Designing for Hispanic Clientele
authors Jamie Gold
What makes an innovation, social change or other phenomenon a trend? How is this signaled or determined? One way is by observing multiple vendors offering similar features in their products, at their trade show booths and/or in retail stores. Another is by press releases showing statistics that point to an emerging pattern. A third indicator is the establishment of professional or trade associations embodying a characteristic, thus announcing a critical mass of industry professionals investing their time, energy and money. Serious trends are evidenced by all of these markers, and bear consideration by the industry at large.
The growing number of Hispanic home buyers is one such trend, and it is worth reviewing how this growing population’s design preferences may factor into up-and-coming trends and what opportunities this might mean for your business. Before we do, though, please consider that Hispanic, Latino/Latina or Latinx (the recent gender-neutral word) are all terms used in this article, but are not necessarily the same thing – “Hispanic” denotes an individual from a Spanish-speaking background, while “Latino/a/x” indicates a Latin American geographical background. There is significant overlap in the U.S. market, as so many Hispanic community members here have hereditary roots in Latin American countries.
“Hispanics now lead the charge in U.S. household growth,” declared the Housing Wire news release, quoting a 2018 State of Hispanic Home Ownership Report by the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals. (Stats: Check. Association: Check. Press release: Check.) Founded in 1999, NAHREP has 30,000 real estate agent, broker, mortgage and settlement service provider members, the group reports. Its stated mission is to advance Hispanic homeownership and educate those who serve Hispanic homebuyers and sellers, facilitating relationships between industry stakeholders and housing professionals.
Are you manufacturing or selling products to enhance a residence for use or resale? Are you providing design, building or remodeling services for homebuyers and sellers? That makes you stakeholders. Does appealing to 32.4 percent of U.S. households appeal to you, especially since close to half of them are homeowners?
This rate keeps increasing each year, and currently stands at 47.1 percent of Hispanics in the U.S. owning their own homes. According to NAHREP, “Over the past decade, Hispanics have accounted for 62.7 percent of net U.S. homeownership gains.” The study also notes that Hispanic household income gains have shown the largest increase across all racial and ethnic groups.
“A majority (60.4 percent) of all U.S. Hispanics are 35 or younger, with over a quarter (27.2 percent) between the ages 19 to 35, many of whom are entering their prime home-buying years,” NAHREP notes. Can you afford to ignore this population and still remain successful long term?
Here are more vital statistics to consider with regard to Hispanic clientele, also from the NAHREP report:
Hispanics are more likely to live in multigenerational households.
In 2017, the most current data available, Hispanic median household income also rose to $50,486, accounting for the largest increase in income (3.7 percent) among all racial or ethnic population groups. As of 2017, 32.4 percent of Hispanic households have a median income of $75,000 or greater.
At 80.5 percent, Hispanic men are more likely to participate in the labor force than any other racial or ethnic group. Hispanic men are also more likely to work in the construction industry than any other category of adult employed men. (This means your client is more likely to be knowledgeable about the remodel you’re suggesting or the products you’re offering. Respond accordingly!)
On average, Latinos have 3.7 persons per household, compared to the U.S. national average of 3.03.
88 percent of Hispanics agreed that owning a home is the best investment plan, and they are better off owning as opposed to renting. (This points to a homeowner seeing the value of investing in home improvements, as well, to enhance its value.)
Kitchen and bath preferences
So what are common home design trends among Hispanic consumers? The National Association of Home Builders surveyed Hispanic home buyers about their preferences and learned that a separate laundry room was their top want, with Energy Star-rated appliances coming in second. They also want an Energy Star rating for the entire house, as well as table space for eating in the kitchen and a stall shower and tub in the master bathroom, according to survey results. Their top technology wants include a wireless security system with cameras, wireless home audio, programmable thermostat and home theater. Among the NAHB study’s 10 least-wanted features for Hispanic home buyers are a master bath without a tub, laminate countertops and a wine cooler.
“We see that our Hispanic buyers have a very high design IQ and are drawn toward the more modern finishes when it comes to designing their home,” notes Lee. K. Crowder, model branding senior manager national home builder Taylor Morrison’s Dallas and Houston Darling-branded home communities. “There are certain [common] elements that we find [many of these consumers] are looking for in their home design, such as freestanding tubs, waterfall edge countertops [and] natural stone in lighter finishes for kitchen and bath areas.”
