Sunday, March 30, 2008

Casa Latino Real Estate, the Next Giant

March 28, 2008 -
While industry heavyweight Realogy, the parent of Century 21, Era, and Coldwell Banker report net losses for 2007 of $797 Million, feisty Casa Latino Real Estate reports continued system growth.

According to the 2008 edition of the well respected industry trend bible, the Swanpoel Trends Report, "Casa Latino ( is the first true national Latino real estate franchise. The Company's entire structure, focus and mission are designed to effectively service Hispanic home buyer and sellers". The report further hints that Casa Latino has a shot at becoming the "next real estate giant".

Speaking from Los Angeles while meeting with franchise prospects this week, company Founder and CEO Robb Heering remarked that "Century 21, Era, Coldwell Banker, ReMax, Realty Executives, Exit Realty, and Keller Williams all pretty much had one thing in common in 2007....they all lost agents and clients to Casa Latino. While it might be a bit unfair for a small company like ours to illustrate that fact, the reality is that our typical agent and our target consumer demand things that most firms can't offer, won't offer, or haven't offered.

Our goal isn't to become the next giant; it's to make a positive difference in the lives of our consumers, our agents, and our franchise owners. As we continue hitting that target one family, one agent, and one franchise owner at a time, we'll slowly but surely grow to significant size, giant or otherwise".

Heering further commented that "most of the large household name brands in the industry have historically done a reasonably good job in delivering real estate services to America's consumers, but doing a reasonably good job doesn't cut it for us. The market has changed substantially over the last several years and most of the players in this business have failed to change accordingly. We've made solid commitments as a brand to be the best in the industry when it comes to servicing our consumers while at the same time providing a high level of service to our franchise owners and sales agents.

In a market where credit has tightened and unit inventory has swelled, real estate agents have to make the decision to either leave the industry, stay in and wait for things to improve, or make adjustments. Many are deciding to make adjustments and one of those adjustments has been to focus on the fastest growing demographic in America...the Latino consumer".

Even in hard hit California, Casa Latino boasts a franchise owner who has increased their agent roster by 30% in two months, a franchise owner who has grown from one location to four within the last six months, and agents who have moved from one transaction per quarter to several transactions per month. Heering said "accomplishing this in a market where most other brands have consolidated, shuttered their doors, and lost market share is a testament to both the creativity, energy, and persistence of our franchise owners and the uniqueness of what our brand has to offer".

Casa Latino has recently experienced franchise sales or new offices in Dallas, TX, McAllen, TX, Tustin, CA, Santa Ana, CA, San Pedro, CA, Oakland, CA, Bakersfield, CA, Birmingham, AL, Albuquerque, NM, and Waterbury, CT. Pending franchise sales exist in markets ranging from Sonora, Mexico to South Florida and Northern New Jersey.

View Company Website:

Friday, March 28, 2008

Multicultural Real Estate Associations Issue Five Point Plan, Call for Unprecedented Collaboration to Avoid Minority Homeownership Losses

Multicultural Real Estate Associations Issue Five Point Plan, Call for Unprecedented Collaboration to Avoid Minority Homeownership Losses

WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The disproportionate economic losses impacting minorities in the housing downturn, has led the combined 70,500 members and affiliates of the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA), the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) and the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB) to recommend a five-point plan that protects homeownership for people of color. Leaders from the three national trade groups called for an unprecedented collaboration between lawmakers, regulators and the housing industry in an effort to prevent a roll back in minority homeownership gains.

“More homeowners in the minority community have been impacted in the subprime foreclosure crisis than any other homeowner group,” said incoming NAHREP Chair Rebecca Gallardo-Serrano. “Our communities are at great risk. We must be working collaboratively with lawmakers to save distressed homeowners and preserve options for future buyers. This is the focus of our plan.”

The three organizations support a five-point plan that calls for action to preserve homeownership, reverse declining markets policies, increase multicultural counseling and outreach, restore consumer confidence, protect the housing system and create liquidity. The plan was announced this week at the NAHREP annual legislative conference. In an unprecedented move, members of the three groups came together as a demonstration of unity on the key issues facing minorities.

“There is the very real, and overwhelming potential here to disenfranchise minority and low- to moderate- income homeowners as the market adopts new standards in an effort to avoid risk. Today, hundreds of thousands of homeowners are either in foreclosure or at the very brink,” stated NAREB President and CEO Maria Kong.

“We must ensure that sustainable homeownership remains a viable option for Americans of all economic means so that our communities remain vibrant, affordable, diverse, and desirable places to live,” Kong added.
Recent reports have warned that minority homeowners do not have the equity or access to traditional mortgage products to help deal with their mortgage and financial obligations. Minority real estate leaders are concerned that if current mortgage default and foreclosure trends continue without intervention, the losses will wipe out minority homeownership gains made in recent years.

A January 2008 report issued by United for a Fair Economy predicts subprime borrowers of color will lose between $164 billion and $213 billion for loans taken during the past eight years.
“The spillover effect of subprime and Alt-A loans issued to minority consumers negatively affects entire communities,” says AREAA Chair Emily Fu. “These losses among minority, low- and moderate-income consumers have the potential to result in abandoned homes, increased crime, devaluation of neighboring properties and loss of tax revenues to support community services.”

Noteworthy actions cited in the coalition's plan include:

A single, consistent industry policy for identifying and assessing declining markets;

The creation of a declining markets second mortgage fund;

The creation of new Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) requirements and incentives for banks to pursue innovative loss mitigation and foreclosure prevention initiatives;

Required CRA reviews of Real Estate Owned (REO) property disposition strategies;

Regulatory oversight of Wall Street firms involved in origination and servicing business;

Federal and state licensure and education standards for all mortgage professionals.

