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a|r|e U . S . a n dA s i a nr e a l e s t a t et r e n d s Wo r l d c l a s sd e v e l o p me n t s P r o f i l e so f i n d u s t r y l e a d e r s



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Spring 2008 | Volume 1 | Number 1

are features 32

Inside the Marketer’s Mind ARE exclusive interview with Asian Advertising and Public Relations expert Bill Imada


Opportunity in the Asian Community DIANE S. LEE


Economic and Real Estate Trends in the Nation’s MSAs DAVID W. BERSON, Ph.D. LAVAUGHN M. HENRY, Ph.D.


2nd Annual Asian American Real Estate Convention & Gala Summary of the Asian Real Estate Association of America’s 2007 convention in Las Vegas

p. 50

p. 56

Spring 2008


are contents From the Editor's Desk


John Yen Wong, CRB, Ascends to Council Presidency


Advancing AREAA's Influence: Allen M. Okamoto


By Buck Wargo

From Mutt to Best in Show


How you compensate your agents can change the color of your bottom line from red to black. By Robert Freedman

Advocating Homeownership for Asian Americans: John Yen Wong, CRB


By Kevin Hawkins

2005 HOPE Award Winner Profile: Allen Chiang, Real Estate Brokerage


Spreading Hope: Emily Moerdomo Fu


By Robert Freedman & Pat Taylor

Homeowner Assistance


A Mortgage Insurer's Efforts to Keep Families in Their Homes By Alan Goldberg

Communicating Across Cultures


How to Understand Your Multicultural Clients

AREAA Grows During Mortgage Meltdown


By Samson Wong

The Chu Stew A Smorgasbord of Legal Advice for Hungry Realtors By Andy Chu, Esq.


Spring 2008


Allen Okamoto



Allen Chiang

Compensation Master

p. 26

p. 36

John Yen Wong, CRB

Emily Moerdomo Fu

p. 46

Spring 2008


Letter from the editor Welcome to inaugural issue of A.R.E. A.R.E. is the first of its kind magazine dedicated to the dynamic real estate markets in the U.S. and Asia. Our goal is to connect ideas, bring new understanding and create new possibilities in those two continents. Like much of our economy, the real estate market is truly becoming global in nature. The real estate market of Asia is expanding and changing the economic landscape of that region. Today, the US real estate market is undergoing some painful changes, but it is also creating new opportunities for consumers and investors alike. As the inaugural issue of this quarterly magazine, you will see and hear from leaders from the Asian American community such as Emily Fu, John Wong, Bill Imada and others. In each issue, we will also highlight some of the most exciting developments and communities in the U.S. and Asia. Finally, you will learn about some of the important trends and real estate lifestyle issues that are reshaping how people work, live and play. As we look past the current turmoil in the real estate market, I am confident that our efforts will reshape the industry and bring about positive change on behalf of Asian consumers everywhere.

Jim Park Editor-in-Chief


Spring 2008

Spring 2008 | Volume 1 | Number 1


Jim J. Park Creative Director

Praveen K. Sharma Editorial Board

Emily Moerdomo Fu Allen Chiang Allen Okamoto John Yen Wong A.R.E. is a publication of the Asian Real Estate Association of America. Founded in 2003, the Asian Real Estate Association of America is a national professional trade organization dedicated to creating greater opportunities for homeownership in the Asian Pacific American community. Within the next two decades, Asian Pacific Americans will be one of the fastest growing populations in the country and this community will reshape the US housing market. AREAA delivers a unified policy voice for the Asian Pacific American real estate community. Through advocacy at the national level, partnerships at regional levels and strong membership at the community level, AREAA has assumed a definitive role as one of the leading organizations dedicated to housing challenges facing the Asian Pacific American community.

JOINING IN PROUD SUPPORT First American Title Strategic Markets Division is proud to support the Asian Real Estate Association of America in their dedication to Asian communities. We know that homeownership is the key to creating stable and vibrant communities. Because of this, we are dedicated to helping real estate professionals reach multicultural families through our innovative tools and services. By providing business solutions developed with cultural insight for real estate professionals, we help to better serve our multicultural communities. Together we can help so many acheive the American dream of homeownership.

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REALTORS® Salute the Asian Real Estate Association of America Hope grows in communities where home ownership is a reality. That is why the National Association of REALTORS®, like the Asian Real Estate Association of America, is committed to boosting home ownership in communities that lag behind the national average of 67%.

Ñ REALTOR® Housing Solutions — Innovative activities, programs, and events that help to make housing more readily available in communities. Developed and used by REALTORS ® and REALTOR® Associations, these solutions are effective, practical responses to specific issues. Anyone can use the searchable database at housing_solutions.nsf to find ideas and information. Ñ At Home with Diversity® — Continuing education in conducting business and meeting housing needs within diverse communities. REALTORS ® learn local market demographics, business etiquette for specific cultures, and techniques for developing multicultural marketing plans. Ñ Diversity in Leadership of REALTOR® Associations — An initiative to promote diversity in REALTOR® association leadership nationwide. Ñ Real Estate Documents in Translation — Many state and local REALTOR® associations now offer standard real estate transaction documents in languages other than English.

Real Strength. Real Advantages.

John Yen Wong, CRB, Ascends to Council Presidency John Yen Wong, CRB, broker associate, Prudential California Realty, San Francisco, Calif., was inducted as the Council’s 37th President at ceremonies in San Francisco in November. Wong was sworn in by former NAR President Richard Mendenhall, CRB, of RE/MAX Boone Realty, Columbia, Mo., after a touching tribute by 15-year-old Charissa Wong, Wong’s daughter, who bowled the audience over with her sophisticated delivery, poise and pride. Wong, a rabid Simon and Garfunkel fan who expressed a smidge of regret that he was not at the San Francisco Reunion concert being held the very same night, likened the Council’s anniversary celebration to a reunion. He said creative and productive relationships are “organic and must evolve over the years.” Like the famous duo, the best relationships sometimes experience discord and tension but that edge often becomes the basis for growth and expansion. Like many Council members, Wong came to the real estate profession via a circuitous route. He graduated from Yale University in 1975 with a degree in biology. He immediately entered the hospitality business and learned to manage an internationally known Chinese restaurant and to be a wine buyer. In 1981, John entered the real estate industry, and has been a salesperson, the broker owner of an independent real estate company, the owner of a regional trademark li-


Spring 2008

Charissa Wong, just 15 years old, honored her father, 2004 Council President John Yen Wong, CRB, with a Moving tribute and wowed the audience with her maturity and poise.

censed company and the owner of a national franchise real estate company. Throughout his career, John has been active in organized real estate. He has served and chaired numerous committees for local, state and national REALTOR® organizations. John has also experienced the regulatory side of real estate as a member of the Advisory Commission for the California Department of Real Estate. He received his CRB designation in November of 1991, and has served on numerous CRB Council committees since 1995. A member of the Council’s Board of Directors since 1998, John has also held the leadership positions of Finance Vice President and First Vice President. In the emerging markets arena, John serves as the Chairman of the Asian Real Estate Association of America. He works with allied industries to develop strategies for understanding and serving these markets. An example of this is John’s service on Chase Financial’s

Home Ownership Advisory Board, which was formed as part of Chase’s 500 Billion-Dollar initiative to increase home ownership in emerging markets. John is married to Betty Sun Wong, CRS, LTG, an active member of the Women’s Council of REALTORS® and the Council of Residential Specialists. John and Betty have 2 children, Jerrold and Charissa. This article first appeared in Real Estate Business December 2003 / January 2004 Reproduced with permission from the Council of Real Estate Brokerage Managers

9009:Inset Flyer template


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Strong communities are built one home at a time. At Chase, we believe homeownership is one of the first steps to building a community and developing personal wealth. That’s why Chase is a proud sponsor of the Asian Real Estate Association of America. Working together, we are committed to increasing the homeownership rate within the Asian community.

To find out how you can partner with Chase, contact Oscar Chow at (956)


All loans are subject to credit and property approval. Program terms and conditions are subject to change without notice. Not all products are available in all states or for all loan amounts. Other restrictions and limitations apply. All loans are offered through JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. or Chase Bank USA, N.A. depending on product type and property location. Š 2008 JPMorgan Chase & Co. 9009 04/08


Allen M. Okamoto Immediate Past Chair, AREAA By BUCK WARGO Allen M. Okamoto is giving the term “enterprise” a whole new meaning. When Okamoto announced during his installation speech as president of Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA) that he wanted to “boldly go where no man has gone before,” he wasn’t referring to the Starship Enterprise. Instead, Okamoto, broker-owner of the Bay Area’s T. Okamoto & Company, says he was referring to his vision of increasing homeownership within the Asian-American and Pacific-American communities. “I was trying to get a message across in a humorous way,” Okamoto says. “I meant I wanted to take Asians where they haven’t been before—to national prominence. There has never been a national Asian real estate association and, because of our numbers, we have to have a unifying Asian voice. It has been an underserved segment of the market. … We are now trying to elevate ourselves to have a voice.”


Spring 2008

I wanted to take Asians where they haven’t been before -to national prominence.

