HOME OWNERSHIP FROM A Global Perspective30 April 2020 Written by By Peggy Ann Valley | Senior Mortgage Consultant Summit Funding Group
Published in May 2020 Articles
although most of my days are spent working to help families lay down roots here in Northern California, I have had the distinct pleasure of traveling extensively outside of the United States for over 38 years.
These treks have offered me an opportunity to immerse myself in the diverse cultures and societal structures of people from all walks of life, all around the world.
“I am so thankful for having a career that affords me the luxury of learning about our world and its inhabitants, that I readily give back to those that need it most.”
Having this unique education in the various belief systems and motivators that foreign buyers may bring with them when seeking to secure their American dream, helps immensely once we are together working on paperwork. Their comfort level is top-of-mind and because of my extensive travels I feel fortunate to have gained valuable insight into navigating the rough course we may encounter. No matter who they are or where they are from, the yellow brick road to home ownership is full of many pitfalls for most buyers. It is my job to make the journey successful!
In 1982, a friend said to me, “Give me a check for $325.” I didn’t know what I was signing up for, but that initial investment was the beginning of my travel-driven lifestyle. That one-week ski vacation to Mount Bachelor in Oregon lit a fire in me; I longed to continue exploring. Later that year, I embarked on a trip to Canada and then traveled throughout Europe, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Korea. The very next year, I went back to Hong Kong and also visited Thailand. My husband, Jay, and I have roamed the street markets of Luxor and seen the outback down under.
We’ve been to all the Nordic countries and visited the Czech Republic along with Russia. Rotary efforts have brought me to India, Tanzania, Nepal, and Mexico. Our sojourns have been self-guided as well as with groups but in any case, I find myself wandering into the local real estate offices wherever we visit. I have no problem asking questions. I will get a full education on the individual practices of each country, how they buy homes, what a typical household looks like there, and of course how they pay for them.
In Greece, the instant a daughter is born, families pay cash for a plot of land and begin building a home, but do not finish it. As you travel throughout, you see villages that look like tenements, but that is not the case. Once a daughter marries, the home is finished. At that time, the taxes become due on the home because it is now a residence. Russian dwellings are often comprised of flats, mostly apartments. Having a mortgage in any other country, isn’t common. There’s no such thing as credit scores. Cash is usually the only form of financing. In other countries, the average income can amount to as little as $100-$200 per month. A whole family working, including the kids, contribute to the pot of savings. Multigenerational housing allows home ownership.
Sons stay with their families and daughters move in with their husband’s family. In some homes, the grandparents are on the first floor, the parents and the youngest in the middle, and their center of worship on the top floor. There is a true lack of variety in homes throughout the many cities I have visited across the world. Each one looks the same as the others in their surrounding areas, it’s not like here.
“Through my travels, I have gathered a great amount of patience and empathy for the belief systems of people from foreign lands.”
We are spoiled in the United States with down payment assistance and many financing options. Adjustable rate loans were at 18 percent when I started in escrow 42 years ago. Today we are looking at fixed rate averages of three to four percent. Even with these easier ways to finance a home purchase, people arriving here from other countries do not find purchasing a home a simple process. They are often restricted by fear, which can be a huge obstacle when gathering information is key to a good loan application.
Through my travels, I have gathered a great amount of patience and empathy for the belief systems of people from foreign lands. You really must understand their upbringing and where they come from to understand their mistrust of divulging personal information. They are afraid of being taken advantage of, not getting the best deal, and most of all, being told they can’t buy a house here. The first thing I say when a client comes to see me is, “Congratulations on taking the first step toward buying a home. I know it’s scary.” Another soothing measure I take with foreign buyers is showing my respect by saying thank you to them in their language.
“My greatest joy is sitting down and putting a plan together that will work for them.”
Immigrants without proper documentation can buy homes here. They simply use a form called an ITIN. I am currently working on a loan for two teachers from Nigeria. They were referred to me by realtor friends. They pay taxes, they are trying to get a green card and become documented citizens. All you need is a credit score of 600 or higher for down payment assistance, and we have financing that will help them along with their saved 20 percent down payment. I tell them I can help them get into a home, but I need to know everything. I cannot divulge any information that they share with me without their authorization, not even to the government. Once a client is at ease, I can really do my magic. My greatest joy is sitting down and putting a plan together that will work for them.
This globe-trotting lifestyle is a blessing I do not take lightly. I am so thankful for having a career that affords me the luxury of learning about our world and its inhabitants, that I readily give back to those that need it most. I attend St. Anne’s Catholic Church in Byron and am part of Brentwood Rotary. My fundraising efforts at St. Anne’s revolve around the Wine in the Bay event I have spearheaded for 17 years, and the Woman’s Fellowship crab feed which just hosted over 500 women! Rotary allowed me to be part of an excursion that lead to bettering medical facilities in India. I also traveled with Rotary to Mexico to build a casita for a deserving family. My big event for the past 37 years is a benefit I invite all my referral partners and friends to participate in. Each attendee brings the gift of a toy, and all the goodies go to the local Community Chest for Christmas distribution. The gift I brought back from my travels abroad is one that allows me to best serve my clients–it is my great love for all the people that make up this big blue marble.