Crowder continues: “They appreciate a well-designed kitchen, designed around being efficient while doing meal prep. That includes a catering kitchen, large pantry area, sinks that function for multi-tasking and serious chefs. Appliances have always been a hot ticket for our Hispanic buyers – ranges that have six burners and a griddle, built-in refrigerators and the ability to customize the finish and handles is very important.” He adds, “We are seeing a range of lighter materials when it comes to cabinet finish, stone flooring, tile in the bathroom and kitchen and countertop materials.”
David Acosta, NAHREP’s 2019 president and owner of David Acosta Real Estate Group in Southern California and Texas adds: “A kitchen island is a feature that they often look for in a house. Kitchen islands mean that they have a bigger space, which is more conducive to entertaining, and in some instances, islands communicate a bit more status.”
John Burns Real Estate Consulting’s senior v.p. of research, Todd Tomalak, says kitchens are a definite focus for Hispanic clients. They are “more likely than average U.S. households to upgrade kitchen design features.” They’re more likely to choose premium cooktop features and pay more for a farmhouse sink – even more than the U.S. norm, the Irvine, CA-based research executive notes.
“Free-standing tubs are a very big trend, and they bring a ‘wow’ factor to any bathroom,” observes Acosta about his firm’s clientele. He notes that having an accessible downstairs bathroom for older relatives is also important to this community, which is far more likely than the average American household to be multi-generational.
Recognizing the growing importance of this demographic, how do you reach this clientele, if they haven’t reached out to you yet? You don’t have to advertise in Spanish language media, though it will make this community feel that you recognize their cultural background if you can and choose to do so.
Hispanics as a group are active Internet users, with one-third going online almost constantly, NAHREP says. They’re also more likely to access the web through a phone than a computer, so your messages need to be mobile-optimized. According to the group’s study, “Latinx are the highest demographic user group of Instagram, Snapchat, Pandora and Spotify and tie with Asians for their use of Facebook. Hispanics earning $75,000-plus also out-index their non-Hispanic White counterparts in social engagement.” How engaging are your social media campaigns on these platforms?
Taylor Morrison is one company that has seen the power of Hispanic homeownership spending. “Sales to this demographic range between 15 to 30 percent of our community totals on an annual basis,” reports Crowder.
Acosta notes, “Hispanic customers make up about 30 to 40 percent of our clients.” They’re young, as well: “More and more we see first-time home buyers being in their mid-20s to early 30s.” Serving the two states with the largest Hispanic populations, including their border regions, Acosta notes, “Our clients come from every culture and nationality. Having started my career in Texas along the border, a lot of my clients came from Mexico, or were of Mexican descent. Nowadays in California, particularly in Los Angeles, we meet people from everywhere in the world.”
Being bilingual is essential to his team, he says. “The client is always right, so if their primary language is Spanish, they will feel more comfortable with an agent that speaks their own language. Millennials, although they speak both languages, prefer to conduct business in English, and they will switch to Spanish for cultural references and connecting with the other party. It’s important that you have someone in your team who can serve your clientele the way they need and want to be served.”
“About 50 percent of our clientele are Latino,” shares Sandra Diaz-Velasco, Miami-based designer and owner of Eolo A&I Design, adding, “We serve clients from Venezuela, Honduras, Colombia, Paraguay and El Salvador.” The 2019 NKBA Best Overall Bath award-winning designer has an upscale clientele located in Florida, Latin America and the Caribbean.
“We speak predominantly in English with our clients, whose demographic is typically well-educated, well-traveled and discerning enough to express their needs and wishes,” Diaz-Velasco adds. “That said, we also celebrate and acknowledge our clients’ cultural background, and may respond to a client’s cultural roots – be it through design or through communication and collaboration – in a way that is meaningful to the client on an individual basis.”
Not all of her projects are domestic, she says. “When working with a Latino or Hispanic client in their community outside of the U.S., it is important to perform due diligence, investigating the culture and how the client’s needs and tastes translate and play into the space and design goals.”
“Design is a universal language,” observes Diaz-Velasco. “If a designer is talented enough, educated and eager to keep learning, is licensed and knowledgeable about their trade, there are no cultural barriers. Every design project is unique, and while culture and location can play an influential role, being Hispanic or having any particular cultural background does not make a difference when it comes to executing a vision.” Success is multi-lingual. ▪