homes. The state’s average effective property tax rate (0.58 percent) is among the lowest rates in the nation. Plus, it has the second highest rate of home price appreciation (per square foot).

7. Minnesota

Minnesota ranks as the seventh best state for homeowners in 2016. While it didn’t rank as well as it did in our 2015 study, it still ended up in the top 10. In 2015, the home price per square foot climbed by 6.6 percent and the average price of a home is now just over three times the median household income.

In addition to its relatively healthy housing market, the state of Minnesota has a relatively low unemployment rate of 6.5 percent, according to 2014 data from the U.S. Census.

8. Montana

Montana is one of the least-densely populated states in the country. Recent data from the Census Bureau says that there are only 6.8 people per square mile. If you prefer to have plenty of breathing room, living in Montana might not sound like such a bad idea.

According to RealtyTrac, the state’s foreclosure rate is fairly low (there’s one foreclosure for every 5,142 homes). What’s more, its average effective property tax rate is 0.84 percent. That means that tax rates for Montanans are on average lower than those for their neighbors in North Dakota and South Dakota.

9. Iowa

According to 2014 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, there are over 3 million
people living in the state of Iowa. With a median home value of $133,100, the average home in the Hawkeye State costs 2.5 times the median income.

Census Bureau data also reports that just 22.4 percent of homeowners with mortgage debt are cost burdened, meaning that they spend at least 30 percent of their household income on housing costs.

On a national level, 2015 data from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University shows that over 25 percent of homeowners spent more than 30 percent of their income on housing-related expenses.

10. Virginia

In our ranking of the best states for homeowners, Virginia was the only state on the east coast to make it into the top 10 in both 2015 and 2016. The ratio of the state’s median home price to its median income (3.82) hasn’t changed since last year, but our analysis shows that its foreclosure rate and burglary rate have fallen.

SmartAsset_States_Homeownership

For more information, visit www.smartasset.com.

Homeownership Still Desirable for Millennials

The majority of Americans still value homeownership, but millennials face major challenges in realizing this dream, nearly a decade after the subprime crisis.

Homeownership in America has taken a beating in the past few years. Eight years after the subprime crisis, homeownership remains at its lowest level in 20 years, at just over 63 percent. Does this mean the end of the American Dream of owning a home?

At first glance, the answer is no. New research from ReportLinker shows that for 80 percent of Americans homeownership remains the best investment a person can make.

Homeownership_Desirable_1

According to the same survey, owning a home is still the number-one, long-term financial priority for nearly 43 percent of Americans, ahead of ensuring a comfortable retirement, paying for their children’s education and leaving an inheritance.

Homeownership_Desirable_2

2015 report by Gallup corroborates these figures, showing that real estate leads four others choices as the best long term investment.

Slow to leave home

The problem may stem from the reluctance of young Americans to form a household, one of the main drivers of homeownership. During these economic hard times, the share of U.S. households with more than three generations under the same roof rose significantly, and has remained high. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Housing Vacancy Survey, growth in the number of household averaged just 625,000 annually in 2007-2013, compared to 1.5 million in 2015. But does the fact that this decline persists at a time when mortgage rates are at their lowest in 40 years indicate a change in the way Americans view home ownership?

But the picture becomes more nuanced when one looks at the importance that Americans assign to homeownership. For the general population, it is ranked in third place behind getting married and achieving educational aims in terms of life achievements in the ReportLinker’s survey. This may indicate a disconnect between the dream of owning a home and the reality of achieving it.

Homeownership_Desirable_3

Millennial paradox

A closer look at the numbers shows that this disconnect is felt hardest among millennials. The slowdown in homeownership over the past several years has corresponded with the coming of age of the millennials (born 1985-2004). Compared to the general population, only 44 percent of millennials agree that homeownership is the best long-term investment, according to the recent ReportLinker research.

Homeownership_Desirable_4

This reticence is echoed in other research, which shows that, although the millennials are the largest generation in U.S. history, they have been slow to form households, a key indicator of future homeownership. Over the past 10 years, the number of adults under age 30 has increased by roughly 5 million but the number of households formed in that age group has risen by just 200,000.

Moreover, homeownership has slipped to fourth place in the list of life achievements, coming after attaining educational and career aims and getting married, in the ReportLinker study.

