Loan originator Eduardo Zaragoza is well suited to serve one of Alabama’s fastest growing housing markets: Hispanic homebuyers. His background and career led him to MortgageRight of Huntsville, where he estimates that 40 percent of his clients speak Spanish.
“I was born in Mexico so I’m a native speaker,” he said. “I had an opportunity to study in the U.S. and knew I wanted to help people. This was a great fit for a community that was underserved.”
Though “Hispanic” is a collective term for many distinct peoples and cultures, Zaragoza said that speaking Spanish gives him enough common ground to communicate clearly with his customers.
“I work with South Americans and Brazilians who speak Portuguese as well,” he said. “Occasionally we use different slang words but it’s not a huge obstacle. Most of the time we can communicate well enough that there’s no miscommunication going on.”
He had long been interested in real estate, but Zaragoza’s career path took several steps to reach its current destination.
“My interest started at an early age,” said Zaragoza. “I had always been involved in real estate through the investment side, and helping my mom invest. When I left college, I decided that I wanted to get into real estate, but the timing wasn’t right.”
He developed negotiation and contract skills while working in waste management before moving to Huntsville.
“I started as a real estate agent in July 2020, and soon realized that there were very few Spanish-speaking loan officers,” said Zaragoza. “I worked closely with an originator working with MortgageRight, and he asked me to move into the mortgage side to help him serve Hispanic customers.”
Though he’s now been working as a loan originator for two years with great success, Zaragoza is eager to expand his reach through education and communication. He sees programs like AHFA’s Step Up down payment assistance that don’t require a 20 percent down payment as an important tool.
“There are different programs and resources out there that can help people obtain homeownership, but lots of people don’t know about them,” he said, explaining that the biggest obstacle for many of his clients is lacking basic knowledge and a family history of homeownership.
“Those who do qualify are often the first-generation to be here. Their parents never had the opportunity to own a home and they don’t know where to start. It’s kind of a newer thing for the Hispanic community, and many of them can’t ask mom for advice.”
Zaragoza added that having more information available in Spanish is a great start. Another concept that’s particularly hard to explain, he said, is amortization.
“My Hispanic customers ask about that the most. They want to know the exact end results. I use a calculator when I sit down with them to plug in numbers and show them how it works. I have to explain the amortization schedule and the option they have of making extra payments or paying down principal. It’s a big concern to them that they’re not overpaying and that they understand what they’re getting into.”
Transcending culture and language, Zaragoza’s favorite facet of mortgage lending holds universal appeal: “The best part is going to closings and seeing how happy the clients are to move into a new home that’s going to help them grow their family.”