Leaders from the Hispanic, Asian and African American trade groups will meet with lawmakers in April to discuss the tenets of the plan.

The associations have collaborated on joint positions in the past, but this is the first plan they have recommended together. The coalition also plans to share with elected officials results from member opinion surveys on the proposed bills under consideration and current marketplace conditions. A copy of the America’s Multicultural Real Estate Associations Five Point Plan of Action is available at,,,, or


The National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, a non-profit 501c6 trade association, is dedicated to increasing the homeownership rate among Latinos by educating and empowering the real estate professionals that serve them. Based in Washington D.C., NAHREP is the premier trade organization for Hispanics and has more than 15,500 members in 48 states and 62 affiliate chapters.


Established in 2003, the Asian Real Estate Association of America’s membership represents a broad array of real estate, mortgage and housing-related professionals that serve the diverse Asian/Pacific-American market. AREAA is the only national trade association dedicated to representing the interest of the Asian real estate market throughout the country. It pursues initiatives that expand home ownership opportunities for more Asian/Pacific-American families, that increase business opportunities for its members, and that deliver tangible results for its national partners.


NAREB, founded in 1947, was formed out of a need to secure the right to equal housing opportunities regardless of race, creed, or color. Since its inception, NAREB has participated in and promoted meaningful challenges and legislative initiatives to ensure fair housing for all Americans now with membership topping 35,000 Realtists® in 84 chapters nationwide. For more information, visit the website at:

NAHREPMary Mancera, 760-505-2911or

NAREBJoanne Williams, 215-519-2831or

AREAAPraveen Sharma, 760-918-9162

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

NAHREP Hosts Minority Coalition at 2008 Legislative Conference

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NAHREP Hosts Minority Coalition at 2008 Legislative Conference; AREAA, NAREB to Join Discussion on Economic Impacts, Foreclosures

Hispanic, Asian & African American Real Estate Professionals to Discuss Mortgage Defaults, Industry Reforms, Regulatory Issues and Proposed Policy Aimed at Recovery

WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals will host the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA) and the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB) at its 2008 Legislative Conference in an unprecedented move that brings together the top minority trade groups in the real estate industry in one forum. The three groups will discuss the devastating economic impact of mortgage defaults and foreclosures on the minority community and possible solutions at the meeting that will be held on March 27, 2008 at the Hilton Washington Hotel at 1919 Connecticut Avenue NW.

For a complete schedule of the meeting, go to

The disproportionate economic impact on minorities due to subprime mortgage foreclosures and the potential setback it will mean for minority neighborhoods sets the tone for the coalition’s discussion. Real estate practitioners, business leaders and appointed government officials will exchange ideas about proposed policy and regulatory issues in a schedule that includes:
The announcement of a five-point plan by the Minority Coalition of Real Estate Professionals that addresses foreclosures, programs needed to drive recovery in the Hispanic, Asian & African American communities.

“Economic Viewpoints from the Industry Regulators” (9-10:30 am), a session that features open forum discussions with economists from Freddie Mac, the Federal Reserve and PMI and live audience polls including an introduction by Federal Reserve Board Governor Randall Kroszner.
“An Analysis of HMDA Data to Identify Future Patterns of Mortgage Default and Foreclosures in Minority Communities” (10:30-11 am) featuring fair lending expert Maurice Jourdain-Earl, Managing Director of Compliance Technologies. Jourdain-Earl, an emerging markets consultant, will offer insights on HMDA data trends relative to minorities and the current subprime mortgage crisis.

“Housing Issues Before the Banking and Finance Committees of the U.S. Senate and House” (11:15 am-12:45 pm) – a town-hall forum featuring the heads of NAHREP, AREAA, NAREB and the National Council of La Raza and a live poll that will capture practitioners’ opinions on the current bills before the House and Senate. U.S. Treasurer Anna Escobedo Cabral will offer comments at the outset of the session.

Keynote Speaker Alphonso Jackson (12:50-2:20 pm).
“Key Regulatory Issues Impacting Today’s Real Estate Professionals” (2:30-4 pm) – FDIC Director Sandra L. Thompson will make a presentation that will also include a live audience poll of practitioners.

“The combination of defaults and foreclosures, falling values, declining markets and fewer financing options is painting a particularly dismal outlook for minority buyers if legislative measures aren’t taken soon,” said Felix DeHerrera, NAHREP Chairman. “We need solutions for the present critical issues and reforms that keep the door to homeownership open for people of color and still keep the brokers in business that serve them.”

The annual NAHREP summit will also include the installation of two new officers and eight new board members at an evening gala on March 27. Rebecca Gallardo-Serrano will succeed DeHerrera as chairman and Tino Diaz will be sworn in as vice chair.

The National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, a non-profit 501c6 trade association, is dedicated to increasing the homeownership rate among Latinos by educating and empowering the real estate professionals that serve them. Based in Washington D.C., NAHREP is the premier trade organization for Hispanics and has more than 15,500 members in 48 states and 62 affiliate chapters.

For NAHREPMary Mancera 760.634.5007orKirk Surry 619.955.6172

Friday, March 21, 2008

Brokers who lie, and more subprime nightmares

Many homeowners who were subject to predatory lending practices - including brokers who misrepresented payments - are trying to rework their loans. Few are having any luck.

By Ronni Berke and Greg Hunter, CNN
Last Updated: March 20, 2008: 9:12 AM EDT

HARTFORD, Conn. (CNN) -- Yolanda Cruz knew soon after she refinanced her home two and a half years ago she had a problem.

She thought the $1,478 monthly payment quoted by her mortgage broker included taxes and insurance. In fact, Cruz says she asked the broker repeatedly if those costs were included and was reassured they were.

"We just took his word for it, and unfortunately that's not what it was," Cruz said.
Soon, she began receiving tax bills from her town of East Windsor, Connecticut. She couldn't afford to pay them.

