AAPI Heritage Month: Asian American Realtors® Help Immigrants Achieve Homeownership

By Kim Shindle | May 5, 2023 | 6 min. read

Working with immigrants and helping them achieve the American dream of homeownership is just one reason three Asian Americans love being Realtors®. They each echo the immense satisfaction they get when working with clients to find the homes of their dreams.

“What makes me the happiest is on closing day when I can hand them the keys to their new house,” said Ahmed Islam, a Realtor® for seven years. Islam, who was born in Bangladesh and immigrated to the U.S. from Dubai, is a member of the Bucks County Association of Realtors®.

Despite his family and friends initially discouraging him from leaving the banking industry to become a Realtor®, Islam said, “Everyone I knew had 9 to 5 jobs and they thought it was a foolish endeavor and I should stop dreaming of becoming a Realtor®. But becoming a Realtor® was the best decision in my professional life. I wanted the independence, to own a business and to help others with the largest investment in their lives. My journey with real estate began in residential and now I’m a commercial Realtor®.”

He credits several mentors he met through the Realtor® organizations who helped propel his career. “Tamra Peroni and Monique (Elle) Hale, both of whom I met at the Realtors® Association of York and Adams Counties, had a tremendous impact on my career and they believed in me. They showed me everything from marketing myself, knocking on doors, holding open houses to explaining the Realtor® association’s governance structure,” he said.

Looking to move from residential to commercial real estate was his next challenge. Islam joined NAR’s Spire program, which is designed to help individuals learn real estate basics, provide one-on-one guidance and in-person networking and cultivate the development of generational wealth through property ownership. He was paired with Mike Vachani, the managing broker of a Southern California firm, who mentored him and helped him successfully transition to the commercial real estate industry.

“I’ve met so many Realtors® who’ve been in real estate for decades and they’ve been inspirational and encouraging,” Islam said. “And the level of support from local, state and national associations is tremendous. Our Realtor® associations strive for your success and I don’t know of any other trade associations that provide this level of support to their members.”

A Realtor® for 21 years, Rose Hanh Yuan said, “Working with first-time buyers is the most rewarding and helping them find their first home reminds me of why I’m in the business in the first place.”

Yuan, a Vietnamese American who immigrated to the U.S., said, “Homeownership is not afforded to everyone in other countries and that’s why Vietnamese Americans have the highest rate of homeownership in the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. We understand how being homeless can affect health, safety and security for ourselves and our communities. As hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese ‘boat people’ resettled in the U.S., we strived to own homes as our number one priority.”

Yuan, also a member of the Bucks County Association and a member of PAR’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, was recently installed as president of the Asian Real Estate Association of America Greater Philadelphia Chapter. She sees culture representation of the AAPI community as extremely important. “The Asian American community is one of the fastest growing minority groups with an impressive gain in the homeownership rate to 61.2%; however, this does not reflect the disproportionate rate of poverty and lowest homeownership rates of our Hmong, Samoan and Pacific Islander communities.”

“We really help to change lives through real estate,” she said. “We’re helping countless families build generational wealth with their first homes.”

Helping the AAPI community can be a challenge at times due to the lack of language support for mortgage, title, insurance and other ancillary services for AAPI clients.

“Our memberships are diverse since the AAPI community is not a monolith,” she added. “We need to address our unique needs to advocate for equitable access to language services, and better reflect the needs of all subcommunities within the AAPI community.”

Emily Qing Hui Wang was in her 20s when she left China to come to Philadelphia to pursue her dream for higher education at the University of Pennsylvania. Then she met her husband and they started a family here.

She initially worked as a family law paralegal through the Philadelphia Legal Assistance and Women Against Abuse Legal Center. She started her real estate career 18 years ago to provide more professional assistance to clients she was working with. She particularly wanted to help Asian clients who were victims of domestic abuse during that time through language line.

Following her divorce, Wang said her real estate career gave her the opportunity to spend more time with her two sons, while helping her gain financial freedom so she was able to do more for her family.

“The quality of my life has improved since I became a Realtor®,” Wang said. “My financial situation was better so I could afford raising my sons, along with their college tuition, daily expenses and our family’s national and global travel experiences. I’ve also been able to invest in more real estate properties.”

A member of the Greater Philadelphia Association of Realtors® and Tri-County Suburban Realtors®, Wang also serves as the vice president of the AREAA Greater Philadelphia Chapter. She is also a member of NAR’s Global Business and Alliance Committee, PAR’s and TCSR’s DEI Committee and vice chair of GPAR’s DEI Committee. She said she’s forever grateful to be an advocate and collaborate with other professionals in helping to raise the homeownership rate in the AAPI and other communities.

Wang feels satisfaction helping clients from all ethnic and cultural backgrounds to buy a home. “I get to know their culture, food, customs and values, which helps me communicate better and more respectfully with them to provide better service,” she said. “I always enjoy handing the keys to them and seeing the families enjoy their new homes, which gives them more stability. Prior to owning a home, many of the families have been moving around and their children have had to change schools each time.”

Education has been one of the ways Wang has continued to grow her business, earning multiple professional designations. She believes being active in the Realtor® organizations, as well as AREAA, is important. “Being a strong and influential leader, provides a strong industry voice when talking to legislators and decision makers,” she said. “The more people get involved with the AAPI and underserved communities, the more benefits will come to the community with an increase in homeownership rates and access to all resources which will eventually help the stability of the community.”

Looking for events?

Pennsylvania Realtors® can access monthly webinars and much more.

Upcoming Events

Did you like this post?

Click on a star to rate this post!

Average rating 5 / 5. Vote count: 4

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

Not a Realtor®? Learn how to become a member.