Okamoto seems to be a perfect choice to lead AREAA toward that goal. Unlike Captain Kirk, Okamoto is a modest and self-deprecating man who calls himself “just a guy plugging away. I am not one to toot my own horn,” Okamoto says. “All ships rise with the tide. If I elevate myself, all Asians follow me. … Whether I like it or not, maybe I am a role model.”

Okamoto with AREAA Chair Emily Moerdomo Fu

In fact, last year, the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® recognized his leadership and named Okamoto to real estate’s 25 Most Influential Thought Leaders, for his efforts to increase homeownership and industry employment for Asian-Americans and PacificAmericans. In his typical style, Okamoto says he was humbled and surprised, and acknowledges that being bestowed with such an incredible honor carries responsibility.

Roots and Real Estate Okamoto brings a keen sensitivity—and personal perspective—to race relations that makes him particularly suited to lead AREAA, a group whose diversity of nationalities and languages creates unique obstacles. His perspective stems, in part, from his family’s history. Okamoto was born in 1943 in Boulder, Colo., in semi-internment during World War II. Although his parents were born in the U.S., they were removed from their California home, along with others of Japanese ancestry. His family was spared from the internment camps because Okamoto’s father, Takeo, had a college education. Instead, he was forced to teach Japanese to U.S. Naval officers. After the war, the family returned to San Francisco, where his father started selling life insurance to Japanese-Americans. In the early 1950s, Takeo obtained his real estate license and expanded his business. It didn’t take the younger Okamoto long to choose his career path. While earning a bachelor’s degree from San Francisco State University in 1965, he discovered he had an aptitude for real estate. With his

Okamoto with AREAA President Jim Park

Spring 2008


father’s encouragement, Okamoto joined his father in the business. At the time, he was the youngest broker to have earned his real estate and broker licenses.

sobbing. After all, when his father merely applied for membership in the San Francisco Board of REALTORS® in the 1950s, he was excluded because he was Japanese.

Eight years later, he purchased the business from his father.

Recalling his 1990 installation ceremony, Okamoto states, “I got a lump in my throat. I almost had tears rolling down my cheeks, and my wife later told me it was like a church: It was silent. I could barely look down at my father. He was sitting at the front table, and it was quite emotional for me.”

Okamoto, who describes his father as traditional, explains that the business was not handed to him like an inheritance. Instead, he purchased it for $90,000. The two continued to work side-by-side and grew the company from a two-man operation to 20 employees during its heyday. It still is the largest and oldest Japanese-American firm, but Okamoto jokes that’s because there wasn’t a number two firm. In the 1980s and 1990s, when Japan was investing heavily in U.S. real estate, his firm handled commercial transactions, including strip malls, golf courses, and hotels, and the largest commercial sale at that time, a pair of office buildings that sold for $70 million in 1989. That business model, however, was unsustainable after the collapse of the Japanese real estate market. Today, home sales account for 80 percent of the business, and the office now has six real estate staff members and five employees who handle insurance. This concept works well, Okamoto explains, because when someone buys a home, you sell them insurance; when someone buys insurance, you have leads for homes. Okamoto estimates that Japanese-Americans comprise 75 percent of his business. “Our niche is the Japanese-American market,” he says. “That is our advantage. If I were to go out and compete on the open market against Century 21 and Coldwell Banker, I would get killed. I have the advantage of my name and face, and I have to [use] that.’’ However, when Okamoto was recognized as the first Asian-American president in the 100-year history of the San Francisco Association of REALTORS®, it took all he had to keep from


Spring 2008

Okamoto speaks reverently of his father, who was his mentor and hero. The elder Okamoto worked into his early ’90s, before retiring a few years before his death at age 95. “Because he was so traditional, he would never say he was proud or say ‘good job,’” Okamoto says. Instead, his father would say that he better do a good job and that his son shouldn’t shame the family. But in his heart, Okamoto says he knew his dad was proud. “It is sort of silly. Here I am, 63 years old and thinking about my father and getting emotional, but he had that kind of impact on my life,” Okamoto says. “I had the most unusual relationship. Most kids live with their family and go off to college, get a job, get married, and boom!, they are gone. They see each other on the weekends, Christmas, and Thanksgiving. I worked with my dad. I saw him every day of his life, so I had an unusual bond with my father.” It’s that drive to still please his father and honor his lessons that inspires Okamoto’s involvement with AREAA. John Yen Wong, the founding chairman of AREAA, says Okamoto has been seminal in leading the way for Asian real estate practitioners to become more involved. “He has inspired me and supported me,” Wong says. “He is easygoing, but at the same time is pretty focused on the greater involvement of those with Asian backgrounds in all walks of business. He is clearly focused on the value of different backgrounds and people from different countries understanding each other better. I suspect that may

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have come from his dad.” Looking Forward Okamoto took 30 trips in 2006 and 20 trips through the end of April this year as part of an effort to grow AREAA. He’s traveled throughout California and gone to Hawaii, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and even Japan. The organization has 7,000 members in 23 states, and Okamoto says he expects the group’s membership to double by the end of the year, when his term ends in November. Another goal for AREAA and Okamoto is to boost homeownership among Asian- and PacificAmericans. Despite Asians’ median household income of $57,518, the highest among all racial groups, the nation’s second-fastest growing ethnic population has a homeownership rate of about 60 percent—well behind the rate of 76 percent for whites.

AREAA, which plans to open an office in Washington, D.C., doesn’t want Asians to be given any special treatment or get unfair advantage but simply an equal opportunity to compete and reduce homeownership barriers, Okamoto says. It’s leading the charge to encourage the lending industry to adopt the use of automated nontraditional credit tools so that more borrowers with non-traditional credit can obtain homeownership. That’s a problem for AsianAmerican borrowers who have recently immigrated and have the financial resources but little or no credit history, Okamoto says. AREAA is pushing for a FHA reform that will increase the loan limit to 100 percent of the national conforming loan limit. It wants to allow the insurance of condos just like single-family homes, allow the insurance of flexible downpayment mortgages, and allow FHA to use risk-

Okamoto honoring Speaker Nancy Pelosi at an AREAA event


Spring 2008

based pricing. Many Asian Americans are located in high-cost markets like California, Okamoto explains. AREAA wants to make permanent the mortgage insurance deductibility law. It supports GSE reform legislation that includes strong oversight and incentives for affordable housing. It also backs antipredatory lending legislation to deal with unscrupulous lenders. “We have to have an umbrella organization to unify things and be able to go to Congress and go to national lenders and say, ‘We have thousands and thousands of Asian practitioners and home buyers. You have to listen to us.’’

Previous Position: Member of AREAA Board of Directors Favorite Web sites: I always check the sports Web sites or the Discovery Channel. Recent Read: Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis. Gadget You Can’t Live Without: Treo. It has taken over my brain. Career Outside of Real Estate You Would Have Chosen: At this time of my life, a basketball coach. Life Goal: I know that I alone can not change the world, but I want to be a positive part of this change.

Buck Wargo is a real estate and development reporter based in Las Vegas. This article first appeared in California Real Estate in November 2007 Reproduced with permission from the California Association of REALTORS® Copyright 2008 California Association of REALTORS®

From Mutt to

Best in Show How you compensate your agents can change the color of your bottom line from red to black.

When Byron Hendricks, CRB, looks at the several hundred sales associates affiliated with his company, Prudential Real Estate Professionals in Salem, Ore., he sees a group of rising stars. But it wasn’t always this way.

and they were hitting their compensation targets too early in the year and ratcheting up to higher levels of split well before they generated enough company dollars to offset what they cost the company.

In 2002 his company was struggling. Although his sales associates were performing well, with many of them organized into teams that were pulling in $1 million a year or more in gross commission income, the compensation structures he had in place were resulting in too small a company dollar for his brokerage to maintain profitability.

Hendricks found himself in a peculiar situation: compensating two sales associates at the same rate, even though one was supported by a team that would rise to a higher split far faster than the one operating solo.

Part of the problem was the rapid growth of teams in his company. What started out as an experiment with one of his top producers about a decade earlier had mushroomed. By 2002, there were some 15 teams operating out of his office, comprising about a third of his sales force. The teams themselves weren’t a problem. “We encouraged people to grow teams,” says Hendricks, the company president. “We’ve been proud to facilitate that.” The problem was that the compensation plans that were in place — a mix that included 100 percent plans and several levels of splits — no longer made sense. The teams were compensated as if they were one individual, not a group of sales associates working for one individual,


Spring 2008

As a result, the associate supported by the team would more quickly get to keep a greater share of gross commission income even while generating far more overhead costs to the brokerage, which had to support the team members with desk space and supplies. At one point, Hendricks had an associate who, thanks to the team under her, quickly ratcheted up to a 90–10 split, generating more than $1 million in GCI. But the performance ultimately hurt the company’s profitability because the 10 percent company dollar was insufficient to support the team. It “wasn’t fair because the less profitable teams were being subsidized by other associates,” says Hendricks.