"I feel I was taken advantage of," Cruz said.

Cruz contacted her lender right away - the beginning of a two-year effort to renegotiate her mortgage. She called and wrote letters, and although the mortgage company told her they were willing to work with her, they wouldn't rework the loan or forgive any arrears.
She says the current loan servicer -- America's Servicing Company (ASC), sent her incomplete paperwork, and even seems to have lost one of her checks.

"When I try to call....I feel I'm getting the runaround first of all, and then we keep going back to the beginning every time."

Cruz, who sought help from the Connecticut Fair Housing Center, tried for months to resolve the problem. All the while she continued to make the monthly payments at rate that she had agreed to in 2005, $1,478. The problem: That payment didn't cover her taxes or her insurance.
After filing mountains of paperwork, she thought she had a deal: a catch-up payment of $3,000 was supposed to save her house. She sent a bank check via registered mail to her servicer. According to Cruz, ASC said the check wasn't for the right amount and they would return it to her.

Cruz said she never got the check back. Instead, she was served with a foreclosure notice. On March 13, Cruz learned that the check had been cashed, but it was not clear who signed for it.
Her experience, say housing advocates, is typical of many who struggle to get the loan servicers to renegotiate loans that are no longer affordable.

"The problem is, the servicer doesn't have the power to renegotiate a loan," said Erin Kemple, the Connecticut Fair Housing Center's Executive Director. "Because they don't actually own the loan [they can't] make changes to the payment plan."

Most mortgages, including the one held by Cruz and her husband, aren't owned by a single bank. Instead, they are packaged and sold to investors on the secondary market, which means that loan servicers are actually beholden to investors, not borrowers.

"All they are doing is managing this loan for a group of investors, so there's no way that the investors can be asked, 'Can we rest this loan?'" said Kemple.

Borrowers like Cruz may be offered a temporary repayment plan, which keeps foreclosure at bay, but tacks the owed money onto to the back of the loan.

"The payments in this kind of workout are unaffordable to the homeowner," said Diane Cipollone of the National Fair Housing Alliance. "And sometimes homeowners sign it anyway. They don't know what to do. They know that if they don't agree their home will go right into foreclosure. But soon they default on the repayment plan, and that's counterproductive."

Sunday, March 16, 2008

NRT Recognizes Diversity Efforts with Inaugural Award

Posted By Paige On March 11, 2008 @ 3:29 pm In Forefront Comments Disabled

RISMEDIA, March 12, 2008-NRT LLC, one of the nation’s largest residential real estate brokerages, presented its inaugural Diversity Award to Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Northern California for its popular Casa Coldwell Banker program that serves the growing Hispanic market. NRT recognized the Northern California company’s efforts during Coldwell Banker’s annual International Business Conference in Kissimmee, Fla. last month.

“Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage has made a strong commitment to the Hispanic community with the Casa program,” said Judy Reeves, NRT’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. “The company’s ongoing support of diversity - both within the company and in the community - is exemplary and serves as a role model for all businesses.”

The company says that Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage launched its Casa Coldwell Banker initiative in 2007 to address the specialized needs of Spanish-speaking residents in the area. The program serves one of the region’s fastest-growing markets, where Latinos currently comprise 21% of the area population. The number is expected to grow sharply over the next decade.

In less than a year, the Casa program has gained national attention in the real estate industry, bolstered Coldwell Banker’s presence in the Hispanic community, and has attracted sales associates from other companies. From a standing start last year, the Casa program now has more than 250 participating agents in Northern California.

“We’re very proud of the national recognition we received for the Casa Coldwell Banker initiative,” said Larry Klapow, president of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in the San Francisco Bay. “Our agents, managers and staff all believe deeply in supporting the many diverse communities here in our area and in making a real difference in the lives of our neighbors. The Casa program is a great example of that commitment.”

Among other things, the Casa initiative incorporates agent training and specialized continuing education, networking, translated marketing and communications materials, as well as other tools designed to assist sales associates in making the home buying and selling process simpler and more rewarding for Spanish-speaking customers.

In addition, agents who participate in the Casa program also have the opportunity to qualify for a “Casa Specialist” certification. The designation is awarded to those Spanish-speaking Coldwell Banker sales associates who complete a training program that includes a study of current and emerging market conditions, the mortgage industry, and marketing training.

NRT’s commitment to diversity reflects the belief that understanding the unique needs of niche markets is not only beneficial for the communities the company serves, it is also vital to the success of the real estate industry as a whole. NRT’s Diversity Award is the newest component of a comprehensive array of programs and initiatives that the company promotes and supports at a corporate, regional and local level:

Through corporate sponsorships, NRT maintains close connections with multi-cultural industry organizations of Hispanic, African-American and Asian real estate professionals.

Last year, NRT and its parent company Realogy, partnered with the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce to develop and implement a specialized real estate designation that signifies expertise in understanding the unique needs of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community.

A strategic alliance with the National Community Reinvestment Coalition promotes best fair housing practices to real estate sales associates and consumers in more than 35 major metropolitan areas where NRT operates. At the core of the agreement is the belief that championing fair housing best practices not only strengthens communities, it also makes good business sense.

For more information, visit [1]

Minority homeowners may have been steered to high cost loans

Minority homeowners may have been steered to high cost loans: Madigan
Attorney General subpoenas Countrywide, Wells Fargo
March 6, 2008

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued subpoenas to Countrywide Home Loans Inc. and Wells Fargo Financial Illinois to determine if they unfairly steered African American and Latino borrowers into higher cost or otherwise inappropriate home loans in violation of fair lending and civil rights laws, her office said Thursday.

