Olé! Translation Services and Apps to Help Close Deals with Hispanic Homebuyers

Posted On Thursday, 02 July 2020 22:55

If you’re a realtor who doesn’t know Spanish, you’re at a distinct disadvantage in many areas. That’s because Hispanics are the fastest-growing group of home buyers. But don’t panic: help is on the way. The Internet provides a wealth of online services and apps which can compensate for your disadvantage.

Don’t Let Selling Opportunities Get Lost in Translation

Spanish-speakers are the fastest rising demographic in many real estate markets. According to a 2019 article in the Wall Street Journal, this 18% of the US population accounts for 63% of homeowner gains in the past decade. While 47% of Hispanics own homes compared to 73% for whites, that gap is rapidly closing. By 2030, according to Curbed, Hispanics will comprise a staggering 56% of all homebuyers.

Concealed in the data is the scope of the losses to the U.S. Latino community resulting from the 2008 financial crisis. Hispanics tend to place high value on homeownership. According to a 2016 Federal Reserve report, housing comprised 39% of Latino financial assets, more than any other demographic group. But Zillow data shows that in 2007, Hispanic people had more than 73% of their net worth invested in homes. By 2009, 7% of Latino-owned homes had gone into foreclosure, more than any other ethnic or racial group in America. In all, Hispanics lost 56 percent of their housing assets in the crisis. So this decade’s recovery is all the more remarkable.

But this trauma of the 2008 crisis has clearly left scars. Trust issues are particularly salient. According to a 2016 study by the Hispanic Wealth Project and National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, only 7% of real estate agents are Hispanic, but 25% of Hispanic buyers reported a preference to work with real estate agents who can communicate in Spanish. That data suggests that non-Spanish realtors are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to serving Hispanic home buyers.

Premium Translation Service Options for Real Estate Professionals

Not every English-speaking realtor has the time or the luxury of learning Spanish, even though courses abound for professional language lessons. Another option, of course, is to hire a Spanish-speaking staffer or assistance to work with Hispanic customers. But a cost-effective alternative may be translation services that have the essential function of converting your sales, marketing, and legal materials into Spanish. Even if you have Spanish-speaking staff or a smattering of español yourself, working with a translation company will ensure that your presentation speaks the language of your customers. 

How do you find the translation agency that’s right for you? As in most things these days, that is likely to come from a Google search. Enter key phrases “translation” “English to Spanish” and “real estate” to generate a short list of candidate agencies.

The last phrase is key. Different agencies have varying realms of expertise and you will want to seek out language help from a company staffing linguists who are familiar with the unique language of real estate, homes, and property. The question arises as to whether you should indicate your location in your search query. You can try, but while “location, location, location” may be the watchwords in the property business, it is of less relevance when searching for a translator. You will be providing the local expertise. The translation company will be delivering the linguistic expertise.

Selecting a translation agency from search results usually means visiting the candidate agencies’ websites and sending out a query indicating your translation needs. That may include sending a link to your website or attaching your sales and marketing brochures or your standard broker’s agreement and a home sale contract template. While website translation pricing is often a fixed fee based on site and complexity, document translation is usually priced according to the number of words in the source document. The average rate for translations in the U.S. is $0.12/word, though this may vary according to location and the urgency of delivery. Rush charges can boost rates by as much as 100%, so it’s best to plan ahead and avoid extra fees.

Freelance Translation as Lower Cost Options

When you work with a professional translation option, you gain the benefit of accessing an established network of expert translators. You also get the convenience of a “one stop shop” with a personal account manager who will be your primary point of contact, communicating your translation needs to the linguistic team members who do the actual work. Then you will receive, review and (eventually) approve the translation work.

There are some problems with this work process. The first is cost. You pay for the convenience of avoiding the management time associated with working directly with a translator, document by document, word for word. You pay for the agency overhead of a network of translators. That administrative surcharge may be worth the extra cost, but it is a factor to keep in mind. 

Another downside of working with an agency is the lack of direct contact with translators and editors working on your project. Often, as in the kids’ game of Telephone, extra “cooks in the kitchen” can cause misunderstandings. If you’re a control freak, the buffer of an account manager may be frustrating. You are also trusting the expertise of the agency, with no Spanish-speaking linguist “on your side” ensuring quality. 

One alternative is to seek out freelance translators on Internet marketplaces to guard your interests and ensure translation quality. Freelance marketplaces like Upwork and Freelancer.com are well-stocked with English-to-Spanish translators, some of whom list real estate as areas of personal expertise. They are likely to be significantly less costly than translation agencies, though costs will vary according to experience and expertise.

Machine Translation and Voice Interpretation as a Last Report

The quality of online translation services like Google Translate and Microsoft Translator have improved greatly in recent years, but they are still no match for expert human linguists. Use them sparingly to avoid potential embarrassment. Still, these applications can be useful for translating routine correspondence and accessing foreign-language documents. 

The mobile versions also offer a friendly voice interpretation feature which may help you conduct a conversation with a buyer or seller with whom you don’t share a common language. It takes practice to get the hang of app-assisted bilingual conversation. Still, these apps are no substitute for direct human contact. Here's where accompaniment by a Spanish-speaking assistant is preferable so you don’t let a lucrative deal get lost in translation!

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