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How Diverse Entrepreneurs Nurture The American Dream



Real estate agent greeting couple at house

There is perhaps no business more grounded in community than real estate. As trusted advisors to people looking for a place they can call home, real estate agents and brokers have an influential role in promoting and developing communities in the markets they serve. It is for this reason that operating with integrity and mindfully promoting equality and inclusiveness is impactful. As community leaders with deep local contacts and connections, agents and brokers are well positioned to shape the communities they serve. As we often say within our Coldwell Banker network, working in real estate is truly important work.

During fair housing month, we reflect on people across the United States that may share the commonly held dream of homeownership, but may not have the means, information or the partner to help achieve that dream. We have made some strides since the Fair Housing Act was established in 1968, but there is a great deal of work yet to do.

Discrimination impacts buyers and renters today. Through our work in the business, we can promote fairness and reap the benefits of being inclusive. One way of doing so is ensuring representation at all levels of the real estate industry, and particularly among broker owners. While most agents are women, many owners and leaders are not. There is plenty of room for more diversity of all types in real estate careers. Representation at the agent and owner level adds greater possibility for in depth knowledge, respect and understanding of needs in our business and client base.

At Coldwell Banker, we have been focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion through strategic initiatives including our programs like Agents of Change and What Moves Her, as well as partnerships with AREAA, NAHREP, NAREB, and the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance. Many of our agents and affiliates are active participants in local and national realtor boards promoting diversity. And, just over a year ago, we launched our Inclusive Ownership program, a first-of-its-kind initiative in the industry aimed at increasing representation of minority, women, LGBTQ+ and veteran entrepreneurs in real estate through exclusive resources, tools and mentorship – and it has already made a significant difference for affiliated members. One of the first business owners to join the program was Tina Marie Hernandez, a Latina entrepreneur who has found a home and partnership with Coldwell Banker.

Partnering with Entrepreneurs to Build Businesses & Communities

Tina Marie Hernandez is a broker and co-owner of Coldwell Banker Omni Group in Southern California with her husband Rich A. Hernandez. As a Latina woman working in real estate for 30 years, Tina is the ultimate entrepreneur, who operates a successful business and investments, while constantly generating new business initiatives. She also knows firsthand that the Latinx community deals with several disadvantages when finding a home, from being shown less listings, quoted higher fees, or given heavier application processes’ than their white counterparts. Latinos can also be challenged by a lack of generational wealth, which can show up for buyers as they race to qualify for home purchases, particularly in markets that are as competitive for buyers as the one we are in today.

Tina recalls instances in which earning her leadership role took extra energy. “Both as a woman and Latina, working my way up to the broker-owner level took a lot of proving myself. I had to fight harder than my male counterparts for a seat at the table, and always felt pressure to prove to prospective business partners that I am successful and can help them be successful too,” she explains.

For decades, Tina and Rich’s main goal for their business has been to give their Latinx clients equal opportunities and help them build generational wealth. But they were only able to do so much of that when their brokerage, The Omni Group, was independent.

“Independent brokerages often have a lack of structure and a smaller network of connections and resources,” she explained. “Knowing how important it is for business leaders relate to the people they serve, Rich and I knew that we had that special connection with our community but were lacking a platform to expand our impact. When we found out about the Coldwell Banker initiative to boost diverse owners and their businesses, it was the absolutely best decision both personally and professionally for us to join. Coldwell Banker has made it crystal clear to us the value we bring to Coldwell Banker as well. As we share our perspective, knowledge and initiatives. The relationship is of mutual value – it’s a true partnership”

The Value of a Trusted Brand for Community-Building

Today, Tina Marie says affiliating with Coldwell Banker through the Inclusive Ownership Program was the best decision she has ever made for her business. “By joining Coldwell Banker, we’ve joined an incredibly warm and professional group of networked people, and added the tools, structure, mentorship and national recognition to back up the hard work that goes into our business every single day to serve every aspect of our beloved community,” she said.

Tina, and other owners who joined the program, say that the credibility and customer confidence that comes with affiliating with Coldwell Banker has been priceless. Having the Coldwell Banker name behind our new affiliates’ businesses and access to its exclusive resources has elevated their brand, their reputation and their impact on their communities. By way of a simple current example, Coldwell Banker prepared social media assets for brokers to highlight during fair housing month, as well as the Delivering the Promise of Fair Housing course and a pledge. In fact, Coldwell Banker invites everyone in the real estate industry to give some thought to the important role we play in shaping communities, and take the pledge. Change often begins with a shift in mindset, and a commitment.

