Ocean condo kitchen at Costa Baja in La Paz, Mexico

Open doorways from second master bath suite to bedroom

Latino homes love open spaces: Costa Baja, La Paz, Mexico

Dallas Real Estate is changing. Several years ago, my cousin and his wife moved his parents into their home. It was a bit unsettling because I thought my aunt and uncle needed their own space. Turns out my cousins, who live in Florida, were way ahead of me.

With more Hispanics buying homes in Texas and across the U.S., builders and Realtors are noting a sea-change of differences in the kind of homes they buy. And the way they buy: 30% of Hispanic real estate purchasers did not use a realtor. And 40% of home buyers in U.S. are now Hispanic.

Realtor Oscar Gonzales of the Gonzales Group and Scott Caballero of the San Antonio Board of Realtors cited many statistics last week at the National Association of Real Estate Editors “state of the market” conference to illustrate an increasingly Hispanic domestic real estate market, not just in sunny San Antonio but everywhere. Did you know that Hispanics have moved in droves to Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia? Caballero evoked a recent Harvard University housing report claiming 40 percent of all new minority households created within the next 10 years across the U.S. will be Hispanic. Developer H. Drake Leddy, President of the Presidian, which is building San Antonio’s Vidorra and many hospitality properties in Mexico, told me of a fortress-like private community under construction north of San Antonio near The Dominion. It is owned by a group of well-to-do Monterrey families who fled the prosperous city after the tragic shootings there at The American Foundation School last August, another in a string of violence that has terrorized Monterrey and many border towns.

“You have to understand,” Leddy told me, “Think of what would happen if a shooting occurred at St. Marks or Hockaday. These parents are trying to protect their children.”

Does this mean you might have to be bi-lingual to sell your home? Maybe. Home builders and anyone hoping to appeal to this market will definitely make some changes, since Hispanics tend to have larger families and buy a different type of housing. For one thing, they treat their elders with respect, invite them into their home (as my cousins did), and don’t toss elderly parents into nursing homes. The profile of the customer coming through the door is definitely changing.

(Meantime, my son gave me a sign that reads, “be nice to the children: they select the nursing home”.)

Gonzales said new homes will increasingly be tailored to Hispanic wants and needs, which include open floor plans and dual master bedrooms for live-in grandparents. Kitchens are big enough to hold multiple cooks, must have gas ranges to cook tortillas, and nannies have small bedrooms that resemble walk-in closets, some right off the laundry area. Others have small third car garages that serve as the nanny’s room — nothing super fancy for the help. Latin and Hispanic families also like large front porches where friends can gather, quite opposite to the traditional suburban home with a rear-entry garage where you seldom see your neighbors. And the entire home is built for the convenience of two families living within. I noted, for example, that the homes at Costa Baja in La Paz were build with duo-masters, each with small kitchenettes, and exterior doors so the residents of one master could come and go without disturbing the rest of the family. Builders and developers clearly need to accommodate the multi generational family.

When there’s a market, there’s a way. Both speakers said lending practices are under development to enable undocumented workers to obtain financing for home purchases. Sort of puts the mentality of places like Farmer’s Branch, Texas and my once home town of Elgin, Illinois that tried to pass a law not permitting more than one generation to live in a house, in perspective. The Elgin law got thrown out.

As I’ve said previously, the U.S. market is benefiting from the instability of countries around us: capital flight. Foreign buyers from nations with troubled currencies or unstable societies, such as Mexico and Venezuela, are buying U.S. real estate to move away from violence in their home countries or as investments. They highlighted Texas, Los Angeles and Miami as hot markets for these international buyers. San Antonio has all but become a second home market for affluent Mexicans.

Trulia recently reported that bargain-basement Florida is currently the most popular state for international real estate shoppers, where buying a second home is seen as a secure investment. The Miami market in particular has seen a boom in home sales, boosted by foreign buyers, and was one of only five U.S. metro areas to experience more sales in May 2011 than May 2010, according to the RE/MAX May 2011 National Housing Report.