What do Your Associates Think? To get control of the situation, Hendricks in 2002 brought in two consultants. Their marching orders weren’t to drive more revenue by helping his associates ramp up business, since the problem wasn’t on the revenue side. Nor was the goal to shrink commission splits, because the splits themselves weren’t solely the problem. Rather, the goal was to conduct an upand-down examination of Hendricks’ company cost structure and recalibrate all compensation plans — not just team plans — so that each individual and team paid a share of commissions to the company proportional to the costs they generated. To determine the right mix of compensation plans, the consultants didn’t just look at quantitative factors like income versus costs; they gathered qualitative information as well to determine whether the level of services and the nature of office practices were in alignment with the associates’ expectations. If associates felt they weren’t getting the services they needed, for example, the new compensation plan would have to factor in costs to provide increased services. To tease out that qualitative data, the consultants surveyed and interviewed

it would have fallen on the matrix had the new plans been in place.

something they all depended on, says Hendricks. The company went with the new plans.

The result suggested that the new mix of plans would have moved the company into the cash cow quadrant, in part because some associates, including some of those leading teams, would have split more commissions with the brokerage.

Transition Alters Dynamics

To be sure, some associates wouldn’t be happy with the company’s improved position if it appeared to be at the expense of their income. But it was equally clear that a larger company dollar was essential to help ensure the company’s survivability —


Spring 2008

To minimize the pain for associates facing a smaller cut of commissions under the new arrangement, Hendricks phased in the changes over two years. The company lost about 15 percent of its associates. “When the playing field was leveled, some people saw that they weren’t contributing their fair share,” says Hendricks. “Many of

them stayed. Some left. It wasn’t easy. I lost people I cared for. But we also had people who got 15 percent raises.”

quickly, with only one catch — that the new branch upgrade its technology to bring it up to par with Hendricks’ company.

Replacing the people he lost proved easier than Hendricks had expected. The new compensation plans turned out to be a recruitment booster, in part because of the improved choices of splits for individuals. “We were able to hire more associates, and fewer people were needed to replace the lost revenue” because of their stronger productivity, Hendricks says.

The reason: The compensation plans were designed for associates who were receiving a high level of support and tech tools. The associates in the new branch hadn’t been receiving that. Without the upgrade, the company would have needed to take too high a split to cover the costs of bringing the branch up to speed.

Pinpointing Success

One year after acquisition, the company was maintaining its strong position in the sweet spot on the matrix, something that impressed Cocks.

One year after the plans were in place, Cocks again mapped the company’s performance on the matrix. The result proved surprising. “What actually happened was better than expected,” says Cocks. “The company’s survivability went from 49 percent to 69 percent in the first year. That put it solidly in the sweet spot.” Although the improved balance in commission splits is at the heart of the improvements, other factors were also at work, Cocks says. The new mix of plans heightened motivation, creating incentives for associates to achieve more, he says. Also, more experienced associates started joining the company — something that hadn’t happened much in the past. The new system proved to be flexible, too. Within a year after adopting the plans, Hendricks’ company acquired a 60associate office, and the new plans proved well suited to the additional branch office. “Many brokers assume they can simply apply their existing commission plans to an acquisition,” says Cocks. “But we’ve seen so many companies get in trouble this way.” As it turned out, after Cocks analyzed the new branch, it was evident that the new compensation plans could be applied


Spring 2008

“Typically when a company is acquired, there’s a shakeout period,” he says. “Often it takes companies two or three years to recover their profitability, and some companies never do.” What was different here? The compensation plans, Hendricks believes. Not only are they built around what the company needs to operate, but because associates can choose the plan that makes the most sense for them, they build in an incentive for associates to operate at peak performance. What’s more, they’re transparently fair, Hendricks says, so associates see how they contribute to the company’s survivability. “We have 400 people who count on us to earn a living,” says Hendricks. “We want to cover our expenses, earn a fair profit, and give the rest to our sales associates.” Now several years into the change, that’s what the company has done. This article first appeared in REALTOR® Magazine 10/1/2007 Copyright 2007 National Association of REALTORS®

Photograph by Mark Estes

John Yen Wong, CRB


Spring 2008

Advocating Homeownership for Asian Americans By Kevin Hawkins Like many children of first-generation Chinese immigrants who grew up in San Francisco’s Chinatown in the 1950s and ’60s, John Yen Wong acted as family translator. Yet helping his parents understand documents in English for a loan or investment was a daunting task for a 9-year-old. “I remember hearing a discussion at home in Chinese in our tiny apartment and my parents were trying to decide on a stock investment,” says Wong, who now serves as chairman of the recently formed Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA). “I remember it was rare to hear the panic in my parents’ voices in a house where they maintained a demeanor of control. For the first time, I could see the anxiety because they felt somewhat helpless. “My father was also burned at least once by a lender,” Wong continues. “It wasn’t uncommon for certain people in the Chinese community to prey upon those who spoke English as a second language.” That experience taught Wong a life-long lesson that he would dutifully and almost instinctively respond to daily in his career as a real estate sales professional for nearly a quarter of a century: He never wanted to see someone taken advantage of just because he or she didn’t speak English as a first language. “I always wanted people to truly understand what their options and choices are so they could make the right decision,” he says. Today, the Prudential California Realty broker-associate, who works in the Cathedral Hill office in San Francisco, is traveling across the country on a mission to make AREAA a national voice for homeownership for Asian Americans. “One of the main purposes of AREAA being formed,” Wong explains, “is to educate the general Asian populace about what their opportunities are, what their rights are, what ethical behavior and professionalism are in real estate.” Within months of beginning this nationwide organization–which was born out of organizations already established in Houston, Atlanta and Southern California–in April of this year,

Wong joined with HUD, the National Association of REALTORS®, the National Association of Real Estate Brokers and the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals to announce a new joint effort “pledging to work together toward eliminating housing discrimination.” Most important, Wong and AREAA are on a mission to destroy a myth–that Asian Americans don’t need help with homeownership opportunities because their historical homeownership percentages are the highest among all minority categories. “A lot of the Asian homeownership statistics came when there was mass migration from the wealthy in Hong Kong to the U.S. This skewed the data as it shows higher rates of homeownership than you would otherwise see,” Wong says, noting that recent gains in homeownership among minorities have not benefited Asian Americans to the same degree as other groups. “Because of this myth, many Asian Americans are waiting too long to become homeowners. There are opportunities and programs that currently exist where individuals could be helped into the process more quickly.” Wong knows much of this from personal experience. He didn’t speak English until he entered kindergarten, but Wong excelled in school, becoming an editor of the literary magazine at Lowell High School and starting one of the early fundraising walks that took in pledges to help build homes in many poverty-stricken communities worldwide. Although Wong was in honors classes, he says he had “absolutely no awareness of the Ivy League schools back East.” By happenstance, one of his best friends told him that recruiters for Yale and Columbia were at his high school and he should go see them. “I told my friend that I was late for a class and I didn’t have time,” Wong recalls, “so he nearly dragged me in to see them. I came

Spring 2008


in and apologized; I couldn’t stay to hear their presentations so I just grabbed an application and left. My friend practically made me fill out the applications so I sent them in. It ended up I was accepted to both Columbia and Yale.” But when an acceptance letter came from Columbia, Wong declined. “I already had an arrangement at UC Davis with a roommate and an apartment with a pool–it was going to be an exciting first year,” Wong says with a laugh. But two of his honors English teachers pulled him into a room, sat him down, “and asked me what the heck I was doing,” Wong says. Fortunately, his acceptance letter to Yale had gotten lost in the mail, so when it arrived two weeks later, he listened to his teachers and went back East. Neither of his parents was ever able to visit Wong at Yale, not even for his graduation in 1975. But nearly 30 years later, Wong was able to take his octogenarian mother to the campus at Yale. It was a moment, he says, he will treasure as the full significance was realized: what it meant for the son of a mother who was a seamstress and a father who was a waiter from Hong Kong to attend and graduate from one of America’s pre-eminent universities. Although Wong was pre-med in college, he decided to take a year off before going to medical school. He returned to San Francisco with his degree and the first job he picked was the same as his father’s: he became a waiter at the Mandarin Square, an upscale Chinese restaurant in Ghirardelli Square. He credits his friend, Leslie Dixon, now a well-known motion picture screenwriter whose mother was in charge of public relations at the restaurant. “Leslie told me I could make a whole lot of money, and I did. I had so much fun that it turned into a 13-year career,” Wong says. He thought his dad would be furious with his choice, seeing his Yale-educated son working as a waiter. “But to my surprise–at least in the beginning –he said it was a good thing, because when you’re in the hospitality industry, you learn to read and identify situations very quickly. You learn that for