Real estate is a “people” business built on genuine connections between brokers, agents and their clients. For clients to feel represented by businesses that they trust, that empowers them to find the home that they desire and deserve. A place where they and their loved ones will thrive, where they will be a valued member of a community. We are on a continued journey and guiding our clients in a trustworthy way is a meaningful service that agents and brokers provide, which can have worthy results.

I am happy to report that 13 new affiliated companies have been welcomed into the program and Coldwell Banker looks to double that size in the coming year. If you are a business entrepreneur who could benefit from the Coldwell Banker Inclusive Ownership program, we would like to hear from you. Learn how to apply.

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Real Estate

A Monument To Catalan Modernism Asks $5.9 Million In Barcelona



Palau de la Musica

The distinct architecture of Barcelona, with its curved shapes, floral motifs and ornamentation, is defined by its Catalan Modernism. The aesthetically pleasing style was a major force in the larger Modernisme movement, which also permeated art, theater and literature at the end of the 19th century.

This recently refurbished Modernist house is located in the area of Tibidabo Mountain, the tallest hill in Collserola Natural Park, an expansive green space within Barcelona, the capital city of Catalonia.

Villa Paula, as it is known, was designed in 1912 by Spanish architect Jerome Granell Manresa. He is known for creating the stained-glass windows of Barcelona’s famed concert hall, Palau de la Música Catalana. Other examples of the stained-glass maker’s work can be found locally in the landmark Navàs House and the Hospital of the Holy Cross and Saint Paul.

Manresa’s use of sgraffito on stucco exteriors—to create contrasting color designs by scratching through the facade to reveal the layer below—remains in evidence on select residential buildings today.

The more than 8,200-square-foot home retains such original and restored Modernist features as the facade, the mosaic tilework, the high ceilings with moldings, the stained-glass windows and the Arabic-style roof crowned with green tiles. The four floors are accessed by a marble staircase and an elevator. The watchtower can serve as a guest house, an office or a studio.

The light-filled rooms have hardwood, marble or mosaic-tile floors, air-conditioning and in-floor heating. There are eight bedrooms, a conservatory, a home theater, a gym, a wine cellar and eight bathrooms.

The 10 acres of grounds contain gardens, terraces and mature trees. A gently curved staircase off the house leads to a terracotta veranda surrounding an infinity pool. A wooden deck below the pool level creates another outdoor lounging space. Views take in Barcelona and the coastline along the Mediterranean Sea. 

A two-car garage and a workshop complete the gated property.

Cristina Martinez of Immobiliaria Rimontgo is the listing agent for the estate, priced at approximately $5.93 million (EUR 4.95 million).

Villa Paula is located about five kilometers, or three miles, from Barcelona’s city center. International flights are available from Barcelona–El Prat Airport, about a 20-minute drive away.

Immobiliaria Rimontgo is a founding member of Forbes Global Properties, a consumer marketplace and membership network of elite brokerages selling the world’s most luxurious homes.

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Real Estate

Here’s Where Property Taxes Are The Highest And Lowest



Mansion in San Francisco

Buying a home is exciting, but it’s also a huge commitment. And one of the responsibilities of homeownership is paying real estate taxes. How much you will end up paying can vary significantly depending on a variety of factors — from how much your home is worth to where you live.

To illustrate just how much variance there is in the amount of property taxes people pay, LendingTree looked at the median amount of real estate taxes paid in each of the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas. In doing so, the online lending marketplace found that homeowners in some metros can expect to pay thousands of dollars more per year than homeowners in other parts of the country.

“Different county and state governments assess property value in different ways, which can contribute to why tax amounts vary so significantly across the country,” says Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist at LendingTree, explaining that individual areas also have different tax rates and offer different tax breaks to homeowners, which can also affect how much people are paying in real estate taxes.

Revenue generated from property taxes is generally used to fund local projects and services such as fire departments, law enforcement, local public recreation, education, street maintenance and sanitation.

The median real estate tax amount in Las Vegas — where homeowners pay the least in property taxes — is about $7,700 cheaper than in New York, where real estate taxes are highest.

Las Vegas and Birmingham, Alabama are the only two metros where median real estate taxes amount to less than $1,000 a year. The median property tax amount paid by homeowners is $696 in Las Vegas and $892 in Birmingham.

Besides New York, homeowners pay the most in property taxes in expensive cities like San Jose, California and San Francisco. The median amount paid is $8,400 in New York, $7,051 in San Jose and $6,181 in San Francisco.

