A pair of mortgage lenders have set enhanced communications capabilities looking to address the issue of limited English proficiency among Spanish-speaking homebuyers,
While the Federal Housing Finance Agency backed off on a language preference question on the Uniform Mortgage Loan Application, it still wants originators to step up efforts to communicate with borrowers in a way they are comfortable with. That includes mandatory use of the Supplemental Consumer Information Form to determine language preference starting next March.
Besides rules from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, several states, including California, have their own requirements around communicating with consumers in a language they are comfortable with.
These programs are coming out in time for Hispanic Heritage Month, which started on Sept. 15.
Of the over 39 million Spanish speakers in the U.S., approximately 42% admit to having limited ability to communicate in English, the Census Bureau found. This is by far the largest group of the five languages the FHFA has made the SCIF available in.
Guaranteed Rate expanded its Language Access Program, and can now deliver every step and communication within the mortgage experience entirely in Spanish.
“This is overdue,” said Camilo Escalante, executive director of diverse segments at Guaranteed Rate. “We’re extremely excited to bring this into the full experience [to the community] 100% in Spanish.”
Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data for 2021 reported a slight increase in the share of loans made to Hispanics, 9.2% versus 9.1% in 2020. But this group is expected to make up 70% of homeownership growth in the US over the next 20 years, the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals said earlier this year.
Compliance has been a roadblock for many in the mortgage industry to move forward on LEP initiatives, Escalante said.
“One state requires [originators] to use this, one state requires [lenders] to do that, so what’s been happening is that most lenders aren’t doing anything,” Escalante said.
Guaranteed Rate has created the infrastructure in the Language Access Program to offer services to Spanish speakers, including a bilingual processing team. If needed, it also offers all LEP consumers and even its loan officers working with these clients an over-the-phone interpretation service to translate more than 170 languages.
“Because we set up the infrastructure, we are now able to market, advertise and solicit in all 50 states without restrictions,” Escalante said. “So whatever we can do in English, we can do it in Spanish.”
While the mortgage documents are required to be in English, with the Language Access Program, Spanish speakers can get a real time digital copy borrowers can download up to 90 days after closing.
During the Great Recession, “how many people were taking advantage of, because they didn’t know what they were signing?” Escalante said. “They have it in English, they have it in Spanish, they can share it with their real estate agent, with their attorney in whatever language they prefer.”
The borrowers can toggle back and forth between English and Spanish as they desire, Escalante added.
At the same time, CrossCountry Mortgage’s new tools include a new Spanish mortgage application and a focused Hispanic website.
“Our support for the Hispanic community extends well past translated materials,” CCM Chief Brand Officer Laura Soave said in a press release. “This is personal. We’re partnering with organizations focused on advancing sustainable Hispanic homeownership and are embedding ourselves within this community.”
Meanwhile, Guild Mortgage announced a collaboration with NAHREP as the organization conducts its L’Attitude 2022 conference.
“Our partnership with NAHREP is vital to growing our impact in the Hispanic community and by joining the efforts NAHREP is driving, Guild can amplify its work to reach and support Hispanic homebuyers with the information, education and loan programs they need to realize their homeownership dreams,” said Victoria Garcia DeLuca, Guild’s vice president, marketplace diversity strategy.