SANTA ANA, CA—Familiarizing multiculturalbuyers with US real estate practices is behind FirstAmerican Title Insurance Co.'s multilingual library, thefirm's strategic VP Maria Valentin tellsGlobeSt.com. The process involved in purchasing a home here can bevery different from that of the buyer's country of origin, sheexplains.

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As GlobeSt.com reported last week, First AmericanTitle has launched a comprehensive multilingual websiteand in-language video library to help multicultural consumerspursue homeownership and navigate the title andclosing process in the US. The firm developed the website and videolibrary in response to growing demand from multicultural andinternational communities, and it points up the increasinginfluence of foreign buyers in the US real estatemarket.

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“The title and closing process for real estate transactions canbe really confusing for consumers, and especially those who arecoming in from other countries and are unfamiliar with the way realestate is done in the US,” says Valentin. “We decided that aneducational website would be the best way to teach consumers aboutthe process in a language that they're comfortable with, probablytheir dominant language.”

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Valentin says the firm subscribes to Geoscape,a company that supplies demographic information, and discoveredthat roughly 55 million people in the US speak a language otherthan English at home. “We really wanted to address their needs.Multiculturals, whether American citizens or foreign, want toachieve the American dream.”

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Also significant is the fact that in some multicultural familiesthe acculturation may be different among generations living in thesame household. “Grandparents may not speak English, parents mayspeak both and children may speak primarily English,” Valentinsays.

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She adds that the firm finds Orange County to be a strong areafor multicultural homebuyers. “The multicultural owner-occupiedprojected growth in the next five years is going to be about 13%.That's an additional 31,000 or 32,000 more owner-occupiedmulticultural transactions here.”

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Aside from the language differences, even if buyers from othercountries are familiar with the way real estate is done in theirown country, they may not be aware that it's done completelydifferently in the US, Valentin adds. “Many countries don't providetitle insurance, but that's very important for us because titleinsurance gives us such peace of mind. Educating the consumer aboutwhat they're paying for with title insurance was important. Wereally wanted to accomplish this with the website because they haveno point of reference. Explaining the different types of insuranceand what title insurance is is important.”

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The firm's new multicultural video library is another greatlearning tool for buyers, says Valentin. “We find that many timesthe consumer would prefer to listen and look at the video ratherthan read. We're excited to be able to provide both, and we feel itwill be a real hit with the consumer.”

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Carrie Rossenfeld

Carrie Rossenfeld is a reporter for the San Diego and Orange County markets on GlobeSt.com and a contributor to Real Estate Forum. She was a trade-magazine and newsletter editor in New York City before moving to Southern California to become a freelance writer and editor for magazines, books and websites. Rossenfeld has written extensively on topics including commercial real estate, running a medical practice, intellectual-property licensing and giftware. She has edited books about profiting from real estate and has ghostwritten a book about starting a home-based business.