“Despite these regional differences, how much homes are selling for in a given area is usually the most important factor in determining an individual home’s value, regardless of where you live,” says Kapfidze. “As a result, places where home prices are higher like New York and San Francisco are more likely to pay higher real estate taxes than other parts of the country, even adjusting for variations in tax rate or appraisal practices.”

Real estate taxes are an average of $641 lower on homes without mortgages. Because property taxes are based in large part on home value and homes without mortgages tend to be worth less than those with mortgages, it makes sense why this is the case. Nonetheless, real estate taxes on homes without a mortgage can still be pricey, especially in areas like Salt Lake City and Seattle.

“I think it’s fair to say that knowing how much you’ll pay in property taxes is about as important as knowing how much your mortgage payment will be,” says Kapfidze. “After all, both are things you have to pay in order to keep your home, and both can be significant expenses.”

Many lenders will roll your property taxes into your monthly mortgage payments, and then use that money to pay your tax bill for you when it’s due to the government.

“As a result, while you should always double check to be sure you’re paying what you owe in taxes, you might only need to keep track of one payment a month,” explains Kapfidze. “If you’ve paid off your mortgage, then you definitely have to keep a closer eye on property taxes as you’ll likely no longer be able to count on your lender to keep track of them for you.”

Here’s the LendingTree report, including the methodology, and full list of cities where real estate taxes are highest and lowest.

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Real Estate

How Digital Technology Changed The Face Of The Mortgage Industry



Focused man and woman using laptop, checking financial documents

The rise of digital technology ushered in a new era for the mortgage application process as borrowers took advantage of historically low interest rates and lenders embraced digital mortgages more than ever before.

A new survey on borrowing and lending by ICE Mortgage Technology finds that the pandemic has permanently changed the way consumers utilize technology, and those looking to buy or refinance a home are seeking lenders who offer online tools to complete their mortgage loans from home.

The overwhelming majority (90%) of lenders believe that technology can help improve the mortgage application process, citing benefits that include simplifying the entire process (74%), reducing time to close (70%) and minimizing data entry (67%).

“Last year brought our industry a perfect storm,” said Joe Tyrrell, president of ICE Mortgage Technology. “You not only had COVID, which required lenders to shift to virtual workforces, but you also had to continue to conduct business in a safe and socially distanced way with borrowers, all happening at the same time that we were experiencing a historical increase in loan volume.” 

He added, “This caused many lenders to re-evaluate their technology partners, how they were leveraging technology, the systems that they employed, and the tools that they relied on. We heard many stories from our lenders across the country that had to completely and permanently shift the way they served borrowers.”

According to the survey, the importance of lenders offering digital solutions such as online applications during the lending process increased for borrowers in 2020, with 58% saying it would likely affect their lender decision (up from 50% in 2018). While still important, the offering of a mobile app specifically was less likely to influence borrowers’ lender selection, with 47% saying availability of one would factor into their decision in 2020 (compared to 40% in 2018).

Homeowners who used an online application appreciated the simpler application process (55%), reduced time to close (53%) and resulted in fewer in-person interactions (49%).

Not surprisingly, decreased in-person interactions grew in importance in 2020, as just 37% of consumers in 2018 cited “no need to meet in person” as something they liked about their online application process. Whether they had been through the mortgage loan process or not, 64% of consumers surveyed believe that an online mortgage process would make buying a home or refinancing easier than an in-person process.

“From a borrower’s perspective, the pandemic has accelerated the demand for a consistent, digital first borrowing experience,” said Tyrrell. “Signing documents electronically is quickly becoming the minimum, and borrowers expect a seamless experience from start to finish. In 2020, many lenders cobbled together different solutions to meet borrower demands, but that often led to a more confusing, fragmented process. Covid highlighted the need for a single consistent digital experience for consumers.”

Currently, online applications and online portals are the digital tools most offered among lenders, with more than nine in 10 offering both options to borrowers (91%). Of lenders who offer online applications, 64% said more than half of all loan applications are submitted online, while 38% said more than 80% of their applications were completed online in 2020. However, traditional loan application methods may be more common at larger organizations. Half of large institutional lenders, or those with 200 or more employees, indicated that less than 50% of their loan applications were submitted online.

Borrower respondents who were offered online and/or mobile options by their lenders took advantage of those tools during the mortgage loan process. Sixty-one percent of borrowers used an online application in 2020, slightly up from 58% in 2018. Sixty-one percent also used an online portal for electronically signing and notarizing documents, compared to 56% in 2018.

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