Spring 2008

this group of guys you talk about the 49ers, for this group you talk about the opera. You were selling the experience.” It was at the restaurant that Wong was encouraged by a couple of his patrons to get his real estate license because they believed his skills would transfer well to real estate. He did and went to work for Commonwealth Real Estate Exchange in San Anselmo, focusing on commercial real estate. Wong went out on his own after a few years, opening his own brokerage firm, Regency Real Estate, which later became part of Mason-McDuffie and eventually part of Prudential California Realty. “When I started in residential real estate, many of my clients ended up being from the Southeast Asian community,” Wong observes. “They had been in the country long enough that they had saved enough to make a downpayment and buy a home. What happened was that as each client was happy with my help in getting them a home, they were so well networked that they would literally drag in other clients for you.” One of the most gratifying experiences in his career came when he attended a large wedding with some 600 attendees, and as key family members and local dignitaries in attendance were introduced, they asked Wong to stand and introduced him as “their real estate agent.” Wong says the moment impressed upon him “how important my role really is, and it brought back how my parents felt when they finally purchased their first home the year I left for college.” These experiences pushed Wong beyond the confines of his local community. For years he has actively participated in professional real estate through his involvement with his local real estate association and the Council of Real Estate Brokerage Managers (this year he is president-elect) and as a past president of the Chinese Real Estate Association of America and director of the California Association of REALTORS®. Now he is taking things to the next level. “Just saying that there is a myth about homeownership among Asian Americans is not going to be as important as getting some hard statistics on what the real numbers are,”

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Wong admits. For now, he says AREAA’s primary focus is on collecting the research. He already has met with officials from the White House, HUD, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and NAR. “Some believe homeownership is an opportunity,” Wong says. “Others believe homeownership is a right. We believe that everyone has the right to compete fairly for the privilege of owning your own home.” Kevin Hawkins is an award-winning freelance writer living on Bainbridge Island, Washington. This article first appeared in California Real Estate in November 2007 Reproduced with permission from the California Association of REALTORS® Copyright 2008 California Association of REALTORS®

John Yen Wong, CRB Chairman Asian Real Estate Association of America Other Gig: Broker-associate, Prudential California Realty Favorite Quote: “I’d rather be a sparrow than a snail. Yes I would, if I could, I surely would.” -Simon & Garfunkel Logs On To: On the Bookshelf: The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien Life Goal: To see things clearly and to understand others fairly


Spring 2008

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Inside the Marketer’s Mind

An ARE Exclusive Interview with Asian American Marketing Expert, Bill Imada

Bill Imada is the Chairman and CEO of one of the nation’s most successful US Asian marketing and public relations firms, IW Group. He is also a friend and leader of AREAA, sitting on the organization’s National Advisory Board. During a break from his coast-tocoast travels between offices in Los Angeles and New York City, Bill took the time to share some of his thoughts on the Asian American market, corporate America and the importance of his firm's involvement in the community. Interview by Praveen Sharma

Asian Real Estate: How did you get your start in this business? Bill Imada: With personal credit cards charged to the maximum limits. And, with one pioneering company who believed in me, Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc. ARE: Aside from phenomenal growth, what is the greatest change you have seen in the Asian American consumer base in the last 15 years? BI: Asian-American consumers are no longer confined to three or four key states. Today, Asian Americans can be found in every state of the union and the District of Columbia. Additionally, there are now more than 700 Asian media organizations in the U.S., a growth rate that exceeds 300 percent since 1990. ARE: Why is it important for major US corporations to have a distinct marketing plan for Asian communities? BI: Because the best opportunity for incremental (share) growth isn’t with mass-market white consumers, but with the growing ethnic consumer markets—particularly Asians and Asian Americans. And market research studies have confirmed that ethnic consumers appreciate marketing initiatives that target them with culturally relevant messages. ARE: Can you give us some examples of corporate America that have done an exceedingly good job of marketing to the APA community? BI: Metropolitan Life (more affectionately known as MetLife) is an early pioneer in ethnic marketing. MetLife has been engaged in Asian-American marketing for more than 20 years. Today, they are America’s number one life insurance provider and a clear leader in serving the needs of Asian-

American consumers. They also have agents, employees and executives who truly reflect the diversity of the communities they serve. Bank of America and Wells Fargo are two leading financial services institutions who have served Asian and Asian-American consumers for decades. At one time, Bank of America (originally known as Bank of Italy) had a bank just for Asian workers in the U.S., known as Oriental Bank. And Wells Fargo created phone books that served Chinese and other Asian residents in the country. Today, both of these American institutions are leaders in the banking industry. AT&T is the leading telecom company, and was one of the first telecommunications companies to offer in-language, in-culture advertising, marketing and communications services to the growing Asian -American population in the U.S. AT&T can trace its involvement in Asian-American consumer and commercial marketing back to the early 1990s. Wal-Mart Stores is the leading retailer in the U.S. Asian markets, offering in-culture advertising to Asian-American consumers nationwide. The company also donates significant funds to a number of community-based organizations throughout the country. ARE: Companies worry about the diversity of culture and language related to the APA market. What would you say to these firms that have been hesitant about getting into segment of the market? BI: Start with the marketing basics and build from there. It isn’t necessary to address each AsianAmerican segment all at once. Start with one, perhaps two, first. Build cultural competency and confidence with that market segment and then add another, then another. Most of the top marketers in the Asian-American consumer market started

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with one Asian market segment first and then grew from there. ARE: Any additional tips for businesses that are looking to expand their market presence among Asian consumers?


BI: Taste the street before you jump into the market. Learn as much as possible about the Asian-American consumer market. Start by being engaged in community-based organizations such as AREAA. Take a moment to walk through neighborhoods where Asian-Americans live, work and shop. Understand how AsianAmericans consume, including where they secure information about entertainment, news and products. Invest in market research to learn more about AsianAmerican consumers and what makes them tick and click. Observe what other corporate and governmental marketers are doing in the U.S. Asian markets. And talk with consumers about their interests, desires, wants and needs. Getting a flavor of the street before you walk or run will ensure your success.

back isn’t an option, it is an imperative.

ARE: How has the ad industry changed with increased accessibility to the internet? BI: Nearly 90 percent of all Asian Americans in the U.S. have access to the Internet, with English being the dominant language of the web. More and more


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companies are recognizing that ethnic consumers are using the Internet to learn about different products and services before they make a purchase. Ad agencies see this shift from traditional media to new media and are following the trend by producing more bilingual or multi-lingual webpages and by teaming up with ethnic websites that cater to Asian-American consumers. Banner ads. Web-based contests and drawings. Coupons. Games. Ringtones. All of these things are now being employed to reach more AsianAmerican consumers-especially Asian youth and young adults who influence other consumers in Asian households including parents and grandparents. ARE: In what ways does your success in the business world translate to the community? BI: Our agency’s success can be directly attributed to our active community involvement and engagement. Therefore, we continue to remain actively and aggressively involved in community-based programs, events and initiatives. Giving back isn’t an option, it is an imperative. Our firm encourages all of our employees to give back to the community by donating their time and their money to important causes.

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e h T

HOPE Awards

Home Ownership Participation for Everyone

2005 Winner Homeownership Brokerage Award Allen Chiang Presidential Inc. Real Estate

Nature of Business Real Estate Brokerage

pertaining to immigration at the local broadcasting station. He writes articles and translates contracts into Chinese. His vast knowledge helps him influence the Asian marketplace by sharing what he has learned, both as an educator and as an achiever. He trains his own agents as well as agents and brokers outside of his office to convey to the Asian population that it is possible to be a viable member of the community where they live, beginning with owning their own home. Presidential Real Estate consistently publishes monthly real estate magazines in Chinese. Allen feels that the Chinese community needs to learn more about real estate and related facts, thus he continues to personally contribute $50,000 to publish 15,000 copies of the magazine each month which are distributed at supermarkets, bookstores and news stands. Within a short length of time, the magazines have gained recognition and are in demand. Allen believes in what he does and is always ready to share his background, education and success with others. Allen provides pamphlets to potential new homeowners and has provided high school scholarship to seniors whose parents are new Chinese immigrants.

Description of Contribution to Increase Minority Homeownership


Allen has earned the respect of his peers as well as the community by providing knowledge of real estate and teaching the process of owning a home for Chinese immigrants along with the reality of living in this country harmoniously with people of all backgrounds. His philosophy is to commence with himself. Allen has earned six N.A.R. designations in less than one year's time. He attends numerous Asian Forums

Allen's organization has grown in the fifteen years since he started in real estate; five offices with over 300 agents. Most all his business comes from referrals. He is trustworthy and loyal to his clients. They are comfortable with like backgrounds and feel safe trusting him with such an important part of their life as house buying. He accounts for over 1000 transactions each year.

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Innovation Allen uses the Golden Rule. He is successful in his own rights and generously shares his success with the people around him. He diligently involves himself in community affairs and is a political contributor. He has served the Rancho Southeast Association of Realtors in many capacities including the presidency in 2001. He also serves as a director for the Citrus Valley Association. He has served on the Executive Committee of the California Association of Realtors and as a member of many other committees including the International Forum. Allen founded the Los Cerritos Asian/American Real Estate Professional Club in 1997. It is now called the International Real Estate Club. The

club meets six times a year not only to provide education and real estate information, but also food and fun. Membership in this organization is now over 300.

Minority Acceptance His personal success as well as that of his agents speaks for itself. His activities within the Asian community is continuous. He is available to his community at all times. 〉

Participated in Habitat for Humanity in 1994 with the building of two houses in Lynwood, California

Sponsored for the past 4 years National Dragon Ball Racing

Sponsors Asian Youth Tennis Tournament

Sponsors solar paneled cross country racing in local high school

Sponsors California Homeowners Fair

Sponsors Bank of America Homebuyers Fair

For more information on the HOPE Awards, visit


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Knowledge. Experience. Integrity.

