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A mother and her two young sons share a laugh as the boys sit at a table and eat cookies.

Hope, adversity, and triumph lead to increased Hispanic homeownership

Hispanics have become a leading engine for the U.S. housing market in recent years, many of them overcoming adversity through determination and hope.

Nota del editorTambién está disponible una versión en español de esta historia.


Nearly half a million Hispanic homebuyers successfully navigated the tough U.S. housing market last year. From doctors and teachers to construction workers, they found the American dream and lifted the Hispanic homeownership rate higher than any other ethnic group, according to industry data.

As part of that trend, Nelly Mancia stands today with the victors, many of whom have overcome steep odds to become first-time homeowners. The public school teacher and divorced mother of three in Hayward, California, bought a townhouse with her sister in June, culminating a two-year journey of hope, adversity, and triumph.

Nelly Mancia goes on a neighborhood walk with her children Anna Victoria and Daniel. Mancia became a first-time homeowner in June. (2:15)

“This was like a dream of my life,” she said. “What motivated me was getting my kids into a stable, happy place and to have a sense that we would all be OK. We’d all been living in a room, with little space or freedom. So to find and have a house of our own, well it was just an unbelievable blessing.”

Other Hispanic homebuyers have shown the same moxie in recent years, making the fast-growing Hispanic segment a key engine for U.S. home sales, industry officials say. From 2008 to 2018, for example, Hispanics accounted for nearly 64% of net new homeownership gains across the country, according to “The 2018 State of Hispanic Homeownership Report.”

“Leading indicators — such as household formation, income trends, age, and consumer sentiment — suggest that Hispanics will continue to drive homeownership gains in America for the foreseeable future,” wrote Marisa Calderon, the report’s author and executive director of the study’s sponsor, the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, or NAHREP.

Not surprisingly, the dramatic growth of the Hispanic segment has captured the attention of Wells Fargo and the U.S. mortgage industry.

In 2016, the company launched a 10-year, $125 billion commitment to boost Hispanic homeownership in conjunction with NAHREP’s Hispanic Wealth Project and National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15). Its goals also include investing $10 million in homebuyer financial education and counseling.

To date, Wells Fargo has financed nearly $32 billion in home loans for 128,412 Hispanic families and homeowners and invested $5.1 million in education and counseling, according to company figures.

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“Our Hispanic commitment is about values, families, households, diversity, and the realities of the marketplace,” said Cerita Battles, head of Wells Fargo Home Lending Diverse Segments. “For every dollar we invest in financial education and every loan we make to a Hispanic homebuyer, we invest in the growth of their financial lives. That’s great for people and good for business.”

For Mancia, 38, the difference that homeownership has made is undeniable. She said she felt she had experienced the impossible, going from a single room in her parents’ home to a townhouse with plenty of room for her family, including her sister Yanira, who also lives there.

“I was so stressed for so long,” Mancia said. “I would make an offer, and the kids would get all excited about it, then we wouldn’t get the house and they would cry. Eventually, I stopped taking them with me to look at properties. I just didn’t want them to be all sad and disappointed again. Then, just like out of nowhere, this townhouse became available.”

Cerita Battles
Cerita Battles

She credits a trio of allies — Mariana Flores-Herrera of Wells Fargo Home Lending, Nancy Rivera of A-1 Community Housing Services, and real estate agent Gemma Buenrostro — with paving the way to help her buy a home right in Hayward near her family and job, avoiding what could have been hours of daily commuting between home and work.

“Nelly was certainly one of my best success stories last year,” said Rivera, head and founder of A-1 Community Housing Services, a nonprofit supported by Wells Fargo. “She faced so many challenges — the divorce, moving in with her parents, taking care of her kids, handling the pressures of teaching — but she wouldn’t give up. She was determined to find the right place for her children.”

“Our Hispanic commitment is about values, families, households, diversity, and the realities of the marketplace. For every dollar we invest in financial education and every loan we make to a Hispanic homebuyer, we invest in the growth of their financial lives. That’s great for people and good for business.”

— Cerita Battles

Rivera and Flores-Herrera worked with Mancia to help her qualify for two key home loan programs for low- and moderate-income buyers — one that offered down payment assistance through the California Housing Finance Agency and one that covered closing costs for teachers. Wells Fargo was the only bank certified as a lender for the state program.

“I looked at the situation for Nelly and for her sister and told them, ‘I really think we can work with these numbers,’” Flores-Herrera recalled. “What impressed me the most about Nelly is how she really cared for her kids and put her family first. She knew she had to find a place near her parents and the school where she works so she could be there as much as possible for her kids.”

Said Rivera: “Mariana is just amazing. She had the knowledge, savviness, and persistence to make this happen. She consistently followed up and stayed in touch with Nelly for over a year because she really cared for her, not just as a customer, but as a person.”

Mancia said she will always be grateful for what her “team” did to help her reach this milestone in her life. After she and her parents came to the U.S. from El Salvador decades ago, she studied hard in school, earned a college degree, and landed a job teaching preschool for the Hayward Unified School District.

Nothing compared, however, to the moment she surprised her children with their new home, Mancia said. After closing on the home, she persuaded the kids to go with her to “look at a new property.” As soon as they walked in the door, they began to ooh and aah with excitement and hope, despite their wariness about past disappointments, she said.

Homeowner and preschool teacher Nelly Mancia holds hands with her three young children as they walk around their neighborhood in Hayward, California.
Preschool teacher Nelly Mancia and her children, Daniel, Anna Victoria, and Mateo, on a walk around their neighborhood in Hayward, California. Photo Credit: Jennifer Donaldson

When Mancia led them into what would later be her sons’ bedroom, the boys and their two-year-old sister looked in the closet, finding a poster that said, “Welcome Home … with God, all things are possible.” All three broke into dancing, laughing, and crying as Mancia caught the celebration on video.

“At first, they just stood there with their mouths hanging open in disbelief,” she said. “But I said, ‘Yes, this is our house. I bought it! We did it!’ And they were so happy. It was one of the best moments of my life.”

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