NAHREP CEO: 'We are driving growth in the homeownership space'
Gary Acosta, the organization's co-founder and CEO, is focused on advancing homeownership among the growing segment of Hispanic consumers.
- NAHREP was founded in 2000 and is now one of the largest real estate associations in the U.S. with more than 40,000 members.
- An Urban Institute study forecasts that Hispanic and Latino buyers will represent 70% of new homeownership in the U.S. between 2020-2040.
- "We have to double the number of Latinos in the real estate industry over the next 10 years to meet the demand," says Acosta.
More than two decades ago, Gary Acosta co-founded the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals to encourage and support Latinos who represented a "tidal wave" of new home buyers coming into the marketplace.
Twenty-three years later, NAHREP is a network of 40,000 members and one of America's largest real estate associations.
"The idea from the very beginning was to create an organization made up of real estate professionals focused on advancing Hispanic homeownership," Acosta recalled. "These were real estate professionals like ourselves, who wanted to build successful businesses to serve Hispanic homebuyers and were passionate about the whole industry."
NAHREP keeps building momentum, along with the trajectory of Hispanic homeowners.
A 2021 Urban Institute study forecasts that Hispanic buyers will represent 70% of new homeowners in the U.S. between 2020-2040. The study concludes the real estate industry will need to evolve and adapt to better meet the needs of Hispanic buyers.
"We are core to the health and well-being of American prosperity," Acosta told Real Estate News. "And we are driving growth in the homeownership space."
During his tenure as NAHREP's chief executive officer, Acosta also launched the Hispanic Wealth Project, a nonprofit that focuses on wealth-building for Hispianic households, and is general partner of L'ATTITUDE Ventures, a $100 million venture capital fund that invests exclusively in Hispanic-led startups.
Serving Hispanic buyers, focusing on housing policy
As Acosta looks back on the evolution of NAHREP, he said the organization has shifted its focus over time from educating the real estate industry about the importance of Hispanic consumers to focusing on solutions for Hispanic buyers.
"We know there are a lot of Hispanics out there, and we know that they want to buy homes. How do we make that happen? How do we as companies develop strategies to service this segment of the homebuyer population accordingly?" he said.
Hispanics as a whole are passionate about homeownership, said Acosta, pointing to a Fannie Mae survey that measures consumer sentiment around homebuying and homeownership. Hispanic respondents often rank among the highest, he said.
"Hispanic consumers are some of the best consumers that you can serve. We are a very social community, which means that if you do a good job or represent a Hispanic homebuyer family — you will build your business — they will tell everybody they know."
At the federal level, NAHREP targets reforms that benefit not just Hispanic consumers but other underserved populations. Those issues span housing affordability, access to mortgage credit, and homeownership education, especially for first-generation and first-time buyers. Many of those topics will be front-and-center at their national conference in mid-March, which will focus on homeownership, federal housing policy and wealth building for Hispanic Americans.
"It's very important that NAHREP is engaged. When housing policy is developed, we have to have a seat at the table," Acosta said. "Homeownership is an important milestone to building wealth — the gateway to the middle class."
Changing the makeup of the industry
Acosta is also an advocate for recruiting more real estate professionals with a Hispanic background. Agents, brokers and other professionals identifying as Hispanic or Latino account for 11% of NAR members, according to the group's 2022 member profile, but comprise nearly 19% of the U.S. population.
"If we are 70% of new homebuyers moving forward, there's a disconnect between the real estate professional apparatus and the homebuyer population," Acosta said.
"Having a real estate professional who comes from the community and understands cultural nuances and maybe can speak the language is critical," he said. "So my sense is that we have to double the number of Latinos in the real estate industry over the next 10 years to meet the demand."
Because homebuying can be a complicated process, "accessing information about navigating through it correctly and efficiently, is essential," said Acosta.
"And having real estate professionals who can help you is core to our mission as an organization," he added.