The U.S. Census Bureau reveals that 67.8 million Americans speak a language other than English at home — that’s over one-fifth of the population. With the ever-increasing linguistic diversity in the U.S., there’s a growing need for bilingual real estate agents to guide homeowners through the home sale process in their preferred language.
“There’s no point trying to make it work when you know you have a language barrier,” says Danii Sedillo, a top multilingual agent in El Paso, TX, who speaks English, Spanish, and German.
“For the biggest transaction you’ll ever do in your life, you want to make sure that you understand everything that’s happening.”
If you prefer to sell your home in a language other than English, then this post is for you. We’ll dive into national trends and outline five ways a bilingual real estate can help you pull off the perfect home sale.
Multilingual homeowners in the U.S. are on the rise
The need for bilingual and multilingual real estate agents is more common than you may think. English speakers of other languages (ESOL) and non-English speakers represent millions of homeowners and prospective homeowners in the U.S.
Spanish is the most commonly spoken language after English in the U.S., with an estimated 39.2 million residents, or 11.9% of the population, speaking Spanish at home as of 2019. Of those Spanish speakers,
- 23.1 million speak English “very well”
- 6.8 million speak English “well”
- 6 million speak English “not well”
- 3 million speak English “not at all”
According to the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP), the number of Hispanic1 owner households, many of which speak Spanish, has steadily increased in the past 10 years, accounting for 51.6% of overall U.S. homeownership growth.
The significant rise in Spanish-speaking homeowners has increased the need for bilingual real estate agents, and English-to-Spanish translated real estate content. For instance, in 2020, the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the country’s largest real estate association, launched NAR en Español, a fully-Spanish sub-site to better serve Spanish-speaking real estate agents and clientele.
Asian and Pacific Island languages
Analyzing data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Asian American Real Estate Association of America (AREAA), reveals that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (APPI) represent another growing community of ESOL and non-English speaking homeowners and prospective homeowners. Since 2001, the number of AAPI homebuyers has increased 27%. AREAA reports that 77% of APPI speak a language other than English at home. In this group, over 5,597,043 APPI have limited-English, with Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Korean representing their top preferred languages.
The U.S. Census Bureau reveals that more than 350 languages are spoken in American homes. In addition to the speaker groups mentioned above, U.S. households include 11.5 million speakers of Indo-European languages and over 3.6 million speakers of additional languages not previously detailed.
Five reasons why you should partner with a bilingual agent
When it comes to selling your most valuable asset, you’ll want to partner with a real estate agent who speaks your preferred language or languages to guide you through the process.
“We have found over and over that the best experience comes from when they’ve been working with somebody that can speak their language,” shares Rick Fuller, a top agent who sells 74% more single-family homes than the average agent in Antioch, CA. “We have team members now and in the past that have spoken Spanish, French, Arabic, Chinese, Italian — and I’m probably leaving a bunch out! We’re in the Bay Area, so our community merits that.”
Here are five reasons a bilingual real estate agent can provide unmatched advice and service for a seller whose language preference is not English:
1. Clear communication from start to finish
When it comes to selling your home, real estate agents manage everything from marketing your house to negotiating and finalizing offers. But if they can’t communicate clearly, their expertise and experience are moot points.
“When I take over a listing from somebody else, and I ask, ‘what can we do better,’ communication is the number one thing I hear,” says Sedillo. Her experience is not at all uncommon. In fact, research has shown the number one complaint against agents who represent sellers is their lack of communication skills — and that’s before a language barrier is taken into account.
“There’s a lot of communication in the course of a real estate transaction that, when it’s translated, the full message is not communicated, and not just the message but the intent, and even in some sense the heart behind the message is not communicated,” shares Fuller.
He adds that, from his experience, professional translators who are inexperienced in the selling process often struggle to explain real estate processes accurately to clients. With a bilingual agent, sellers can move through the transaction with one point of contact, knowing they’ll receive clear communication to the day they hand over the keys.