Look for the designated difference in residential real estate appraisal and consulting. Uncertainty and doubt about market value. They’re the last things you want when selling or buying a home. So, the first thing you should look for in your real estate appraiser is the Appraisal Institute SRA designation behind the name. An SRA designation represents advanced knowledge. It stands for years of proven, real-life real estate valuation experience. And, it always means a commitment to strict professional ethics and standards.

SRA. Look for the designated difference behind the name.

To learn more about finding an Appraisal Institute designated appraiser, visit:


ake a look around you and note the different ethnicities within your brokerage. What does your brokerage really look like? Are your agents all in their mid-50s and Caucasian? How about your clientele? Have you ever analyzed the ethnicities, age, income levels and other diversity factors of your buyers and sellers? The great scientist and conservationist Edward O. Wilson—described as Darwin’s natural heir—has spent a lifetime teaching that biological diversity helps prevent extinction of species and preserves the balance of nature. Diversity in your brokerage is just as important for its vitality and survival because the face of America is changing. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by 2050 the non-Hispanic white population—today making up more than two-thirds of U.S. citizens— will decline to about 50%. In contrast, the Latino population will nearly double, from 12.6% to 24.4% (or 102.6 million) and the number of Asian Americans will nearly triple, from 3.8% to 8% (33.4 million). African Americans also will make up an increasingly larger portion of the population, 14.6% by 2050. Detailed statistics on Asian Americans are even more interesting. Only 53% of Asian Americans own their own home, far behind the rate for nonHispanic whites (74%) and not much higher than the rate for blacks (47%). One in five Asian homes nationwide is overcrowded. The average Asian household has 3.1 members, versus 2.6 members in the general population. The Asian family is also larger than average, with 3.6 members, versus 3.1 in the general populace. Asians also already are spending more than average on rents: $734 monthly, versus $602 for renters of all races. This past year, the CRB Council has been fortunate to have as its president, John Yen Wong, CRB, of Prudential California Realty, San Francisco. Voted in 2003 as one of real estate’s 25 most influential people, Wong also is president of the Asian Real Estate Association of America, a relatively new group founded to serve as the voice of real

estate professionals who serve the Asian American real estate market. Wong has been a leader in advancing the profession’s understanding of what cultural diversity— and serving it—really means. “The bottom line and guiding principle of AREAA is that everyone has the right to compete fairly for the privilege of owning their own home,” Wong says. “The Asian community has become a key component of business and if you ignore it, you’ll inevitably lose market share. That’s why it’s so important for brokers, owners, managers and agents to appreciate cultural differences and to build strong language skills within the brokerage. Real estate offices must become better equipped to serve those who are fresh immigrants or who simply aren’t familiar with the English language or American customs.” As the broker-owner of Prudential California Realty in San Francisco, Calif., Wong, a Chinese-American with immigrant parents, is surrounded by a large Asian population and is therefore highly sensitive to the demands of this particular market. He believes that brokers across the nation should consider emerging minority markets when establishing their business models and pay particularly close attention to the needs and wants of each nationality. “We’ve evolved in our understanding of how to train for cultural differences,” Wong says. “At least now, we recognize there is a difference, and we’ve even moved beyond the 20 dos and don’ts. The next step is to become truly culturally sensitive. “Cultural sensitivity, that is, the art of listening, is crucial for successfully integrating the Asian market into one’s business model. America can be compared to a salad bowl or a melting pot— there are many kinds of people, and we should celebrate those differences.”

Getting Started Kenneth Li, CCIM, CIPS, CRS, GRI, CRB Candidate, broker-owner of Century 21 Southwest in Houston, Texas, and another Chinese-American, shares Wong’s sentiments and caters to a large Asian population. Li, whose parents are also immigrants, was a

“A person is more than just Asian. We are all products of all the experiences we have had in our lives. How we are at 50 is shaped by who we were at 20— and everything that happened in between. Successful real estate professionals listen. Do the same and you will be profitable in this emerged market.” - John Yen Wong, CRB (circa 1972) small business owner before he became a REALTOR®. He co-owned a supermarket before owning a Chinese restaurant—both of which allowed Li to get involved with commercial real estate investment and spurred his desire to get more into the business aspect of real estate. He opened his own brokerage in 1986 in Houston’s Chinatown district. “The Houston Asian community was growing rapidly at the time, and I felt that getting involved with the real estate business would be a smart move, helping both myself and the community to succeed and prosper,” Li says. “Since then, business has been growing, growing, growing. There’s more competition now because more people want a piece of this pie. Ninety

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From the Far East

“The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter what background a customer is: Differences can be minimized if you can find a common ground. There cannot be any bias and you must keep an open mind. ” - Kenneth Li, CCIM, CIPS, CRB Candidate, CRS, GRI percent of my agents are Asian, and there are now more than 10 Asian-owned banks in the area.” Li believes there are major strides being made to integrate minority markets into the predominantly Caucasian demographic of Texas, although he maintains that the real estate industry continues to be ethnically and culturally unbalanced. “At present,” Li says, “Asians only live in certain metropolitan areas—perhaps in some areas, there isn’t even one Asian. But that’s changing and the number of Asians is rapidly growing.” Wong suggests that brokers, owners and managers must research the demographics—existing and projected—of their own communities. He says the Chamber of Commerce and the local university’s ethnic studies department, as well as examining your own in house statistics, are good places to start the research. Another resource he likes is “The New Face of Asian Pacific America,” a book by Eric Lai and Dennis Arguelles of UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center (order it at


Spring 2008

On the East Coast, Khaled Mohtady, CRB, of RE/MAX Platinum, has a different view of the Asian and minority markets. Mohtady has been a manager for 15 years and serves the central New Jersey area, which has a high Indian population. “Not surprisingly, many immigrants don’t understand real estate practices, particularly the concept of agency representation. It is the responsibility of REALTORS® to educate clients about the rules and regulations that govern the sales and purchase of homes,” Mohtady says. “It’s important to establish a trusting relationship with them first. I also learned that many Indians prefer new construction and new homes. You have to show them what they are interested in.” According to Mohtady, the New Jersey Association of REALTORS® offers a cultural diversity program that teaches brokers and agents how to work with and treat buyers of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The program highlights the different customs of cultures. Both Li and Mohtady have developed multicultural brokerages by deliberately recruiting a diverse mix of agents. But Wong says there are other ways to build this emerged market into your business model. He suggests: 〉 Developing an arrangement with 〉 other agents or brokers who are able to serve Asian or other ethnicities. 〉 Recruiting qualified agents, one at a time. Keep tabs on the agents on the other side of your transactions, he recommends. 〉 Buy a company with a strong multicultural group of sales associates and 〉 clientele and merge it into your existing operations. 〉 Buy a company or establish a joint venture and set it up as a standalone business. Wong is quick to acknowledge that hiring people who are not like you—and then fully understanding their points of view—takes work on both sides. He cautions his AREAA members that they may face difficulties as minorities in the overall cultural demographic of the real estate industry. Even so,

he emphasizes the importance of the Asian market and how necessary Asian REALTORS® are to serving that market. He says, “Do not assume you’ll be welcomed by the practitioners—to those already serving the market, you’re the outside entity invading their industry. Therefore, you have to challenge their preconceived notions and prove to them how your entry into the market can and will help their bottom line.” Preconceived notions not only exist among REALTORS®, but among agents and buyers and sellers, as well. Wong continues, “Do not assume that your current sales associates will welcome your efforts toward diversification. There may be stories within the marketplace about working with ‘those agents’ or even in your organization about working with ‘those buyers and sellers.’ ”Wong argues that it is easy to overcome such obstacles with fair treatment, unbiased thinking and respect for the unfamiliar. Li, as a manager who has been able to successfully establish a minority-based brokerage despite any hardships placed before him due to his ethnic background, keeps the concepts of fairness, lack of bias and respect at the forefront of his business practices. Though Li tries not to feel a difference when working with customers of a different ethnic background from himself—he emphasizes that all customers should be treated the same— he admits that it is easier if he and the customer speak the same language. At the same time, he says that knowledge and experience are more important than language and overrule all cultural barriers. As long as he can communicate what the client needs to know, there are essentially no problems. “When I have clients that are new immigrants, Vietnamese or Mexican for example, they tend to appreciate my services more because we all share the same experience of being first generation Americans,” Li explains. “Houston has become a very culturally diverse area and we are proud of its development.” Li started his business in Chinatown in order to help the Asian community grow and expand, but currently has been working to diversify his clientele in the other direction. He bought the Century 21 franchise five years ago to appeal to the

more mainstream Caucasian population in addition to his original Asian and ethnic customers. Mohtady agrees, “It’s more difficult to work with customers who are of a different ethnic background because you tend to be a little standoffish, and you have to figure out what you can and can’t do.” Since establishing his brokerage, however, he has learned how to better serve minority markets. “In general, Indian buyers and sellers are highly educated. They speak good English and don’t need interpreters. They look at real estate as a solid investment and want good value and appreciation potential. At times, Indians appear to be tough negotiators and more cautious with big investments, but they have high incomes and very

good credit ratings so they are excellent clients,” Mohtady says. “Basically, communication is the most important thing.”

