Grow With Diversity - A Winning Business Strategy

Success in today’s real estate market requires awareness, communication, and planning a diversity-oriented practice.  Changing demographics in Maryland indicate that there are many potential clients moving rapidly into the homeownership market and THAT is an opportunity to grow your business!

·         The Hispanic community is the fastest growing demographic group in the state and in the country.

·         All of the state's population growth in the past 10 years flows from African Americans, Asians and Hispanics moving to Maryland.

·         The Asian and Pacific Islander population (including Hawaii and the Phillipines) is expected to grow 175% from 260,000 in 2005 to 406,000 by 2025.

·         By 2025, Maryland will be among a host of states and the District of Columbia in which racial and ethnic minorities will outnumber Whites. Nationally, by the year 2025, one out of four people will be either Hispanic or Asian in ethnic makeup.

·         The Joint Center for Housing Studies concluded that the “echo-boom” generation (dominated by second-generation Americans)—those born between 1986 and 2005—will have a tremendous impact on starter homes while the baby boomers will help strengthen the demand for senior housing.

Be aware that in the professional business culture prevalent in the United States (as well as in Canada and Northern Europe):

·         Personal relationships interfere with objective business decisions.

·         Precise verbal agreements are important.

·         Contracts are binding and exist apart from personal relationships.

·         Time is treated as a commodity, schedules are carefully observed.

·         Lack of ceremony, direct communication, results, fast pace, and punctuality are valued.

IN CONTRAST, cultures prevalent in Asia, Russia, Middle East, Latin America, and Southern Europe

·         Business is based on personal long-term relationships.

·         Nonverbal communication is important.

·         A contract is an extension of a relationship.

·         Time is fluid, schedules tend to be flexible.

·         Ceremonial manners, face-saving communication, and relationships are valued.

In summary, cultural comparisons should not be based on stereotypes, but can be made on the basis of: work habits; living habits; time and time consciousness; personal sense of space and distance; relationships; communications and language; mental processes; beliefs, attitudes and norms.

How can you use these developments in extending your business to this growing segment of the homebuying population?  The same way you would in designing any business plan based upon a changing market—focus on how to adapt to those changes.  In this case, there are three keys to keep in mind:

·         Build or expand your understanding of cultural differences.

·         Offer appropriate services to these populations.

·         Understand and enjoy other cultures to build relationships and to open lines of communication.

It is important to develop thoughtful guidelines for working with different cultures.  When incorporating diversity into your marketing and selling practices, be sensitive to experiences and each culture’s heritage.  Use practices that make clients feel comfortable, informed, and valued.  Remember that with all these ethnic groups, it is important to your business success to build long-term relationships.


  1. To show that you embrace others’ differences, practice attitudinal skills:  Extend respect to whomever the customer cares about (especially elder household members); obtain the correct names and connections; show good intentions and follow up on promises.

  1. To show sensitivity to needs and feelings of others, practice communications skills: Learn at least a few phrases of the other’s language; talk less, listen more; take the blame for language difficulties.

  1. To show positive regard for others, practice skills in manners:  Be punctual, even if it may be an uncommon cultural norm; be polite and do not initiate informal physical contact; avoid standing with hands in pockets, crossing legs or showing soles of feet.

     4.  Beware of non-verbal RED FLAGS!

Re-adjusting physical distance
Averting eye contact
Scowling, frowning
Laughing at the wrong time
Covering face
Remaining silent/Not asking questions to clarify or show interest
Displaying impatience

  1. Develop cross-cultural listening skills

- Pay attention to the person as well as the message.
- Don’t assume wants or needs - Learn as much as you can about the traditions and beliefs of your targeted potential clients.
- Create rapport and adjust to the other person’s style and formality.
- Share meaning - Take care to translate English words and phrases appropriately.  Not everything translates word for word.
- Request information in a way that does not bias or inhibit the other person’s response.

  1. Reassess how you manage the client relationship

Maintain confidence in transaction value and fairness.
Emphasize shared values.
Be discreet and respectful.
Overcome prejudices and stereotypical thinking.
Follow the client’s timetable.
Do not exceed your expected role.

  1. Build your expertise about sensitivity to diversity and diverse cultures

- Celebrate Fair Housing-Diversity Month in April at your real estate office

- Take the NAR class At Home with Diversity (formerly One America)

- Read Kiss, Bow and Shake Hands, by Terri Morrison and Wayne A. Conaway

- Attend a local meeting of the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA), Maryland Hispanic Real Estate Industry Association (MHREIA) or National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB)


AT HOME WITH DIVERSITY”, National Association of REALTORS®

Projected State Populations, by Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin:  1995-2025 (Numbers rounded to nearest thousand.  Resident population: Series A projections.  For more details, see PPL #47, "Population Projections for States, by Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin:  1995 to 2025.") 

The State of the Nation’s Housing 2010, Center for Housing Studies