Madigan’s probe comes on the heels of a Chicago Reporter study that found the Chicago area led the country in high-cost home loans for the second year in a row. The study also found marked disparities in loan pricing between white and non-white borrowers. African-American borrowers were three times as likely as white borrowers to receive a high-cost home loan, and Latino borrowers were twice as likely.

“The difference in cost between the home loans sold to white borrowers and those sold to African-American and Latino borrowers is alarming,” said Madigan.

She noted income level does not appear to account for the differences in pricing. The wealthiest African-American homeowners were still more likely than the poorest white borrowers to get placed in high-cost loans.

Countrywide and Wells could not immediately be reached for comment.

“The aim of these investigations is to find out the reasons for these pricing disparities, and if those reasons are not based on valid underwriting criteria and creditworthiness to hold the lenders responsible for their actions,” Madigan said.

From 2004 to 2006, Wells Fargo & Co., the parent of Wells Fargo Financial Illinois, sold high-cost loans to 64 percent of its African-American borrowers and 36.7 percent of its Latino borrowers, while only 17.5 percent of Wells’ white borrowers received high-cost loans, according to the study.

During that period Countrywide Financial Corp., the parent of Countrywide Home Loans Inc., sold high-cost loans to 50.9 percent of its African-American borrowers and 33.8 percent of its Latino borrowers in the Chicago area. It placed 21 percent of its white borrowers in high-cost loans. In 2006, Countrywide sold nearly all of its home loans in Illinois through Countrywide Home Loans.

Countrywide and Wells showed the highest disparities in the study.

The data in the study comes from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, a federal law that requires lenders to submit data on home purchase, home improvement and home refinancing loans to the government. The study looked at data on high-cost loans, defined as loans with an interest rate at least three percentage points above the U.S. Treasury standard. The high-cost loans examined in the study have characteristics similar to the high-risk subprime mortgages that have led to the home foreclosure crisis nationally.

Chicago area foreclosures are largely concentrated in highly minority communities. The Woodstock Institute recently found that minority communities contain less than 14 percent of the Chicago area’s mortgageable properties but account for 34.5 percent of the area’s foreclosure filings, Madigan’s office noted.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Casa Latino Was Highlighted on 2008 Real Estate Trend Report By Swanepoel

Casa Latino Was Highlighted on 2008 Real Estate Trend Report By Swanepoel (edit/delete)
The most influential trend report in the real estate industry, the Swanepoel Trends Report ( has highlighted Casa Latino in its Top 10 Trends for 2008 section entitled "Shattered Glass".

The report discusses the "Hispanic Opportunity" and mentions both....NAHREP and Casa Latino. No other real estate brand is discussed in this section! Comments like "a whole new real estate giant" and the "changing of the guard" are right on the money. Swanepoel's final "Take Away" comment is as follows:

"Put this all into perspective and one of the greatest opportunities in the industry is staring us right in the face. The time for action is now."

A limited preview of the Trends Report can be found on Google at:

Casa Latino Was Highlighted on 2008 Real Estate Trend Report By Swanepoel (edit/delete)
The most influential trend report in the real estate industry, the Swanepoel Trends Report ( has highlighted Casa Latino in its Top 10 Trends for 2008 section entitled "Shattered Glass".

Read about us on pages 23-25.

Casa Latino Franchise Corporation

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Minorities Find Subprime Mortgages Buy Big Disappointment

Friday, Feb 29, 2008
By Sean Mussenden and Bertrand M. Gutierrez

WASHINGTON -- A house. A yard. A fence. It's supposed to be the American dream. But for some black and Hispanic homeowners, the dream has been cut short with the rude awakening that can come with costly subprime loans.

Mortgage lenders were more likely to sell subprime loans to blacks and Hispanics than to whites during the recent housing boom. Consequently, minorities are at a greater risk than whites of losing their homes as the real-estate downturn deepens.

Advocates for low-income borrowers say that the racial disparity has added a new element to an old, unsettled debate over discriminatory lending practices, though banking-industry officials say the picture is far more complicated. Terri Martin is one of thousands caught in the middle of the debate. Martin nearly lost her $71,300 home in Winston-Salem two years ago after the interest rate on her subprime mortgage jumped to 11 percent, leaving her with monthly payments of more than $800. A lawyer helped her renegotiate the terms to avoid foreclosure and remain in her home.

"If I did not have God on my side, I probably would have committed suicide," said Martin, a school-bus driver and mental-health worker. "I was fighting to keep my house, and all my income that I did have coming in was going to pay my mortgage and to keep my other bills here going, so, yeah, it was rough."

Houses purchased with costlier, subprime mortgages like Martin's are eight times as likely to be foreclosed on as cheaper, prime mortgages, industry statistics show. Though the growing wave of subprime foreclosures is more pronounced in certain high-cost real estate markets, the issue is gaining attention in nearly every part of the country.

A Media General News Service analysis of mortgage data collected by the federal government showed that in the Southeast in 2006 - the most recent data available - the percentage of mortgages taken out by blacks that were subprime was double that of whites.

The analysis showed a similar, though slightly smaller, gap between Latinos and non-Latinos. In North Carolina, one of five residential mortgages to whites in 2006 was subprime. For blacks the ratio rose to almost one in two. One of three mortgages to Latinos was subprime, compared with one in four for non-Latinos.

In some poorer counties elsewhere in the Southeast, the analysis showed, the proportion of subprime loans to minority borrowers was even higher. In dozens of minority-heavy counties in Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina and Florida, more than seven in 10 loans to blacks were subprime.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Banks Springing Up to Serve the Underserved

A customer at Nuestro Banco, whose long-term goal is to become a regional Hispanic bank in the Southeast.