Homeownership_Desirable_5

Gen Y against the odds

These numbers suggest that, in an era of stagnant incomes and wage inequality, millennials put homeownership on hold while they worked to first ensure their financial security through education and career development.

They’ve had to do it in an era of rising wage inequality and stagnation. The decision to form a household is closely linked to income, as the “State of the Nation’s Housing 2016” report released by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies shows. For example, households earning under $25,000 annually—the ones that face the biggest financial hurdle to buying a home—were the fastest-growing segment in 2005-2015 and represented 44 percent of America’s net growth in households.

When it comes to wage levels, the picture has been similarly morose. Today, with most measures of the labor market signaling full employment in the U.S., wage growth has remained weak. Average wage growth has fluctuated around 2 percent, unadjusted for inflation, between 2002 and 2015, according to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

Pragmatic optimism saves the day

While millennials may have borne the brunt of the aftershock of the subprime crisis, it looks like homeownership in this segment is poised to rebound. According to ReportLinker’s survey, being able to own property still remains the top priority for millennials, with 46 percent saying it was their top-ranked long-term financial goal (compared to 43 percent for the general population), which indicates pent-up demand.

Moreover, nearly a decade has gone by since the subprime crisis and millennials aren’t getting any younger. As they age, they are more likely to form households, the precursor to homeownership. According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies report, millennials are expected to form well over 2 million new households each year on average in the years to come, raising their numbers from 16 million in 2015 to a projected 40 million in 2025.

Therefore, it looks like the reports of the death of America’s love affair with homeownership have been greatly exaggerated. And it’s the millennial generation who are coming to the rescue. Hardened by years of lower incomes, wage inequality, living with mom and dad, and renting, they are finally entering the market with big dreams and a clear head.

For more information, visit www.reportlinker.com.

Low Supply Has Homes Selling Fast

Homes are selling an average of a week faster than they did a year ago, meaning home shoppers should be prepared to move quickly in a competitive housing market, according to the June Zillow® Real Estate Market Reports.

Tight inventory continues to be a major factor for home shoppers. The supply of homes for sale is nearly 5 percent lower than it was a year ago, and 38 percent lower than its peak level in 2011. With fewer available options, home shoppers are moving quickly to buy homes, with the average U.S. home closing after 78 days on the market.

The 78-day average includes the time it takes to close, which is usually one or two months after the home goes under contract. This means that homes are pending within about a month of being listed.

The length of time homes stay on the market before selling has been steadily decreasing since 2010, when homes took an average of five months to sell. The average time home buyers had in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Charlotte, N.C. dropped by at least two weeks, the biggest change among the largest U.S. metros.

The low inventory and quick-moving market combine to create a competitive home shopping market, especially for potential buyers looking for less expensive homes. The most expensive third of the market has experienced the smallest drop in available inventory compared to the rest of the market.

“Homes are selling faster than ever as the home shopping season hits its peak,” says Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. “If you’re looking for a home, be prepared to move quickly. Adding to this difficult buying environment is low inventory – there simply aren’t many homes to choose from. And while this looks like a good time to be a seller, potential move-up buyers may hesitate to list their homes and become buyers. Until the supply increases, it will remain a tough market to find a home.”

Tips for Buyers in a Competitive Market

  • Meet with your lender early and get pre-approved for a loan – even before you begin seriously shopping for your new home.
  • Work with an agent who has expertise in the local market. Read reviews on local agents and find someone with a successful record in a tough market.
  • Request to pre-inspect a home before submitting an offer. You risk losing a few hundred dollars if you end up not wanting the house; but if you do, you’ll be able to submit an offer not contingent on home inspections.

The limited supply of homes is driving home values higher. The average U.S. home is worth $187,000, a 5.4 percent increase from June 2015. Home values have been increasing at 5 percent or faster on an annual basis for the past eight months.

For more information, visit www.zillow.com/research/.

‘53 Million and One’: Putting a Face on the Immigrant Experience in America

When the first group of Wells Fargo employees was invited to a presentation co-sponsored by the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) and Century 21, attendees expected nothing out of the ordinary—a talk on Latino demographics, perhaps, or tips on helping Hispanic families qualify for a mortgage.

What they didn’t expect was a poignant, inspiring experience.