Trust, Not English, Is the Universal Language Language barriers can be detrimental to creating broker-client relationships if there is no one to act as translator or interpreter. Wong recognizes this dilemma and advises that brokers and agents develop policies for addressing translations. “The broker, agent and customer have several options open to them for handling such situations, including learning as many languages as possible or using the second-generation American child to translate (not without its pitfalls). But whatever you choose, be sure to document

who translates so there isn’t any confusion later on,” Wong cautions. The California Association of REALTORS® provides an Interpreter/ Translator Agreement for buyers and sellers who require a third party to communicate with the REALTOR®. This document acts as a safeguard against any chance of misunderstanding or confusion on the parts of the broker, agent or customer and ensures a successful transaction. Find it online at Li speaks English, Chinese, Mandarin and Cantonese and has agents who are mostly bilingual and speak a myriad of other languages. It is an advantage as they are able to serve newcomers to America as well as Caucasians and rarely have to use

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What Are You ... Chinese? People ask me this all the time— I’m actually Korean. I wish people would be more culturally sensitive and ask, “What’s your ethnicity?” A common misconception in the world today is that all Asians are either Chinese, Japanese, Korean or Vietnamese, when in fact there are nearly 50 countries on the continent of Asia. They are as follows: Afghanistan Armenia Azerbaijan Bahrain Bangladesh Bhutan Brunei Cambodia China East Timor Georgia India Indonesia Iran Iraq Israel Japan Jordan Kazakhstan Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lebanon Laos Malaysia Maldives

Mongolia Myanmar (Burma) Nepal North Korea Oman Pakistan Philippines Qatar Russia Saudi Arabia Singapore South Korea Sri Lanka Syria Taiwan Tajikistan Thailand Tibet Turkey Turkmenistan United Arab Emirates Uzbekistan Vietnam Yemen

—Diane S. Lee is the author of this article and a new staff member at Real Estate Business. She made the origami illustration for this story from maps of Asian countries. Originally a safeguard against the counterfeiting of official documents, origami is now a sculptural art form representative of Asia.


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interpreters. “I may have a customer who speaks Spanish,” Li says, “So then I’ll get one of my Spanish-speaking agents to act as a translator between us, and the customer appreciates that and feels more comfortable because someone speaks their language.” Li prefers to use his own agents as translators, keeping the comfort level high. Mohtady speaks English, Arabic and Spanish. “We have the United Nations of agents working here—I’m very happy that we can help so many different people because of our large language base,” he says. Mohtady’s name and appearance also make him more approachable, he has observed. “It’s helpful that my name is Khaled. When Indians and buyers of other ethnicities see my name and my Mediterranean looks, they trust me and are comfortable with me,” he explains. Mohtady is Egyptian.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: The Bottom Line “If brokers or agents can’t speak the languages of their prospective clients, they simply need to respect the cultures,” says Li. “There shouldn’t be any barriers since service is the most important thing.”Nevertheless, some of Li’s Caucasian agents have learned some Chinese so they can better accommodate Asian clients. “The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter what background a customer is; differences can be minimized if you can find a common ground. You must keep an open mind to find out what the customers like, what products they want and what kind of area they would like to live in. Your main concern should be how trust can be built,” Li says. Wong points out that everyone is a product of their collective experiences and therefore must be respected simply because each person has a different story to tell. His sage advice is: “A person is more than just Asian. We all are products of all the experiences we have had in our lives. How we are at 50 is shaped by who we were at 20—and everything that happened in between. Successful real estate professionals listen. Do this and you will be profitable in this ‘emerged market’. ”

“We have the United Nations of agents working here—I’m very happy that we can help so many different people because of our large language base.” —Khaled Mohtady, CRB

Certification Programs to Help You Serve the Asian Market At Home With Diversity Course The program provides training in working with and understanding a variety of cultures and cultural issues. It takes one day to complete and is offered throughout the country.

Certified International Property Specialist Designation Conferred by NAR, this designation recognizes real estate professionals who focus specifically on the international market. education

AREAA Certification Course The Asian Real Estate Association of America is undertaking the construction of a certification course to provide comprehensive training for real estate professionals in addressing the needs of the Asian community.

HZSi sanAmer i canmul t i di sci pl i nar ydesi gnf i r m st r i vi ngt obr i ng f r esh,i nnovat i vedesi gnt oourcl i ent s.Thegl obalexper i enceof t heHZS par t ner shi pcombi nedwi t ht hest r ongt echni calknowl edgegai nedf r om over200i nt er nat i onalpr oj ect scont r i but esi gni f i cant l yt oourabi l i t yt or eal i zet hi scor emi ssi oni ndesi gnf i el d. HZS embodi esa new par adi gm i nt he pr act i ce ofdesi gn t hat t hr i vesonnew t echnol ogi est obr i ngi nnovat i vei deas,acompr ehensi veappr oach,andr esponsi veser vi cet oeachofourcl i ent s andt hei rpr oj ect s. Ourpar t ner s,Mr .Runzhou( Renzo)Zhang,Mr .Host et l erandMr . Cr ai gSt uder havest r ongi nt er nat i onalmul t i di sci pl i nar yexper i encewi t hl eadi ngAmer i candesi gnf i r ms.Thei rbackgr oundsand abi l i t yt o cr oss t r adi t i onaldi sci pl i nar y boundar i es and r esol ve i ssuesf r om mul t i pl eper spect i vesf or mt hef oundat i onofHZS’ s hol i st i cappr oacht odesi gn. HZS是一个集规划,建筑与景观与一体的综合性美国设计公司,致力于进一 步向我们现有的和未来的客户提供优质而完备的设计服务,提供具有开创性 的设计解决方案。HZS团队的全球设计经验以及从100多个中国项目中所获 得的丰富的技术施工经验,使我们具有完成重大项目的超凡能力。基于全 新思维所带给我们的革新理念,完备的方案解决手段,以及我们针对每一 个客户和他们的项目所提供的竭诚尽责的服务,在使我们的业务不断拓展 的同时,也确立HZS在设计领域中的新的典范地位。 HZS的合伙人张润舟先生出任公司董事会主席, 与星河湾的设计人豪斯泰勒 先生和欧洲迪斯尼乐园规划设计人思图德先生将一起用他们非凡的工作经 验和真正国际化的设计视角,为客户提供具有针对性的充满革新的规划,建 筑及景观设计。

The HOPE Awards

Home Ownership Participation for Everyone

2003 Winner Homeownership Brokerage Award Emily Moerdomo Fu RE/MAX Greater Atlanta Multinational Real Estate

SPREADING HOPE By Robert Freedman & Pat Taylor Many minorities and recent immigrants to the United States don’t feel comfortable taking the initiative to buy a house. So Emily Moerdomo Fu goes to them. “We go to their communities with homebuying seminars. We adapt to their culture. We speak their language,” says Fu, owner of RE/MAX Greater Atlanta Multinational. For her successful outreach to minorities, Fu is one of two individuals and four organizations recently named winners of the HOPE Awards. The awards were created in 2001 by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and five partners, the California Association of Real Estate Brokers, Chinese American Real Estate Professionals Association, Chinese Real Estate Association of America, National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, and the National Association of Real Estate Brokers. Fu, a native of Indonesia, came to Atlanta in 1977. She entered the real estate industry in 1990, and has been selling real estate to Atlanta’s cultural mosaic ever since. Although equal housing opportunity is the law, studies show that whites are still much more likely than minorities to own their own home.

Spring 2008


The awards recognize people and organizations that are helping to lower the barriers to homeownership among racial and ethnic minorities. Reaching the dream of homeownership can be a special challenge for minorities. They may need to overcome information gaps, language barriers, fear, or spotty credit histories. Yet the HOPE winners make it clear that such challenges can be overcome. Their stories show that “efforts to create minority opportunity—one home at a time— are working,” says NAR President Cathy Whatley. “But we must never stop striving for improvement.” Fu’s path to improvement began in 1993, when she opened International Atlanta Realty Co. At that time her staff of five spoke seven languages and four Chinese dialects. In 1995 she moved to the newly built Asian Square Shopping Center, where the Asian and Hispanic communities come together, and merged with a RE/MAX affiliate to form RE/MAX Greater Atlanta Multinational. Today, she oversees 50 associates who speak 16 languages and represent 19 cultural backgrounds. In 2002, Fu says, her associates averaged a respectable 19 transactions each. Fu has received many accolades as a businesswoman and as a member of her community, including recognition by the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners for her work to bridge cultural gaps among residents. She and her fellow HOPE Award winners will receive a $10,000 honorarium and be recognized May 13 at a gala in Washington, D.C. More than 1,000 REALTORS®, lawmakers, housing advocates, and others are expected to attend. Deborah Roberts, an ABC News correspondent on 20/20 and a regular on Good Morning


Spring 2008

America and World News Weekend, will host the gala. Financial supporters include Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Habitat for Humanity International, Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Council, and For more information on the HOPE Awards, visit Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online May 2003, with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Copyright 2003., NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® All rights reserved.

