Any real estate agent with a long-term perspective knows that it makes good business sense to examine your market for segments that are expected to grow in the future, and begin investing your efforts to develop those segments now. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the fastest growing ethnic groups in Colorado are the Hispanic and Asian communities, which in Denver grew by 39 and 31 percent, respectively, from 2000 to 2008, mostly through immigration. In contrast, non-Hispanic whites grew only 9 percent during the same period.
This trend is expected to continue in the future. (See graph below.) For an agent who wants to tap a growing segment and has an interest in multicultural business, this presents a terrific opportunity. Here are specific steps you can take to begin developing business with these fast-growing communities and other parts of the international market in Colorado.
Explore your market’s demographic profile
Begin by taking a look at who lives in your area. A good starting point is the research available through the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) at realtor.org/research/research/reportsintl. Here you’ll find State-by-State International Business Reports, as well as other reports based on U.S. Census data, breaking out Colorado demographics by county.
Digging into these reports, you’ll find that in 2000, 17 percent of the residents of Denver County were foreign-born and that a second language was spoken in 27 percent of the households. For a summary of NAR’s international research reports and their contents, see the August 2010 issue of the Global Perspectives newsletter, archived at realtor.org/global/globalperspectives.
The U.S. Census site quickfacts.census.gov/qfd is also worth a visit because many topics have been updated with 2009 data. For example, the 2009 demographic profile of Denver County shows that 34 percent of the population was Hispanic or Latino, and 3.5 percent Asian.
Many Colorado area economic development organizations provide demographic community snapshots and summary topline trends for site selection purposes. MetroDenver.org, for example, points out that ethnic and minority communities grew at twice the rate of the rest of the population between 2000 and 2008. GlobalDenver.org reports that over 10,000 immigrants come to live in the city each year.
Learn more about the communities and how to connect with them
Relationships are the foundation upon which successful real estate careers are built, and maybe even more so when working with the foreign-born. As Americans, we are used to meeting, greeting and getting down to business. In many non-Western societies, getting to know someone on a personal and social basis is a prerequisite to entering into a business relationship. In other words, it’s more about building a cache of face-to-face contacts than building your friend list on Facebook. You may find yourself investing lots of time, eating lots of foreign dishes, and learning new customs, especially with older individuals.
Attending activities and events sponsored by cultural associations or your local REALTOR® association can help you become familiar and at ease in new cultures, and gain recognition and respect in the immigrant community. At GlobalDenver.org you’ll find links to cultural associations and other organizations for all nationalities with a significant presence in the city, and contact information for groups in other parts of Colorado.
To become more familiar with Denver’s Asian population, for example, attend the Annual Colorado Dragon Boat Festival (cdbf.org), a pan-Asian event held every July to build understanding between the Asian-Pacific American community and the general public. It is a celebration across Korean, Japanese, Chinese and other Asian cultures involving boat racing, food, and athletic competition which attracted more than 100,000 visitors in 2010.
On a smaller scale, the Japan America Society of Colorado (jascolorado.org), a leading cultural and business link between Japan and the state of Colorado, sponsors Meishi (business card) Mixers for networking within the Japanese-American business community.
Find the companies hiring foreign workers
Every year hundreds of highly-skilled and professional immigrants come to Denver to find employment. Many of them are sponsored by their employers, companies that recruit degreed individuals who enter the U.S. on temporary work visas, and later apply for more permanent residency, often becoming homeowners. The companies who hire them apply for the workers’ visas, which might include H1-B, H2-B and green cards.
To reach the workers, reach out to the companies that hire them. In the past, large private corporations, universities, research facilities and hospitals have tended to be the largest sponsors in the Denver area, bringing in large numbers of workers each year. For instance, MyVisaJobs.com, a visa job information portal and online immigration community, reports that Ciber, Inc. has applied for 200 highly-skilled temporary workers since 2001; Verizon, 149; Fujitsu Consulting, 122; and Qwest Communications, 128.
You can also use MyVisaJobs.com to look for companies and organizations in your area that are currently hiring highly-skilled foreign temporary workers. Enter your city’s name and state in the search tool and you’ll be able to view a list of companies, job openings, company background information, and even how many visa workers those companies have applied for since 2000 and average salaries. Presently, it reports that there are nearly 1,600 openings in the Denver metro area for immigrant professional workers.
Company sponsors are required to cover workers’ travel costs and assist them in finding housing upon arrival. Find and introduce yourself to the contact within the company who is responsible for this. Leverage your knowledge of local immigrant communities to demonstrate that you can be a valued resource in helping foreign employees find their footing in their new land.
Newly arrived workers may not be in the market to buy a house immediately, but will remember your assistance when that time comes. Meanwhile, as they make contacts within their cultural community, you’ll probably receive referrals. And, through them, you may be able to reach out to other immigrant workers at other companies who may be ready to look for a home.
Don’t forget universities
Universities and associated hospitals are among the largest temporary visa employers, according to MyVisaJobs.com. The University of Colorado at Boulder applied for 136 H1-B visas in 2009; Colorado State, 46; and 64 at the University of Colorado at Denver. If a university, college or major medical center is in your market area, add them to your list of targets.
Investigate other important connections
As you become more established in your chosen community, cast your net wider. Make contacts within immigrant communities’ Chambers of Commerce. In Colorado these include the Hispanic, Asian, German-, French-, and Italian-American Chambers, among others. For a list of links to Colorado-based foreign Chambers of Commerce, visit the Business Resources section of GlobalDenver.org. Further cement your relationship in the foreign business community by becoming a member of and an active participant in a foreign Chamber of Commerce.
You can also reach beyond our shores to your targeted community’s country of origin to become even more recognized as a conduit for incoming immigrants. Consider organizing or participating in a trade mission to establish relationships in those countries. NAR’s Global Business and Alliances group encourages global cooperation through a number of initiatives that can be found at realtor.org/global_alliances.
Putting together an international trip may require working and partnering with local government and other related organizations. For more details on organizations that help link Colorado to other nations, investigate Doing International Business in Colorado, in the Business Resources section at GlobalDenver.org.
Leverage your knowledge and skills
Ultimately, international buyers come to you for your market expertise. It’s a given that you must have up-to-date knowledge of the pricing, inventory and trends in your local market. However, international clients may be thinking in broader terms. Be prepared to discuss how your area compares to other areas of the U.S. and perhaps to real estate in your clients’ native countries. Your clients may want to know why your community is a good investment relative to others.
Remember to join the international committee of your local Board of REALTORS® to meet like-minded peers. Promote your international background on relevant websites.
Whatever niche you choose, don’t stop there. If you entered the international market by developing a client base in an immigrant community, use that knowledge to approach other parts of the international market. Investigate foreign-owned companies with operations in your area, or international buyers of resort or investment properties. The more you learn, the wider your international opportunities will become.
Colorado’s fast growing immigrant communities will become a major force in tomorrow’s real estate market. Building your business there will take time and creativity, but consider it an investment in your future.
GlobalDenver.org has a Featured International Realtors page under the Living in Denver tab. If you’ve earned your CIPS designation and work in the Denver metro area, contact them to arrange a link for your business.