AT first glance Raleigh, N.C., may not seem like a logical place to open a Latino-oriented bank. After all, Raleigh is not a city like Los Angeles, for instance, where more than 47 percent of the population is Hispanic.
But David Flores, a former senior vice president at Chase Manhattan Bank, looked at the skyrocketing Hispanic population in North Carolina — from 1990 to 2006, it rose to 593,385 from a mere 76,726 — and saw a business opportunity.

Last September, Mr. Flores opened Nuestro Banco, offering a host of specially tailored services that other banks in the area were not, among them check cashing for new immigrants and small business loan applications in Spanish. The bank building is replete with Hispanic-inflected touches: a stucco exterior with a tile roof and bilingual signs.

“Our long-term goal is to become a regional Hispanic bank in the Southeast,” said Mr. Flores, the bank’s president and chief executive.

Nuestro Banco is certainly outside the mainstream of banking in this country, a mainstream dominated by financial giants like Bank of America, Chase, Wachovia, Wells Fargo and Citibank. But many bankers and banking customers find benefits in that niche position, where particular consumer and small-business demographics can be accommodated — to the profit of all.
For bankers, focusing on a niche is a way to set themselves apart from the competition.
“If a person sees three banks on the same block, each one offering the same products at the same price, what differentiates you?” asks Steven F. Young, senior vice president for consumer banking at Wainwright Bank and Trust in Boston. Wainwright’s reputation as a socially responsible bank that invests most of its deposits in community development and progressive nonprofit organizations “has led us to be very profitable,” Mr. Young said. “People like what we’re doing with their money.”

For consumers and small businesses, niche banks offer products, services and expertise that are often unavailable elsewhere. “With the big banks, you have a fairly impersonal relationship,” says Ingo Walter, a finance professor at the Stern School of Business at New York University. “Small banks are part of the community and people perceive that they get a different level of service.”

Though no one keeps records indicating whether the number of niche banks is rising or waning, experts in the banking field see growth in three particular areas: Hispanic banking, environmentally responsible banking and banking aimed at observant Muslims.

Hispanic-focused banks are the largest trend, Mr. Walter said. “It’s a giant-sized niche.”
The number of Hispanics in the United States is expected to triple by 2050, to more than 102 million. According to a 2004 report by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the “rapid growth of the underbanked Hispanic market suggests a new growth opportunity for many institutions.”

In fact, Mr. Flores said, “25 or 30 Hispanic banks are either starting up now or have started up in the last two or three years.” Among them is Plaza Bank in Seattle, which offers low-fee fund transfers and Spanish-language checks, statements, loan applications and online banking. “All of our personnel are bilingual and bicultural,” says Carlos Guangorena, Plaza Bank’s chief executive. “That helps people who haven’t been banked come into the fabric of the economic community.”

Similarly, many of the nation’s almost five million Muslims have special banking concerns that often go unaddressed by mainstream banks. In particular, Sharia, Islamic law, forbids the charging or paying of interest. “This hampers most bank transactions,” said Amjad Quadri, assistant vice president for business development and new markets at the University Islamic Financial Corporation, a bank based in Ann Arbor, Mich. As a result, many Muslims decide to rent rather than buy homes. “And most Muslims only have interest-free checking accounts and credit cards that they pay off at the end of the month,” Mr. Quadri said.

To accommodate special concerns of Muslims, University Islamic, with additional offices in East Brunswick, N.J., and McLean, Va., offers rent-to-own agreements for home buyers, along with savings accounts that offer “profit sharing” rather than interest. (The bank’s profit-sharing rates are competitive with those at other financial institutions.)

This profit-sharing strategy has enabled Haaris Ahmad, a lawyer in Canton, Mich., to earn money in a money market account for the first time. “Now, my wife and I get the same benefits that other people have, but in a way that’s compliant with our faith requirements,” Mr. Ahmad said.

For environmentalists — be they consumers or small- business owners — banking with a large bank can pose problems as well since large banks are often the underwriters for projects like coal-fired power plants and unsustainable logging. “I was concerned that a bank was going to invest my money in companies that might help cause global warming or human rights abuses,” said Adam Taylor, a green building engineer in San Francisco.

Mr. Taylor had been a customer of the West Coast banking giant Wells Fargo. But in 2006, he decided to switch his accounts to the New Resource Bank in San Francisco, which invests its deposits in green businesses. “If I was thinking about where my coffee beans were coming from,” Mr. Taylor said, “why wasn’t I thinking about who was investing my life savings?”

The founder and vice chairman of New Resource Bank, Peter Liu, says his bank understands green businesses in a way many mainstream banks do not. “A lot of times, in lending, it comes down to an assessment of risk,” he said. “If you don’t understand the business, a banker will see a lot of perceived risks — like the higher price point of organic food — as opposed to real risks.”
Those kind of perceptions can lead some larger banks to deny financing to green businesses.
“When you focus on an industry, you learn to appreciate the real risks and you underwrite to those.”

Banks like New Resource and ShoreBank Pacific of Ilwaco, Wash., often introduce products and services tailored to the special environmental interests of customers. ShoreBank offers free consulting to small businesses.

“When borrowers come to us,” said Laurie Landeros, the bank’s vice president for ecodeposits, “we help them move up the scale on their environmental and social health, as well as their fiscal health.”

New Resource Bank introduced a reduced-rate home equity loan that allows homeowners to purchase solar electric and thermal systems with no money down, at rates that are often lower than their monthly electric and home heating bills.

Mr. Walter of New York University said he did not “see any evidence of a systematic shift in market share,” from large banks to niche banks. But at a time when the large banks make many users feel like numbers rather than cherished clients, he added, “customers appreciate the service the niche banks offer.”

