Builders See Hispanics as Key to Houston Market's Future
With former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros’ award-winning book, “Casa y Comunidad,” as a focal point, members of the home building community in Houston recently assembled to discuss the “critical importance” of the Hispanic population to the future of that market’s housing industry.
Led by Dr. Oscar Gonzales, managing partner of the Gonzales Group, with Cisneros in attendance via teleconference, participants gathered for three open discussions of the distinct cultural differences of Hispanics and the housing trends, designs and services most likely to resonate with them.
“Hispanics will drive the new home market for years to come,” Cisneros says in his book, noting that not all of this growth will be tied to immigration.
“Latino families tend to be younger and larger; they also are very hard working,” he writes. “The Latino population lags the rest of the country in terms of homeownership, which is 20% under the national homeownership rate and 26% below the non-Hispanic white homeownership rate. Hispanics see homeownership as the typical path to the middle class.”
Everything and the Kitchen Sink
Published by NAHB, the book notes that homes designed for Latino families should have more bedrooms to accommodate larger families and floor plans suited to the needs of more than one generation living under the same roof, with the kitchen of particular importance.
In addition to being centrally located and large, kitchens geared to the Hispanic market should include deep sinks, where dishes can stand longer, and a range with an open gas flame, which is necessary for preparing traditional recipes, Cisneros says.
An extra three-quarters bathroom — including a sink, shower and toilet, but no tub – will also be sought by Hispanic buyers, he says.
Also, “homes should have a green element, because Hispanic families like a garden where they can grow some of their own vegetables. That means extending a water line to the outside for irrigation and a gas line for an outdoor grill.”
Young and Native-Born
Reviewing current Hispanic demographics and growth trends, Gonzales said that a majority of the country’s Latinos are native-born U.S. citizens. Almost half are under 25, the age at which the prime home-buying years begin.
Looking at prospective home buyers in the Hispanic market, Gonzales said that 11% are in the process of buying a home, 44% are planning to buy in one to five years and 29% aspire to become home owners, but not in the next five years.
Third-generation Hispanics — those who are fully assimilated and fluent, at various levels, in English — are easily swayed by their parents and grandparents.
“Homes should be functional but inspirational, as today’s shoppers fit the desired ‘urbanism trend’ of compact neighborhoods,” Gonzales said.
Looking at 2010 and Beyond
For builders and others who want to do business in Houston’s Hispanic market, Gonzales emphasized the importance of staying connected with people in the know and joining local and national Hispanic association groups.
Housing industry professionals participating in the discussions said that their companies have been moving aggressively to position themselves to sell to the Hispanic market.
Bill Fanning, vice president of sales and marketing for Beazer Homes, said that Beazer is already building some of the Hispanic-oriented features highlighted in the Cisneros book.
“One of the things that became clear to me was how large the Latino market really is and what significant effects and influences this group will have on the future market,” said Fanning. “As we look to 2010 and beyond, I don’t think you will be able to build homes in Houston and not consider the fastest growing minority as a significant contributor to the market. I know Beazer Homes will be.”
Susan Baldwin, vice president of marketing for Royce Builders, said that her company’s strategic growth model includes gaining market share among Houston’s large Hispanic population. “You hear a lot about the ‘emerging market,’” she said, “but it’s actually already here, and Royce is poised to meet their needs in the housing market.”
Online in Three Languages
Houston’s Harris County, where Hispanics outnumber Caucasians, has been recognized as one of the country’s friendliest markets for Hispanics because of its job and housing opportunities. It is also prime territory for CasaNuevaGuide.com, the first online new home trilingual real estate guide to inspire, motivate and teach shoppers how to purchase a home.
Written in English, Spanish and Vietnamese, the site promotes the benefits of homeownership, explains financing, offers helpful resources and assistance programs and provides a full listing of all new home builders and communities in Texas.
“We have made an effort to change conventional views and perceptions about the Hispanic market and influence how dynamic and unique this group is to our population,” said Lisa Zapalac, Casa Nueva’s co-founder and vice president for public affairs. “We work with our builder and developer partners to help them communicate the strategic elements of their business from the vision of the marketer to the Hispanic consumer.”
“We are in the community, malls and local venues and visible in real estate associations, keeping our finger on the pulse of the market and embracing the technology to bring information directly to local and international buyers interested in real estate,” said Anita Sparks Bohn, the company’s co-founder and president.
“Our customers are very important to us, so we always analyze and create online and offline segmentation approaches for reaching the Hispanic market for our advertisers,” said Sparks-Bohn. “We also want the shopping experience to be complete and educational for our online site visitors, so it’s vital to us that they understand the positioning and marketing statements of our customers and are pleased about their efforts in reaching out to them by demonstrating their desire to have them as a future home buyer.”
Working with the Greater Houston Builders Association, Olga Garza, vice president of multicultural marketing, and Suzanne Schakett, vice president of builder relations, for Countrywide Home Loans, developed the Cisneros program in an effort to close the gap between Houston’s building industry and the Hispanic population.
Are You Prepared for the New Emerging Market?
"Casa y Comunidad: Latino Home and Neighborhood Design,” available through BuilderBooks.com, takes the first-ever look at the growing and increasingly prosperous U.S. Latino community and its housing needs and helps all segments of the housing industry to understand and prepare for this emerging market.
To view or purchase this publication online, click here, or call 800-223-2665.