Economic and Real Estate Trends in the Nation's MSAs


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2nd Annual

Asian American Real Estate




2nd Annual

ASIAN AMERICAN REAL ESTATE CONVENTION & GALA Highlighting the Power of Asian American Real Estate Market


sian Americans are an important and growing segment of prospective homebuyers -- quite possibly representing the antidote to a down real estate market-- according to leading bankers, mortgage brokers and other real estate professionals who spoke at the recent convention of the Asian American Real Estate Association (AREAA). AREAA is the leading trade organization committed to closing the homeownership gap for Asian Americans. More than 800 participants from around the world attended the event in Las Vegas, Nov. 11-13. The historic event was the first of its kind to feature real estate leaders from many regions of Asia, as well as the U.S.

Top economists Douglas Duncan of the Mortgage Bankers Association and Lawrence Yun of the National Association of Realtors速 provided a forecast to help position businesses for success in the changing real estate environment. Carmela Ma, AREAA board member and convention co-chair, facilitated a panel of high-ranking real estate and finance leaders from China, India, Japan, Korea, Singapore and Thailand to share the opportunities and challenges of dynamic growth in Asia. According to AREAA, Asian-American homeownership has experienced the most rapid growth among all ethnic groups. Consider that in 2000, the Asian-American homeownership rate was 52.9 percent. By 2005, the rate jumped to almost 60 percent. No population, including non-Hispanic whites, has attained such


Spring 2008

rapid growth in homeownership. In fact, experts estimate the rapidly growing purchasing power of Asian Americans will reach nearly $600 billion by the end of the decade. It is these demographic shifts, combined with the robust international real estate environment, that are creating opportunities for economic growth, said Emily Moerdomo Fu, chair of AREAA. "The Asian American housing market could be one of the most profitable business lines that the market can pursue," Fu said. Fu added that on average, Asian-American homebuyers have the highest median household income; the highest median downpayment; the highest average home purchase price; the highest educational attainment; and some of the lowest delinquency and foreclosure rates. "Additionally, the Asian American population is growing at a rapid rate," she said, "and with average home-purchase prices and loan sizes greater than any other population, Asian-American consumers represent the most profitable segment of the housing market on a per-transaction basis." "We were proud to attend and sponsor this important convention," said Malcolm Morris, chairman, Stewart Title. "The Stewart Title representatives who attended gained valuable knowledge to even better serve the dynamic Asian-American community that is so important to the fabric of American culture."









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"For any real estate and mortgage company to thrive in the future, the ability to tap the dynamic Asian-American market can no longer be viewed as peripheral to business success," said Jim Park, AREAA CEO and president. Park urged real estate and housing officials to join AREAA for its focus on increasing knowledge about this unique and growing market, as well as for its many professional development opportunities for real estate and mortgage professionals. With more than 12,000 members in 38 states, AREAA is the only trade organization that represents the diverse Asian American community and gives Asian real estate professionals a voice in the various policy and business discussions that affect the real estate market and Asian American consumers. For information, visit


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HOMEOWNER ASSISTANCE: A Mortgage Insurer’s Efforts to Keep Families in their Homes By Alan Goldberg, Genworth Financial

Adjustable rate mortgages resetting to higher interest rates are a major cause of the rising delinquencies and foreclosures in today’s housing market. Foreclosure filings were up 78 percent nationwide last year, and reported over 2.2 million foreclosure filings and default notices. More than one percent of all U.S. households were in some stage of foreclosure, almost double the 2006 rate. With no relief expected in 2008, the fear of foreclosure now looms for many. It’s a costly process that benefits no one, but help is available. At Genworth we’re doing everything we can to keep homeowners in their homes. While buyers shopping for a mortgage don’t want to think about the possibility of falling behind on their loan some day, it is a possibility. Over the past year, we’ve seen how important it is for them to consider security for the future. Knowing that help is available in times of financial difficulty can be a real selling point for buyers weighing home financing options. Mortgage insurance through Genworth protects your customers should they face a financial hardship, offering expert, no-cost help to keep them in their homes. It has the potential to save your customers


Spring 2008

thousands of dollars should times get tough. Our Homeowner Assistance program helped nearly 8,000 financially troubled homeowners avoid foreclosure in 2007, and this year we expect to help even more. A key part of our assistance effort is to proactively engage borrowers facing financial hardship. Under the terms of most of our insurance policies, lenders are required to notify us when a homeowner becomes 45 days delinquent on their mortgage. We reach out at the first sign of trouble, attempting to contact the homeowner by telephone and by mail. Like most problems, the earlier we are able to intervene with a homeowner falling behind on payments, the greater the likelihood we can remedy or “cure,” their mortgage problem. And the sooner a homeowner responds to our outreach, the more flexible we can be in offering a wide range of workouts and solutions. Unfortunately, homeowners behind on their mortgage payments too often are afraid of the consequences of defaulting and hesitant to discuss their situation with an expert who can help. Our recently launched online Homeowner Assistance website: ( provides an easy way for those borrowers to make that initial contact and share the information necessary to determine which solution is best for their individual situation. After submitting information about their monthly income, expenses and assets, homeowners in financial difficulty usually are more receptive to talking about a solution that’s right for them when one of our representatives calls. “It felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders,” said Gary, a borrower whose house was saved through the program. Our online calculators enable borrowers like Gary to know ahead of time how we can help sort out their financial commitments.

Five major types of assistance are currently offered: 〉 〉 〉 〉 〉

Repayment plan Loan modification Forbearance Agreement Short sale Deed-in-lieu of Foreclosure

With a repayment plan, the borrower makes scheduled payments toward the delinquent amount of a loan in addition to regular payments to bring the borrower’s loan current. A loan modification changes one or more of the terms of the note and/or mortgage in order to bring the loan current. A forbearance agreement allows a borrower to either suspend payments or remit less than the scheduled payment for a specified period of time. A short sale enables a homeowner to sell the property before foreclosure, even when the home’s market value is less than the total amount owed. In the case of a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure, the homeowner turns over the title of the property to their lender to avoid foreclosure.

is the worst-case scenario for all parties involved in the homeownership process. Through our Homeowner Assistance program, Genworth is reducing the number of foreclosures by helping one borrower at a time, helping homeowners keep the equity they’ve worked so hard to build. That’s something to consider the next time you talk to customer about financing options.

Alan Goldberg is Vice President, Default Management, for Genworth Mortgage Insurance. He has over 30 years of experience in default management and loss mitigation, and is responsible for Genworth’s Homeowner Assistance program, which assists borrowers with financial and other hardships. Based in Raleigh, NC, Genworth Mortgage Insurance is a division of Genworth Financial, a leading financial security company meeting the retirement, longevity, lifestyle protection, investment and mortgage insurance needs of more than 15 million customers. It has a presence in 27 countries.

A mortgage default or foreclosure significantly harms a credit score. In cases where the borrower is unable to keep the home, our representatives assist in selling the house before foreclosure, minimizing negative credit consequences. Foreclosure

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Communicating Across Cultures How to Understand Your Multicultural Clients Think back to your days of playing the Telephone Game, whispering a message from one person to another. Remember how the outcome rarely, if ever, resembled the original message? Well, now imagine playing the game without using actual words, relying solely on body language or gestures. That’s what it’s like when trying to communicate with cultures that rely on a “highcontext” communication style. Highcontext refers to information that is not expressed in actual words, but instead through actions and body language. In fact, the majority of the world’s population communicates this way. Conversely, in the U.S., we typically rely on low-context communication, a very direct and literal way of corresponding using both written and spoken words. Cultures that typically communicate through high-context messaging include Japanese, Middle Eastern, Spanish, Chinese and Latin American. These cultures are less focused on verbal or written expression and more interested in internalized and relational communication. Often high-text communicators will ask indirect questions for fear of embarrassing the other party.

High-Context Communication Unfortunately, because every culture has its own norms, it can be tricky to remember the appropriate customs. For example, in many cultures, men tend to be the dominant decision-maker in public while women only express their opinions behind the scenes. Asking a woman her opinion can be seen as offensive. Additionally, in China, it is a cultural norm to discuss issues prior to a formal business meeting and to consider the actual meeting the time when the already agreed-upon decision is formally announced. Even though Americans typically communicate in a low-context manner, think about all the times you can tell when your spouse or child has a bad day just by the way they carry themselves. This is a perfect example of recognizing non-verbal, high-context communication. Additionally, studies show that women tend to communicate more with high-context communication, while men prefer lowcontext.

Working with High-Context Clients Realize that every culture has its own set of norms, values and perceptions that they view as just as valuable as your norms, values and perceptions. Below are a few tips on how you can be sensitive to your high-context clients. 〉 Focus less on what is said and more on what is NOT said 〉 Look for non-verbal forms of communication such as body language and eye contact 〉 Allow time to establish a mutually trusting relationship 〉 Pay attention to gender roles, how close people stand to one another, how they speak to you or others and emulate that style 〉 Ask questions to learn more about their culture 〉 Be sensitive and respectful of their customs Your clients will appreciate your desire to learn about their culture and the more you know about their culture, the less the chance you will unknowingly offend them.