Friday, March 07, 2008

Bank Seeks to Widen Base Beyond Latinos

Bank Seeks to Widen Base Beyond Latinos
Security One Changing Name, Leaders

By Alejandro LazoWashington Post Staff Writer Tuesday, March 4, 2008; Page D04

Founded in 2006 by some of the Washington area's most prominent Hispanic business leaders, Security One Bank of Baileys Crossroads sought to carve out a niche serving the fast-growing Latino community.

But the bank struggled to grow in the midst of the housing downturn and weakening economy, banking analysts said. Now, Security One, which has only one branch, plans to broaden its base beyond the Hispanic market with a new management team, new investors and a new name.

Security One is being renamed John Marshall Bank, after the fourth chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court who grew up in what is now Fauquier County. The bank's new chief executive, John Maxwell, said he chose the name to help the bank sound more local and community-oriented.

Maxwell said the bank will continue to offer services oriented toward the Hispanic community, including bilingual tellers. But he said he hopes to tap the wider market.
"We are really focusing on small business, but again, I don't want to lose the Hispanic focus of the bank," Maxwell said.

Ronald Gordon, a board member who founded ZGS Communications, an Arlington broadcasting company that owns Telemundo affiliate television stations, said he embraced the new management because of its commitment to continue to serve the Hispanic community.

"The bottom line is that we are taking the bank to a totally different level," Gordon said. "And as long as the bank has that commitment, to serve our community, then I think we are going to have a stronger bank."

The changes at the bank reflect the difficulty of catering to a niche market, analysts said.
"When you are making loans, you are competing with everyone" said David Danielson, president of the Vienna consulting firm Danielson Capital. "A person taking out a loan with a bank is not going to bank with you just because you're Hispanic. They are going to go out and find the best rate."

Maxwell, 47, was the president and chief executive of the former James Monroe Bank of Arlington, which was sold to Baltimore-based Mercantile in 2006.
In an interview, Maxwell said his team of seven investors will contribute $6 million worth of equity to Security One, and that he plans to raise at least $15 million through a private stock offering.

The bank is looking to open two new branches in Leesburg and Alexandria, Maxwell said, and a new commercial lending unit is slated to open in Bethesda next week.

The bank, which opened with $15 million worth of capital in May of 2006, has lost about $3.5 million since then, according to regulatory filings. The bank currently has $11.4 million worth of equity.

Security One's chief executive, Carl E. Dodson, is stepping down to become chief operating officer of John Marshall Bank.

The changes in the bank's organization are subject to approval by the Virginia State Corporation Commission.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

For more immigrants, suburbia's a nice fit

For more immigrants, suburbia's a nice fit
By Haya El Nasser, USA TODAY

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Twice, Nancy Cadavid left her native Colombia to live in the United States. Twice, she settled in cities that have long attracted large numbers of immigrants — New York first, Miami second.

Now that she's here to stay, Cadavid, 44, has chosen to live far from the large cities that have been traditional immigrant gateways. She works two jobs and owns a house here in central Florida, near Orlando and Disney World. Her daughter graduated from Florida State University and works in advertising in Tampa. Her son attends community college and works part time at Disney.

Cadavid's tale is more than an immigrant success story. It reflects the path that immigrants increasingly are taking after they first enter the country — legally or illegally. Her moves eventually landed Cadavid — now a U.S. citizen — in a suburban county, well ensconced in middle-class America.

The movement of the foreign-born after they arrive sheds light on a key issue in the national immigration dialogue: How quickly immigrants assimilate into American culture and progress from a transient population to one that pays taxes, achieves homeownership and becomes largely self-sufficient.

Traditionally, newcomers settled in urban enclaves teeming with immigrants who shared their language and culture. They didn't spread out much until their children grew up and moved away.

That's still the case in some urban areas.

However, a growing number of immigrants are settling in suburbia as soon as they arrive, adding diversity to once largely homogeneous areas — and sometimes triggering tension among residents who are jarred by the impact of immigrants on their neighborhoods.
Other immigrants are moving to places that haven't seen immigrants in almost 100 years, such as rural counties in the South and Midwest.

The newcomers' move to the suburbs is telling, analysts say. "A good portion of the movement to outer suburbs within a region reflects a movement up the (economic) ladder," says Audrey Singer, an immigration specialist at the Brookings Institution.

Today, many "immigrants in America are pre-assimilated," adds Dowell Myers, a demographer at the University of Southern California. "They know a lot about America before they come, and many know English, also. … Economically, they're flourishing more rapidly now than they did at the turn of the (20th) century."

How quickly immigrants assimilate depends on what measure is used — from English-speaking skills and education to employment.

Homeownership is one of the most widely used characteristics of success. About 68% of immigrants who arrived in the 1970s are homeowners — equal to the rate of natives.
"Most people think of language and appearance as being assimilation," Myers says. "But we often lose track of the fact that immigrants are upwardly mobile economically and moving into homeownership at astounding rates."

Homeownership among Hispanic immigrants is about double that of low-income immigrants of the past, he says.

"The fear that immigrants are assimilating more slowly is largely a mirage based on the fact that we have more immigrants who have arrived recently and look unassimilated," Myers says. "Many things they have achieved exceed immigration in the old days."

"The ones who came in the '80s actually made faster progress than the ones who came in the '70s, but not as fast as the ones who came in the '60s," says Jeffrey Passel, demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center.

Progress varies depending on countries of origin and economic conditions in the USA at the time. "I don't know that there's a handy-dandy measure that's available," Passel says. "The point is, they're making progress."

About 12.5% of the population is foreign-born today, compared with just under 15% in the 1890s and early 1900s. The share is expected to surpass 15% in 2025 and reach 19% by 2050, according to the Pew Research Center.

Spreading out

More than 2% of the residents of Osceola County, where Cadavid lives, are foreign-born and moved from somewhere else in the United States from 2005 to 2006. It's one of the highest such rates in the nation, the Census Bureau says.

