How To Be Culturally Sensitive as a Real Estate Broker
If you live and work in the United States, then you already know what a melting pot it can be. People from all different cultural, ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds help to make this country what it is. That being said, as a real estate broker, you’ve probably noticed that some neighborhoods are certainly less diverse than others. However, even if you work in areas that predominantly cater to one group of people, it’s still important to be culturally sensitive to your clients because you never know who might walk into your office. Being a culturally sensitive real estate broker will resonate well with whoever you’re meeting with, and it will no doubt set you apart from your less-culturally aware competition.
Read Up on Your Area’s Demographics
So, it’s clear that the neighborhood you work in is mostly Caucasian, mostly Hispanic, or young, diverse millennials that are contributing to that block’s gentrification. Whatever the case may be, take some time to really understand who is living in the neighborhood where you plan on listing a home. Many websites, like City-Data, or even a Wikipedia search, can give you this information.
Once you have this information at your disposal, be sensitive to it. We’re not saying you need to go out and learn Hindi or Korean. But, it might be helpful to learn about how people of different cultures apply what matters to them most when buying a home.
Learn About Common Customs
As a real estate broker (or any person, rather) it never hurts to learn about cultural customs that are different than your own. And, this can come in very handy when listing a home. For instance, did you know…
- In many East Asian cultures, it is commonplace to take shoes off when entering a home. Of course, taking shoes off is not something most people do when going to an open house, but if you’re working with clients from one of these countries, don’t act shocked when they remove their shoes at the door. Even better, join them!
- In Indian cultures, it’s very important to know which direction the front door faces, as the direction holds a very sacred meaning. Therefore, don’t be surprised if you’re asked this, and don’t act offended if Indian clients choose not to view your listing once you tell them that the home is facing south-west. But, it’s not just Indians; many people may want to know the direction of the home just to have an idea of how much sunlight they can expect.
- In Jewish customs, many observant people will not come to view a listing on a holiday or from Friday evening to Saturday evening, as it’s the Sabbath and they are unable to travel or conduct business. Unfortunately, many real estate brokers may only be able to hold meetings or open houses on the weekend, so keep this in mind if you’re working with observant Jewish clients.
- In other religions, such as Christianity or Islam, alcohol is forbidden. Therefore, consider giving another gift besides alcohol to your clients, or eliminate the idea of giving food altogether in order to avoid giving them something they can’t eat.
- In many European cultures, it’s normal to have a casual — or even personal — conversation with the other person before getting down to business. As a real estate broker, you might not have time for this, but if you want that client’s business, you’re going to have to cancel some afternoon appointments.
Other Things to Keep in Mind
In addition to these very specific cultural and religious customs, there are other things to consider as a real estate broker. For instance, what is the client’s stance on gifts? How do they feel about punctuality? Are there gender roles or modesty guidelines in their culture that might prevent you from talking to the wife? How do they feel about making eye-contact or having a handshake? Or, are they looking for a very special kind of home because they plan on having elderly relatives living with them?
Then, when it comes time to really talk business, how will your clients handle negotiations or business matters in general? And, what about language — does your client need an interpreter? Are you able to provide those services to them or at least point them in the right direction? What about offering food after you’ve finally closed a deal? Do the clients have any dietary restrictions?
When In Doubt, Ask Questions
It is certainly not possible to have the answers to these things or to be 100 percent culturally sensitive all the time. But, as a real estate agent — especially one working in America — it’s your responsibility to try your absolute best. If you’re still unsure, just keep an open mind. Be aware of what kind of reactions and expressions you have on your face, as to not look offensive.
To play it safe, have the clients make the initial gesture, whether it be for a handshake or if it’s guiding the conversation. Last but not least, when it doubt, just ask! Tell your clients that you are on a mission to be as culturally sensitive as possible. Stress the fact that you want to do anything you can to make the experience more welcoming for them.
Finally, if it’s not already obvious, leave any preconceived notions you have about a certain group back home. If you can’t be sensitive to other groups, then you’re not in the right business.
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