2. Establish trust and an “instant connection”
When it comes to selling the largest asset you own, trust is a necessary ingredient for a great relationship, and finding an agent who understands your language and culture is often a giant leap in the right direction.
“It’s an instant trust, an instant connection,” says Sedillo. “For them, it’s like, those are my people, my culture, my understanding. She gets me.”
The real estate industry isn’t the only one to recognize that sharing a language helps build trust. Medical researchers assert that “language-concordant care” enhances trust between patients and medical personnel, optimizes care and procedure outcomes, and advances health equity for diverse populations. In diverse communities such as Dayton, OH, police officers give safety education lectures to students in ESOL programs in the class’s primary languages; these classroom visits aim to combat fear and build rapport among ESOL and non-English speakers in their communities.
3. Access a network of real estate and home improvement professionals who share your language
Birds of a feather flock together: We tend to gravitate towards people who share our cultural and linguistic background. For example, in NAHREP’s 2019 State of Hispanic Homeownership Report, over half of Latino agents surveyed say at least 60% of their clients are Latino, while another 33% report more than 81% of their clients are Latino. With a bilingual agent, sellers can tap into their agent’s established network of professionals who share their preferred language.
“Naturally, you venture out to like-minded people with the same language, the same culture, so I am able to refer [the seller] to lenders, title companies, cleaning ladies, handymen, and so on,” shares Sedillo, who has strong ties to the German and Spanish speaking communities in El Paso. She adds that these connections make every step of the selling process easier for her clients.
4. Talk through complicated documents in your preferred language
Real estate is a complex industry. Not to mention, every country has unique real estate processes, procedures, and nuances. Even fluent ESOLs may struggle to keep the terms straight when reviewing jargon-laced legal and tax documents.
“I thought I was pretty fluent when I came to the states,” explains Sedillo, who began her real estate career in Germany. “Come to find out, I had no clue about real estate terms.”
Now well-versed in real estate in all of her languages, Sedillo helps her sellers translate documents and communicate far more effectively than they would if they relied on online translation tools.
“When you try to translate word-by-word, you get some funny content out of it,” Sedillo comments. In one particular scenario, she reviewed an unusual email sent to a landlord from his tenants. “They were trying to tell the landlord that water in the pool got bad with algae, but what they said is that somebody had actually flipped that pool upside-down!”
Translation assistance is a key service bilingual real estate agents provide for their clients. For instance, in a recent NAHREP survey, Latino agents share that 40% of their transactions utilize Spanish, and as much as 25% of their transactions use Spanish as the only language spoken.
5. Negotiate offers and contracts
Today’s record-low mortgage rates and lack of supply mean sellers are likely to receive competing offers on a home. In HomeLight’s Q3 2020 Top Agent Insights Report, 88% of top agents say “bidding wars are on the rise or at their peak” in today’s market.
A bilingual real estate agent can help you navigate your offers and advise how to leverage offers to win the best deal possible.
“When you have multiple offers, and you’re presenting it to a seller, that’s another imperative time that you’re able to communicate without any barriers,” says Fuller. “Each of those offers is somewhere between 20 and 25 pages. That’s a lot of information, and those technical terms can be easily overlooked or misunderstood.”
We’ll introduce you to top bilingual agents near you
Find top-selling bilingual real estate agents in your market with HomeLight’s Agent Finder. We’ll crunch transaction data to match you with the best three agents for your home sale based on your language preferences and stats like their average list-to-sale ratio, average sale speed, and client reviews. Once you receive your matches, interview the candidates so you can confidently pick the agent most compatible with your needs.
With a top bilingual real estate agent at your side, you could sell your house for 10% more than if you partnered with the average agent!
1The National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Agents uses the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino” interchangeably to refer to people of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central American, South American, Dominican, and Spanish descent, along with people descending from other Spanish-speaking regions.
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In real estate, clear communication is essential. That’s why in America’s diverse cities, bilingual agents provide a level of service that’s simply unmatched.HomeLight Blog