What does it mean to be home?
Is it defined as a country of origin? The country in which you currently reside? Or, is home truly where the heart is? For the 89.4 million immigrants currently living in the United States, the answers are as varied as the cultures themselves. Yet, one unifying characteristic is a vigor to achieve the American Dream.
The American Dream. The job, the community, the schools, financial security, and upward mobility. There’s a lot baked into the apple-pie-in-the-sky vision. But, out of all the ingredients that go into “making it” in the U.S., perhaps the greatest symbol of the American Dream is the purchase of a home – a dream that is alive and well.
Perhaps the greatest symbol of the American dream is the purchase of a home – a dream that is alive and well.
According to the latest census report, immigrants aren’t just a major contributor to household growth, they are also a key source for housing demand. In 2017, foreign-born households were responsible for 37% of household growth from 1990-2017, despite making up only 13.7% of the population.
Even more, the immigrant share of homeowners climbed from 7% to 12% and immigrant renters increased from 12% to 20% with the main areas of origin being China, India, South and Central America, and Africa.
Community and Compassion
With the largest number of real estate agents across the globe, it stands to reason that Keller Williams has more agents than any other real estate company helping immigrants buy or sell their home.
Among them is Zohar “Zack” Zamir, an agent at the Keller Williams Town Life market center in Fair Lawn, New Jersey. An immigrant himself, Zamir knows firsthand the unique issues immigrants face when they first come to the U.S.
“I have only been in the United States for 12 years. I went from working at a mall kiosk to a $100 million producer and No. 1 agent in my MLS for the past three years straight.”
For Zamir, achieving the American Dream is more than just helping his clients win the bid on the house. “We make it our mission to help people find their first home in America by placing strong emphasis on educating our clients about the process, the market, and the community.”
Behind this mission is a strong team of agents of diverse ethnicities who have allowed Zamir to branch out and connect with clients from around the world.
“I know what it is like to come here with nothing and be overwhelmed by change,” he shares. “It’s a relief to have help from someone who has been through it themselves. It can also mean a lot just to hear your own language.”
The language barrier is the most obvious challenge. Th ere are other aspects that may not be as obvious but are just as important, notes Zamir.
“It’s a million little things that need to happen alongside the purchase of a home that are not always obvious. So much of it is about the service before and after the closing,” he says. “We help our clients buy furniture, register for schools, learn where to see a doctor, and what the town regulations are.”
When the time comes to purchase the home, there can also be financial barriers. Sometimes money can be held up overseas. Even if the money is there, it may not be a straightforward transfer between banks. Another common challenge Zamir encounters is that buyers may not meet all the paperwork requirements when they first arrive.
Which is why his team boasts a solid network of trusted partners who do everything they can to maneuver through these obstacles to get the deal closed.
“We ask a lot of questions upfront so that we can be realistic. We don’t want to get to the point where a family finds their dream home only to be denied a week before the closing date,” he adds.
It’s common for clients to rent for a period until their paperwork comes together, and they have a line of credit established that the mortgage company is willing to accept. Of course, Zamir and his team help the families find a rental and nurture the relationship until they are in a better position to buy.
In 2017, foreign-born households were responsible for 37% of household growth from 1990-2017, despite making up only 13.7% of the population.
Which was the case for one of Zamir’s recent clients from Israel.
“Our client and his family had a technology startup, and they decided they wanted to grow their company from nothing and raise their children in the States,” he says.
The couple rented an apartment for a while in Fair Lawn, which serves as an incubator for many families coming from overseas. As time passed, they were doing well. They were immersing themselves in the community, putting their children into school, and getting involved.
Zamir found an older couple looking to downsize and sell their house exclusively off -market to a young family who wanted to raise their kids in the house. When they met the family, they knew it was the right fit, but shortly after, the family had to move back to Israel to save their struggling business.
“It was hard and sad, but they didn’t give up on their American Dream. What was expected to take 1-2 years to turn around got corrected in 10 months,” he explains.
As suddenly as they had to leave, the family was back on a plane for a 48-hour trip to the U.S., taking meetings for their company and with Zamir to find the home of their dreams.
“I had only about four hours to prepare. The husband came straight from the airport with their luggage and suitcase and lived out of the conference room while I showed him homes. He looked at the lineup and then trusted his wife to make the final decision, making an offer on the spot,” says Zamir. It was a whirlwind trip with a happy ending. “The family was back in the country and moved into their house within the month.”
A Trusted Agent, A Lifelong Connection
Zamir’s story illustrates the need for passionate and generous real estate agents who are already ingrained in the community.
“It is so powerful to be assisting people with such an impactful decision in their lives,” says Zamir. “Your house affects everything from the way you live to where your kids go to school, to who your friends are and where you work. It is a lot to decide. To be trusted to help with that is a huge honor. You feel like apart of someone’s family by the end and like you make a difference.”Purchase This Issue