The places that have the highest move-in rates of foreign-born residents are suburban, from the city of Alexandria and Prince William County in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., to Henry and Gwinnett counties near Atlanta and Riverside County near Los Angeles.
Education levels were particularly high among immigrants who moved to some states, says Mark Mather, deputy director of domestic programs at the Population Reference Bureau. Three-quarters of the foreign-born who moved to Connecticut from another state from 2005 to 2006 had a bachelor's degree or higher. The state has major universities and financial centers that draw educated workers.

Moving — and moving up — are slices of the immigration story often lost in the furor over illegal residents, day laborers packing strip-mall parking lots and low-income families crowding apartments.

Immigrants typically make significant progress over time, says Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank that supports limits on immigration. But even those who have been here for 20 years are more likely than natives to be poor, lack insurance or use welfare.

"One thing that makes the public most dissatisfied about immigrants is that they use a lot of services," Camarota says.

It took 60 years for poorly educated immigrants, such as the Italians who came at the turn of the last century, to reach income and educational parity with natives, he says. A century later, conditions have changed and comparisons are difficult, Camarota says. "This is a much bigger group" of immigrants.

Douglas Massey, sociologist at Princeton University and editor of New Faces in New Places: The Changing Geography of American Immigration, says immigrants are "more mobile and … moving into economic niches in the suburbs."

Hispanic immigrants have been fanning out across the nation for almost a decade. The Hispanic population of southwest Kansas, the heart of the meatpacking industry, has soared since the 1990s. Immigrants also arrived in rural parts of the South, working in North Carolina's furniture plants, and in Delaware's poultry processing industry.

Their arrivals in such rural areas sometimes have produced outcries for a crackdown on illegal immigration. "When you go into a place like North Carolina that hasn't had immigrants in 100 years and people speaking a different language plop down in the middle of their society, it's unnerving to a lot of people," Massey says.

Immigrants, including many who entered the country illegally, also have flocked to fast-growing suburbs to fill the need for construction workers, gardeners, maids and other service workers. Such areas also have attracted more affluent, highly educated immigrants who are engineers, doctors and lawyers.

"You have an industrial park with a bunch of programmers and engineers and a bunch of them are foreign-born," Massey says. "Then you have the service staff, and they're foreign-born, too."
Incomes vary widely Immigration is part of the fabric in New Jersey, where almost one-third of the residents were born outside the USA. Joe Gutierrez, a native of Lima, Peru, came to the USA in 1986 when he was 26. He was a university student in his homeland and worked in a bank's credit department. Here, he says, "I work in a restaurant in the beginning, like everybody."

Gutierrez worked 10 years in restaurants, eventually becoming a manager. Then he opened a delicatessen, sold it after seven years, got a real estate license and went back to college. He lives in Paterson.

Gutierrez, 47, got a business degree and attends graduate school at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He and his wife, Margaret, also Peruvian, have two sons. They're all U.S. citizens.
He says the backlash against immigration is "a shame because people like me came looking for a better life, a better job because in our country it's difficult. Unfortunately, there's discrimination. We don't speak English well, we don't know the customs here, but we are strong, and little by little we learn."

Emilio Fandino is executive director of The Hispanic Institute for Research and Development in Paramus, N.J., a school that teaches English as a second language. He says New Jersey's immigrants fit largely into two groups.

"You have the recently arrived who may be moving to these suburbs to obtain jobs," he says. And "you have the assimilated upper-middle class moving in to the suburbs because they're buying houses. … You're starting to see a wide range of socio-economic levels among the foreign-born."

Adds Fandino, a native of Argentina: "The concept of the ethnic ghetto is starting to disappear."
Tension has been rising in some areas where newcomers are settling. Monday, a new law cracking down on illegal immigrants took effect in Virginia's Prince William County. Police can check residency status even for people pulled over for minor infractions, and some county services may be denied.

Other communities are more welcoming. Riverside County, east of Los Angeles, is a haven for a growing Hispanic middle class.

"This sort of suburbanization is generally seen as a good thing," says Vanesa Estrada, sociologist at the University of California-Riverside and a fellow at RAND Corp., a think tank. "These sorts of patterns … imply that these immigrants are showing assimilation."

Little sign of a backlash

There has been little apparent tension between natives and immigrants here in Osceola County.
Maybe it's because crowding is not an issue in a 1,321-square-mile county that is still largely rural. Cows graze in open fields next to luxury resorts and townhomes.

Or maybe it's because the county has had a large Hispanic presence for decades. Puerto Ricans, who are not foreign-born, began settling here in the early 1980s and are the largest Hispanic group in central Florida. Many were drawn here by the warm weather.

Osceola is capitalizing on its proximity to Orlando and low cost of living. Its population (244,045) grew more than 40% from 2000 to 2006. The county is more than 38% Hispanic. In Kissimmee, Hispanics are the majority: 52%.

"I am unaware of any immigrant backlash," Richard Logue, program director of Catholic Charities' Immigration & Refugee Services, writes in an e-mail. But "with any community that experiences rapid growth, there are growing pains with … education, transportation and law enforcement."

Rogelio Rodriguez, born in the Dominican Republic, came to the USA in 2003 on a visitor's visa. He settled in Long Island, near friends and relatives. He married Madeline Vega-Rodriguez, born in this country to a Dominican mother. He now is a permanent resident.

Rogelio worked as a carpenter and obtained his real estate license. Madeline was an X-ray technician. They quit in 2006 and moved here. "We wanted to be self-employed as opposed to working for other people," says Madeline, 28. "There were more opportunities and … the (balmy) climate."

Rogelio, 27, and Madeline recently opened RG Printing, which does business printing and website design. Rogelio still sells real estate.

