Asian Americans experienced the one of the biggest homeownership rate gains, rising nearly 5%, increasing the rate to an all-time high of 62.8%, according to NAR’s 2023 Snapshot of Race and Homebuying in America report. This still lags the national homeownership rate of 65.5% in 2021 and is about 10% less than white Americans.
Many Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Realtors® find helping AAPI clients rewarding because many of them have immigrated from countries where homeownership isn’t an option or is uncommon.
Rizwana Afzali, a member of the Tri-County Suburban Realtors®, has been an agent for 11 years. As an immigrant from Afghanistan, she said the United States provides so many opportunities, the best of which for her family has been real estate.
Afzali began working as a graphic designer, using her skills to create marketing materials for other real estate agents. After doing that for six months, she decided to pursue her real estate license. A few years ago, her husband, Arshad Fahim, also became an agent. They have nearly 30 agents in their organization.
Real estate has helped Afzali become a co-founder of My Sister’s Haven, a nonprofit organization that helps women who have been affected by domestic violence in Pennsylvania. “Our goal is to build a shelter and help the 12,000 women who called the hotline in the Philadelphia area and 1,177 requests for shelter were turned away because the shelters are full. Currently, there are only 200 beds in the city of Philadelphia and our goal is to build out a shelter to help the women become more independent through our training and provide housing until they’re able to do so themselves,” she said. “I hope to ease their pain with our other co-founders and I know real estate will help us build that for them.”
She finds real estate very rewarding. “For buyers, especially first-time homebuyers, it’s exciting to see them purchasing their home. Most buyers think it is impossible to own a house. We work with them to help fix their credit and get them approved for a loan. As far as sellers, a lot of times, they need to either downsize or upsize. We love helping them with both selling and buying. We know we have done our job well when we get referrals from our past clients.”
“Our biggest accomplishment has been bringing families together,” she continued. “For example, several years ago, we sold one client’s historic home and helped them find a property that would allow them to merge their family home with their elderly parent. The clients were looking for a particular type of home that had two separate living quarters. We were able to find a home that was perfect for the entire family and their home went under contract after 20 days on the market. We were able to close their home and have them purchase a home with ease.”
Afzali notes that many clients do business according to their culture and their faith. “From our experience, clients feel comfortable when they see someone who looks like them or shares their culture. It’s important for them to have that representative who knows the do’s and don’ts when buying or selling a home according to their faith/culture.”
As a Muslim herself, Afzali has experienced discrimination on the job. “Being a Muslim is who I am and I wear my faith on my head. I’ve had several neighbors call the police on me while I’m showing a home or taking photos of a new listing. I always try to be prepared with my real estate license and business card to show why I’m there.”
Despite some challenges, she encourages other members of the AAPI community to consider a career in real estate. “Many clients don’t speak English as their first language,” she added. “We need more agents who speak their languages to step into the real estate space and help them.”
Miky Philson, a member of the Realtors® Association of York and Adams Counties, agrees that more Asian Americans should consider becoming Realtors®. “There are not enough Realtors® representing and serving the growing Asian market,” she said. “I know that with many Asian clients, there is a level of comfort working with someone who can speak their language and understand their cultural needs. People within the same culture often know what to expect and what is important to them.”
A Realtor® for nine years, Philson said, “My real estate business is driven by my compassion toward helping others. I want to help guide people through one of the most stressful, yet rewarding, times of their life. Buying or selling a home is stressful. In addition, real estate has allowed me to become more involved in my community.”
Helping her clients has changed her life. “So many of my clients have turned out to become not only friends, but family. My family in the United States has grown since I have become a Realtor®.”
Working as a Realtor® hasn’t stopped Philson from pursuing her dreams of higher education. She has earned a master’s degree in business management, while helping her clients.
Since working in the U.S., Philson has found that many buyers aren’t fiscally savvy. “I’ve found clients who live paycheck to paycheck and do not have a savings account. I assumed that financial topics like budgeting and saving were taught in high school in the U.S. I was surprised that very few buyers are prepared for the homebuying process and that is where I can help educating and guiding them through the process.”
As a Korean immigrant, Philson said learning about the range of different home choices was a new concept for her. “There are so many different styles of homes, features, terminology, etc. in the United States. In Korea, we have only a few styles of homes and many similar features, so I am always learning new things,” she said. “And it’s a daily challenge to keep up with the different laws and regulations that each township and borough enact.”