“The Hispanic market opportunity is a huge priority for Wells Fargo, and Jerry’s live performance of ‘53 Million and One’ illustrates the Hispanic experience in America better than anything we’ve ever seen,” says Brad Blackwell, executive vice president, Wells Fargo Mortgage. “The feedback from our employees has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s an experience we are happy to replicate.”

Scripted by NAHREP co-founder Gary Acosta, and performed by veteran California REALTOR®, past NAHREP president and one-time Mariachi singer Jerry Ascencio, ‘53 Million and One’ tells the powerful story of one immigrant family—Ascencio’s—who came to America poor and undocumented in the late 1960s, and struggled to find social and financial well-being and a piece of the American Dream.

Much like Billy Crystal’s “700 Sundays” or Mike Tyson’s “Undisputed Truth,” the one-man performance blends pathos, humor and flashes of brilliance to tell a familiar story.

“It’s a rags-to-riches story that speaks to every American who has roots outside of this country,” says Ascencio, who was a year old when his parents brought him across the border from Mexico into Southern California. “It’s an immigrant story, an entrepreneurial story, a story that belongs to every family who came to this country from China, from Mexico, from Europe, from Vietnam, from any place else in the world—and let’s be real, how many Americans don’t have foreign roots?”

The production describes how, from a small, rented house in California’s San Fernando Valley, Ascencio’s father, Javier, plied his trade as a gas station attendant while studying to prepare for more lucrative work as an automotive repairman. His mother, Maria, did part-time factory work to help provide for the family. In rare off-hours, Javier, a musician and singer who played a variety of instruments, began to supplement income by playing local gigs as a Mariachi singer/musician. He instilled his love of music in Jerry, who often tagged along.

Despite their willingness to work hard, the family could not afford to buy a home.

When he was 15, and an unfocused student, Jerry was sent to extended family in Mexico in the hope that he might apply himself and study for a good-paying job. But American opportunity was top of mind for Jerry, who returned to California two years later at the age of 17, happy to work three jobs at once to contribute to the family pot.

“I worked days in a fiberglass factory,” recalls Ascencio. “I also worked the graveyard shift at a local gas station—and in between, whenever we got a gig, I worked with my father singing in a Mariachi band.”

Then his mother watched a talk show on Telemundo where one of the guests was a successful real estate entrepreneur. “You can do this,” she told Jerry. “This is a business you’d be good at.”

A natural people person, Ascencio studied for his license, which he earned in short order, and in 1989, he began selling real estate. He was 21 years old.

“Real estate opened another world for me,” he explains. “I was lucky to have the perfect ethnic background—Latino friends and neighbors who knew and trusted me and were eager to own their own homes. I spoke the language, and I was good at my job. I became an overnight success.”

A year later, in 1990, the family bought their first home—a three-bedroom, one-bathroom, bank repossession in Pacoima—for $124,000 with a 20 percent down payment and an 11.25 percent interest rate.

By 1993, at the age of 25, Ascencio had established his own company, San Fernando Realty Mission Real Estate, which today serves the large, multi-cultural San Fernando, Santa Clarita and Antelope Valley regions with more than 50 bilingual agents. He still serves as the company’s broker/owner and dedicates his volunteer time as chair of the NAHREP Foundation. He is a board member of the National Community Stabilization Trust, founding president of the NAHREP San Fernando-Santa Clarita chapter, and has held numerous leadership roles with the Southland Regional Association of REALTORS®.

He married his wife, Martina, started a family, and focused on his thriving business.

Fast forward to the year 2000, and the founding of NAHREP by successful real estate entrepreneurs Gary Acosta and Ernie Reyes, who envisioned the organization as a needed voice for the Hispanic real estate market and a champion for Hispanic homeownership.

“NAHREP, which now has 40 chapters and more than 20,000 members nationwide, is propelled by a passionate combination of entrepreneurial spirit, cultural heritage and the advocacy of its members,” says NAHREP Chief Marketing Officer Jason Riveiro. “Our mission is, and has always been, to advance sustainable Hispanic homeownership.”

The association, while committed to empowering the Hispanic community, has grown exponentially in non-traditional Hispanic markets.