Cadavid first came to the USA with her husband and daughter and became a permanent resident thanks to her husband's legal status. Her son was born in this country and she became a citizen. After a divorce, she returned to Colombia. "I was upper-middle class," Cadavid says of her life in Colombia, where she was a partner in an interior design company.

Political turmoil caused her return to the USA in 1999, two kids in tow. She landed in Miami but found it too crowded. She knew no one in Kissimmee but found work at a supermarket here, rented a house, found better jobs and bought the house she shares with her son and a divorced cousin and her son. She works as a clerk at a distribution center and as supervisor for an office cleaning company.

"I am middle class now," she says. "I love this place."

Communities that seem welcoming to immigrants may see more of them as other jurisdictions pass laws denying jobs or driver's licenses to the undocumented. Some immigrants have left states such as Arizona and Oklahoma because of laws denying some public benefits to illegal immigrants.

"A lot of the political backlash against immigrants has been cultural," Myers says. "In some people's eyes, (immigrants) can never assimilate. The real story is that there is upward mobility among immigrants."

Contributing: Paul Overberg, USA TODAY, in McLean, Va.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

etter from Scott Syphax regarding Nehemiah's Court Victory

Dear Colleague,

I am pleased to announce that Nehemiah was victorious in its litigation against HUD!
Judge Lawrence K. Karlton of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California upheld Nehemiah’s motion for summary judgment. The Court Clerk's Office is directed to enter judgment and close the case.

To be clear, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) rule to ban private downpayment assistance as proposed in the “Standards for Mortgagor’s Investment in Mortgaged Property” regulation published October 1, 2007, is permanently set aside.We are thrilled with the Court’s decision to support low-to-moderate income families across the country by ruling against HUD’s attempt to ban private downpayment assistance.

This is a major and conclusive judgment, leaving no uncertainty that downpayment assistance is a life line to the families that Nehemiah serves. It is heartening to see that the Court’s arguments echo our sentiments and concerns.

This decision preserves access and supports the use of sensible and reasonable approaches to homeownership for millions of working class families. It is a privilege to continue providing a helping hand to America’s underserved families by building both safer communities and financial strength through homeownership.

As we have said before, we look forward to working with HUD to support deserving families across the country.Since May 2007, Nehemiah has led the fight against this controversial rule. Since it was announced, there has been confusion throughout the industry regarding the potential impact of this rule. As the DPA industry leader, Nehemiah took seriously our responsibility to provide you with timely, accurate and responsible information about the events and activities surrounding this issue. We took action by educating influential people and organizations regarding the truth about downpayment assistance. We asked for our homebuyers and industry partners to help us by voicing their support and the response has been overwhelming.

I want to thank each of you for your letters, phone calls and spoken support of Nehemiah throughout this unfortunate situation. Your support has helped raise awareness in Washington D.C. which has increased the dialogue regarding DPA regulation though legislation. We hope to see some positive congressional developments aimed preserving the option of private downpayment assistance for homebuyers.

Currently, the Senate is contemplating FHA Reform legislation that will determine the fate of private downpayment assistance programs. Please help us one more time by contacting your Senators to convey your support for downpayment assistance; a very important vote is expected in the next few weeks.

As a reminder, we provide a section on our website called Regulatory Updates where we detail significant issues relating to DPA regulatory and legislative events. Check back for new postings or sign-up to have accurate and timely information delivered to you. On behalf of the entire Nehemiah team, we look forward to providing you with the same unmatched quality you have come to expect from us for years to come.

Scott Syphax President & CEO Nehemiah Corporation of America

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Realtors(R) Hope to Improve State of Minority Homeownership

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 --The National Association of Realtors(R) joined politicians, clergy, educators, government agencies, housing organizations and business leaders at this weekend's State of the Black Union, answering the symposium's call to create an America as good as its promise.

"Homeownership is part of the American dream," said 2008 NAR President-elect Charles McMillan.

"As the nation's leading advocate for housing issues, NAR is committed to removing disparities in homeownership and making the face of homeownership in this country look more like America."
McMillan helped debunk some "Myths that Create Barriers to Homeownership" as part of a panel discussion during the meeting, which was attended by approximately 4,000 people. He was joined by representatives from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, the National League of Cities, Neighborhood Housing Services, and Wells Fargo Bank.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, African Americans own homes at a rate much lower than Caucasians; in the fourth quarter of 2007, 47.7 percent of Black households owned their own home compared with 74.9 percent of Non-Hispanic White households.

"Homeownership is a great financial and personal investment, and it has proven to be one of the best ways to build long-term wealth," said McMillan. "In addition to the financial benefits, studies show that homeownership strengthens levels of educational achievement among children, increases volunteerism and political activism, and reduces community crime levels."
NAR supports policies and initiatives that further minority homeownership and has successfully partnered with organizations like the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation to help raise awareness and identify and promote solutions that address minority needs, such as foreclosure prevention, housing counseling, and homeownership preservation.

NAR also partners with real estate organizations representing African American, Latino and Asian American real estate professionals to sponsor the biennial HOPE (Home Ownership Participation for Everyone) Awards. The HOPE Awards program showcases education programs, financing initiatives, pioneering leadership, and exceptional projects that help minority families achieve their homeownership dreams and encourage more innovation among real estate professionals to better serve the minority market.

The National Association of Realtors(R), "The Voice for Real Estate," is America's largest trade association, representing more than 1.3 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

Information about NAR is available at News releases are posted in the Web site's "News Media" section in the NAR Media Center.

REALTOR(R) is a registered collective membership mark which may be used only by real estate professionals who are members of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS(R) and subscribe to its strict Code of Ethics. Not all real estate agents are REALTORS(R). All REALTORS(R) are members of NAR.

SOURCE National Association of Realtors
Stephanie Singer of the National Association of Realtors, +1-202-383-1050 ,,

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