Lymaris Ortiz Perez did whatever it took to buy a home for her family.
In 2019, Ortiz Perez and her 10-year-old son lived with Perez’s mother and her adopted son in a two-bedroom townhome in Meridian. With four people, a large dog, and no yard for the children to play in, things were cramped. She started looking for a house of her own for her son, but she ran into roadblocks.
With her income alone and history of a bankruptcy filing after a divorce, the loan Ortiz Perez was approved for could only cover another small house without a yard like she was looking for, even in more affordable Caldwell and Nampa. She wasn’t sure how she would move out until her mother offered to sell her townhouse so they could all find a bigger place together.
It took some convincing because Ortiz Perez didn’t want to force her mother to give up the house she worked so hard to buy herself, but eventually, she relented. After a lot of viewings and searching, they found their new, larger home with enough room for the trampoline of the boys’ dreams in Caldwell in late summer 2019. It’s been theirs ever since.
“We saw about 10 different ones, and the last one we saw that’s when I said, ‘You know what, I feel like home. This feels like my place,’” she said.
Treasure Valley a hotspot for Latino homeownership
Ortiz Perez joins hundreds of thousands of Latinos who have become a larger part of the American real estate market in recent years. Census data compiled by the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals found the number of Latinos who own their own homes topped 9 million in 2020. This is up roughly 700,000 from 2019, the biggest year-over-year gains the industry group saw since it began tracking this information two decades ago.
Idaho’s Latinos are part of this growth. According to the NAHREP report, the Boise metro area saw one of the largest jumps in Latino homeownership numbers in the nation in recent years. According to the latest American Community Survey data, the number of Latinos owning their own homes in the Treasure Valley jumped 40% from 12,255 to 17,231 between 2018 and 2019.
Homeownership is a key way to build generational wealth in the United States. Seventy-four percent of white Americans owned their home in the second quarter of 2021, while only 47.5% of Latinos did, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
For years, white Americans showed the highest growth in homeownership, but in 2019 Latinos overtook them as the fastest-growing demographic of homebuyers in the country, according to the Wall Street Journal. NAHREP data showed Latinos have resulted in 63% of homeownership gains in the past decade. This is at the same time when homeownership rates for Black Americans are nearing a record low.
Ortiz Perez said finding a way to secure a future for her and her mother’s sons was a major reason she decided to buy her own home.
“It was important to us because if anything happened to either one of us, we can leave something back for them,” Ortiz Perez said. “Rent these days is way too high. So, you might as well pay for you (with a mortgage) versus paying someone else, and then you feel secure in your own place.”
Homeownership = Stability for extended family
Eduardo Silva, a real estate agent with Homes of Idaho, has been helping Latinos like Ortiz Perez and others find homes across Southwest Idaho for a little over seven years. He said that over the years, he’s watched a bigger part of the Latino community shift from mostly low-wage agriculture workers who must rent to professional workers who are making higher wages that allow them to buy a home.
He said the goal of buying a home is important to many people in the Latino community because they can use their stability and wealth-building to help their families.
“Homeownership has always been important, especially to the Latino community because many of us still have family in Latin America, and generally speaking, they are probably not as financially secure in those countries as the family here,” Silva said. “A lot of the time, the satisfaction of owning a home and being able to help out family has always been a huge priority in the Latino community. No matter the distance, we are always keeping in touch and seeing how we can help each other.”
He said some of his clients had moved in from California, and because they’re used to commuting long distances, the idea of buying a home in Fruitland or Payette while they work in Boise isn’t a deal-breaker for them, and it fits their budget. Silva also has had quite a lot of clients who make high wages in construction and have been buying up multiple properties as investments, including one client who started his own construction business and has purchased half a dozen homes with Silva in the area.
Latinos still a minority of homeowners in Idaho
Even with all of the growth in Latino homeownership, there are still disparities between Latinos and their white counterparts.
According to American Community Survey data, only 7.7% of Idaho’s homeowners are Latino, even though the ethnic group makes up 13% of the state’s population. Of the 125,226 mortgage applications filed in Idaho in 2020, only 4.1% of the request for loans came from Latinos. And of the 5,156 applications filed, 24% of them were denied, according to Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data. This is higher than the 14% of 98,944 white applicants who were turned down last year.
However, Latinos’ number of mortgage applications in 2020 was still up from the 3,767 the previous year. The percentage of Latinos buying homes overall dropped due to the increase in mortgage applications during 2020, leaving Latinos a smaller share of the applications even though their numbers increased.
Ortiz Perez said she was thankful they could land their house before prices shot to new heights once the pandemic hit Idaho. Now, she isn’t so sure even her home in Caldwell would have been in reach.
“We always thank God,” she said. “Everything came from prayers and hoping for the best.”