Sarah Aguirre didn’t set out to become one of the highest volume Realtors in our area. In fact, she didn’t set out to become a Realtor at all. But by lining up her talents with her opportunities, this award-winning John L. Scott Realtor has found a way to bring real, positive change to the lives of local community members.
Sarah’s parents met when her father was stationed at Naval Air Station Whidbey, in Oak Harbor. They then started their family in his hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Describing it as a place where it was a little too easy for youngsters to get into mischief, her family again moved north, and she spent her school-age years in Whatcom County as her father worked a job at the Sumas and Blaine borders.
Finding Her Path
In 2019, Sarah, who had been living in Atlanta with her husband Luis, decided to move their family back to Whatcom County. She was excited to finish her studies at Western Washington University, but those dreams hit a bureaucratic snag when she learned most of her credits were not transferable. “I felt exhausted,” she says. “I had a GED, a little less than an associates, and little to no work history. So, really, I had nothing.” Looking for a way forward that would not require another heavy investment of time, she decided to enroll in a real estate licensing course.
As soon as she was licensed, it was clear to Sarah that the local real estate market was almost entirely English-speaking, so it seemed natural to advertise that she also speaks Spanish. The phone calls and messages started to come in, and as she scheduled meetings, she learned many of her clients weren’t sure how to navigate the local housing market.
Whether it was because they were raised in a different culture, or had recently arrived in the United States, most of her initial meetings were heavily education-based. “Less about showing houses, and more about answering questions,” she says. “How do you build credit, yet not get into debt? What is debt-to-income ratio? What are the different tiers of credit lines and credit scores, and how do those affect what kind of loan products you can get?”
Finding Her Audience
As Sarah listened to people’s stories, she identified the areas that needed help and developed action plans.
In one example, Sarah’s clients Dioselina and Tomas had sold their land in Mexico but were nervous about the cost of taking out a loan for the difference of the home price they wanted to buy here. “They were worried about all the interest they would have to pay to the bank for the mortgage,” Sarah recalls.
Dioselina told Sarah she’d rather not take the loan, save money for five years, and then buy the home at the purchase price of $450,000 in cash. “She wasn’t taking into consideration that the purchase price of the house in five years would increase in value with appreciation every year,” says Sarah. “I was able to talk them through this and they’re now very appreciative because their home already has appreciated in value.”
In a situation Sarah has seen more than once, she also recently worked with a woman who sold her property before moving to the United States. This client had moved to the United States and purchased a trailer park on leased land, but as her lot rent continued to quickly rise, she needed to move on. Sarah helped her sell.
The client had enough for a down payment on a home but didn’t have a life-long financial history in the area. Her son had the necessary income but was young enough that he didn’t yet have savings or credit. Sarah spelled out the benefits of working together and the young man decided to collaborate with his mother.
“I really admire him because I know it was tough for him,” she says. “He’s 19 or 20, at the age where he wants to be independent, and he sacrificed a lot for his mother. It’s going to benefit him because, he can use that history to buy his next house. In the meantime, he’s helping his mother have a home to live in without rising lot rents and he can rent to his mother and use that additional income to buy his next house.”
While it may seem frustrating to face all the obstacles involved, Sarah has seen enough success stories to keep her motivated. She once worked with a couple who spoke to a lender and were denied a loan, so she sat down with them to make a plan. “It’s easy to say, ‘This is what you’ve got to do,’ but it’s another thing to actually do it,” she says. “Jose and his wife weren’t approved the first year, and then the next year weren’t approved. But by the third year, they had perfect credit and the income they needed. You should have seen how happy they were, finally signing the papers.”
Success by the Numbers
While Latinos make up a large part of the American labor force — and its fastest-growing segment — home ownership rates do not line up. Currently, Hispanic home ownership is about 25 percentage points lower than the non-Hispanic Whites, and only seven percent of real estate professionals are Hispanic. But Sarah’s personal statistics are pointing in a very different direction. Since starting at John L. Scott in January of 2021, she has helped more than 65 clients get a handle on the local property market. While most agents sell properties with higher dollar values, the sheer volume of new homeowners she has assisted guarantees Sarah is a feature on the leaderboards.
On a personal level, Aguirre says she cries tears of joy every time one of her clients get into a house. But she is also very matter of fact about her mission: “I have dedicated myself to the goal of narrowing the gap of Hispanic versus non-Hispanic home ownership. I’m honored with the privilege of a career where I can share my personal experience, knowledge, and market experience in home sales. My passion is to help local families build wealth in real estate.”