“That’s because Hispanics are a uniquely mobile demographic. They’re willing to move for the sake of better employment, better education, better housing—and NAHREP is committed to educating real estate professionals in every market who serve Hispanic homebuyers and sellers,” explains Riveiro.

Opportunity is everywhere, Riveiro notes. Statistics report that one in every four children in the United States today is Hispanic, and that 21 percent of millennials—the next big wave of potential homebuyers—identify as Hispanic.

Ascencio, meanwhile, a natural speaker, never faltered from his deep commitment to community service or his drive to tell the immigrant story to a wide American audience. During his 2012 term as NAHREP president, the co-founders got to know him well. They understood his background, applauded his passion, and admired his talent and people skills. It did not take long for Acosta to connect a few significant dots.

“Jerry is an outstanding speaker, proud of his background and totally comfortable in his skin,” Acosta says. “I am always looking for new ways to galvanize our membership and convey the Latino story to a broader audience. I have written speeches before, but in Jerry, I saw the perfect opportunity to use a new medium (theater) to communicate the complexity and triumph of growing up in poverty and overcoming adversity.”

The result was the script of ‘53 Million and One’—written, revised, revised some more and named for the 53 million Hispanics residing in the U.S. at the time the presentation was completed in 2014. (The Hispanic population has now increased to 57 million, but the show retains the original title.)

In his performance, Ascencio narrates a powerful Latino-American tale, weaving together his storytelling skills and Mariachi guitar music to tell the story of a resourceful family with whom so many can identify. The presentation debuted to an audience of thousands at NAHREP’s 2014 National Convention and Latino Music Festival, garnering rave reviews and requests for repeat performances.

“The 60-minute theatrical monologue electrifies audiences because it spotlights the common challenges, experiences, and aspirations that bind together the millions of Latinos who call America home,” says Marisa Calderon, NAHREP’s executive director.

Viewing the performance as a great opportunity to bridge barriers and celebrate cultural differences, Century 21 became a national sponsor of the project, kicking off a 25-city tour, adds Calderon.

To date, as increasing emphasis is placed on cultural diversity as part of the American experience, ‘53 Million and One’ has been seen and applauded by more than 12,000 individuals and 40 banking, real estate and other corporate audiences, including Freddie Mac, Pulte Homes and Quicken Loans. More performances are on tap nationwide, and more are being scheduled as word of the show’s dramatic and vital message filters through the real estate industry.

“Hispanics aspire to the American Dream perhaps more than any other group,” Ascencio says. “Together, we have nearly $2 trillion in purchasing power, and we want to contribute to the communities in which we live—as entrepreneurs, as PTA members, through Neighborhood Watch, as consumers, and as homeowners. We see this show as a testament to our common goals and the search for economic opportunity.”

Ascencio, his wife and their three sons, Jerry Jr., 22, Alex, 18, and Adrian, 14, have made the show a family commitment, traveling together as often as schedules permit. They handle wardrobe changes, manage stage directions, and even strike sets for the moving production.

“We’re a close-knit family, all three generations,” says Jerry Ascencio, Jr., who, in his ‘day job’ is a REALTOR® in his own right and sales manager in his father’s San Fernando brokerage. “We’ve always spent a lot of time together, and we support each other’s goals and ambitions. Traveling with dad to do ‘53 Million’ has been a great experience for all of us. We feel we are part of something bigger than ourselves and something that’s very worthwhile.”

The traveling production is also very much a part of NAHREP’s larger goal—promoting the entrepreneurial spirit, the cultural heritage, and the advocacy of its members in the mission to advance sustainable Hispanic homeownership.

“By 2020, Hispanics will be a key driver in the first-time homebuyer market, comprising as much as 55.5 percent of all homebuyers,” Riveiro reports. “NAHREP members are an important link to this trend, and we encourage real estate professionals in every market to join us—and our real estate and financial partners—in enhancing our value as trusted advisors to the Hispanic mega market.”

For his part, Ascencio remains committed to the dual role he plays as leader of the real estate empire he founded and troubadour in support of a cause.

“The term ‘real estate,’ when you say it in Spanish, translates as, ‘rooted asset.’ That is a term that speaks to my heart,” he says. “Helping immigrant families put down roots in this great country is a calling that moves me every day.”

For more information, visit www.nuevolatinotours.com.

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