Stewart Title of California’s Community Forward program provides resources to help businesses target multicultural clients. Our seminars provide advice on how to increase cultural awareness and then apply that understanding to your business. Our children’s book explains, through the eyes of children, the entire home-buying process. Our “Employers Empowering Homeownership” program works with employers to show them the value of homeownership for their employees and how to help them reach that goal. Community Forward also offers a Web site that provides valuable information for consumers and professionals, as wells as other services. Please visit to learn more about how Stewart Title is helping businesses reach these markets.


Greenland Group is China's top 500 enterprises and one of the leading enterprises in China real estate industry. Greenland Group was established in July 1992. In 2007 the company was ranked No.1 in real estate enterprise in China, No. 17 among the top 100 enterprises in Shanghai, No 200 among China’s top 500 enterprises. Also in 2007 the company’s three financial indicators, sales revenue, assets, and operating cash flow, all surpassed 30 billion yuan. Greenland Group always adheres to "create a better life" as the enterprise mission and the "green harmony, sharing" development concept through both operating and capital development. The company has formed the current business model of "focusing on real estate with limited diversification into other related

industries." Greenland has real estate development operation as its core business throughout 19 provinces. Greenland Group is a leading company in China's integrated real estate development business, with a full range of real estate product lines ranging from industrial park, CBD commercial complex, high end hotels, convention centers, city landmark, office buildings, to

large scale residential projects. In 2008 the company’s construction area will reach 14 million square meters including The Russian Baltic Pearl City, Purple Peak Plaza, Convention and Hotel Towers in Zhengzhou. The Beijing-Tianjin Real Estate Division of Greenland has many projects underway in Tianjin, Beijing and surrounding regions. Panlong Valley Cultural Project, a joint venture between Greenland

Group and The Chinese Culture Group. This 30 billion yuan project plans to build a worldclass center for film, video, music, arts, and other media production base. Xianghe Development plans to build a major free trade area for BeijingTianjin-Hebei region's business and high-end imported products.

A R E A A G rows During Mortgage Meltdown By Samson Wong, AsianWeek With the real estate industry taking a pause over the mortgage meltdown, the Asian Real Estate Association of America — founded four years ago to help close the homeownership gap among Asian Pacific Americans — has increased its membership by 50 percent. The association, which held its convention on Nov. 11 to 13 in Las Vegas, has registered more than 12,000 AREAA members in 38 states, up from 8,000 in 2006. “We’re probably the fastest-growing real estate association in history,” said Allen M. Okamoto, the group’s chairman and owner-broker of T. Okamoto & Co. With explosive membership growth has come influence. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae — government enterprises that make and guarantee loans — have opened their doors. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke at a San Francisco event for the group. The group’s influence is also being felt in Congress as it closes the gap between the 62 percent of APAs who are homeowners and the 71 percent rate nationally. A bill to reform Fair Housing Act loans — a federal program that insures private sector loans to lower income homebuyers — passed the House two months ago and is going to the Senate.


Spring 2008

AREAA Vice Chair Allen Chiang, Chair Emily Moerdomo Fu and President Jim Park

Because such loans had dropped by half, especially among first generation homebuyers, the group successfully added an amendment to allow immigrants to qualify for loans without FICO scores (an industry measure of a homebuyer’s credit worthiness). Under this bill, according to Okamoto, “you could use your insurance bill, rent payment and PG&E bill” and other untraditional means to qualify for FHA home loans. “We have a newer immigrant population [from mostly Latin America and Asia], and they may have come from countries where keeping money in banks and buying things on credit was not common,” said John Yen Wong, the group’s founding chairman and a broker associate of Prudential California

Realty in San Francisco. “When you run the traditional credit check on them, it’s not that they had bad FICO scores. They were not scoreable.” With the recent downturn, “the Asian segment of the housing market has been less affected than the first generation homebuyers,” Wong said, attributing it to APAs making larger down payments and avoiding, for example, riskier mortgages requiring little or no down payments. “The default rate among the Asian segment of the population is not as bad as some of the others,” Wong said. “But we’re not totally immune.” Vietnamese Americans and newer

AREAA Board members (L to R): David Hardy, Allen Chiang, Mark Kitabayashi and Nancy Suvarnamani

immigrants took more of the blow, compared to Chinese and Korean Americans. APAs living in costlier markets like California and New York tended to apply for loans exceeding “conforming loan limits” of $417,000. As a result, their rates were higher, said Wong. The group is working on raising that $417,000 limit to keep rates lower. “[We] recognize there is a wide differentiation in home prices for the APA community. Because of its concentration in these areas, they are disproportionately impacted.” But high prices on the West Coast opened up opportunities in the South. “I have seen big changes in the South and East,” said Emily Fu, the group’s incoming chair and director of RE/MAX’s greater Atlanta office, who has lived in Atlanta for 30 years since arriving from Indonesia. “The Asian population is

AREAA DC Metro Chapter inaugural gala press conference

growing leap and bounds, coming from the West Coast because of the affordability of housing and opportunities.” The group is also adopting an increasingly international scope. This year more than 200 practitioners from Asia will be attending out of an expected 1,000 at the convention — including the vice president of the China Real Estate Property-Rights-inChina Jan-08 Association, which is structuring that country’s emerging real estate industry, and the owner one of the largest real estate companies in India. This article was originally published in AsianWeek October 28, 2007 (

AREAA Washington State Chapter kickoff meeting

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Emily Moerdomo Fu and Earl Lee

Daniel Lanning

L to R: John Lee, Winnie Chow Davis, Jim Park, Mary Blue and Bob Tsien Al Wasserman and Laisin Lee

Larry Fried

Michael Liu

Members of the AREAA National Board of Directors

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The Chu Stew A Smorgasbord of Legal Advice for Hungry Realtors By Andy Chu, Esq. of Chu & Stuart LLP Clients often ask real estate professionals a variety of legal questions related to real estate. Most of these questions should really be answered by a lawyer. Nonetheless, real estate professionals should have a basic understanding of these issues. In this series of articles, we will discuss some of these issues. For starters, let’s begin with the ever popular living trust, a tasty but often indigestible subject. Realtors are often asked by clients if they should put their house in a living trust. What exactly is a living trust? According to the State Bar of California, a living trust is “a legal document that partially substitutes for a will. With a living trust, your assets (your home, bank accounts and stocks, for example) are put into the trust, administered for your benefit during your lifetime, and then transferred to your beneficiaries when you die.” One of the primary benefits of a living trust is avoidance of probate. Probate is the court supervised process by which an estate is distributed to its heirs. It usually results in expensive legal fees and is time consuming. For example, for an estate of $300,000 in California, a lawyer can charge up to approximately $9,000 in attorneys fees, which does not include court fees, expenses, and “extraordinary fees” (trust me, you don’t want to know what that is for now). The probate proceeding, depending the county, can last from 6 months to several years. On the other hand, a living trust for a single person usually costs between $2,000 to


Spring 2008

$4,000, depending on its complexity. Perhaps more importantly, a living trust takes much less time to administer, does not require extensive court time, and the beneficiaries receive their distributions from the trust much sooner than they would through probate. Next on the menu: Medi-Cal taking away your elderly client’s real property!? Real estate agents and brokers have brought me this scenario: an elderly client comes to you and asks: I am on Medi-Cal, will Medi-Cal take away my home after I pass away? Your answer should be… please talk to a lawyer who is well versed in public benefits. But for your own understanding, as a general rule, a Medi-Cal recipient’s home can be subject to an estate claim after his or her death (exceptions do exist, but let’s not bite more than we can chew in this single article.) Many Medi-Cal recipients mistakenly believe that since their home is an exempt asset while they are alive and is not counted for Medi-Cal eligibility purposes, their home would pass onto their children or other beneficiaries outside of Medi-Cal’s reach. The truth is, if the home is still in the Medi-Cal recipient’s name when he or she dies, Medi-Cal can make a claim against his or her estate for the amount of the Medi-Cal benefits paid or the value of the estate, whichever is less. Therefore, if the home is still in the Medi-Cal recipient’s name when he or she dies, it is possible for Medi-Cal to make a claim against the estate, and recover from the sales of the home, which means… no home being passed onto the children! Attorneys have helped elderly transferred their home out of the elders’ estates using legal tools such as life estate and certain irrevocable trusts. As a result, Medi-Cal could not recover from their estates. However, such transfers must be done very carefully because if done incorrectly, such transfers may: (1) negatively affect the eligibility of other public benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and (2) have unexpected income and property tax consequences. Do not simply advise your clients to just transfer title to their children, it is simply a recipe for disaster. Also note that Medi-Cal is California’s name for Medicaid, and other states have similar estate recovery regulations. No dessert this time around, but come back next issue and we’ll see what we can whip up. [Mr. Chu can be contacted at or (415) 371-1618.]

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Real estate trends, world-class developments, profiles of industry leaders

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Real estate trends, world-class developments, profiles of industry leaders