Creative Commons License photo credit: kellypuffs

Did you know?  In Virginia, out of the estimated 7.6 million residents, nearly one million speak a language other than English – about 13 percent of the population.

With markets in Virginia changing rapidly to include a multitude of nationalities, REALTORS® sometimes clamber to minimize the risk they take when working with a non-English speaking client while maximizing their ability to get the listing, make the sale, and nurture their relationships with clients.  With the introduction of a new benefit for VAR members, bridging a language barrier is a professional advantage that Virginia REALTORS® have that competitors don’t. 

Interpreters were not always readily available or affordable, but VAR members have a new tool to help them capitalize on the growing international market.  VAR has recently partnered with a Virginia-based company, LLE-Language Services, to provide discounted rates to Virginia REALTORS® for telephonic interpretation and document translation services in over 150 languages.  LLE has been in business since 1979 and is recognized nationally as a leading language services provider to government, business and non-profit organizations.  Their accurate and reliable telephone and face-to-face interpretation as well as document and e-mail translations are provided on a pay-as-you-go basis, making it that much easier for Virginia REALTORS® to accommodate a wider array of clients and customers. Now, VAR members can access LLE’s world-class services at a negotiated low price.

Communication breakdowns cost hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. And it’s not just the language that gets lost. The rapport, loyalty, and the productive business relationship are hard to create and maintain when languages separate the REALTOR® from the client.

Virginia REALTOR® Jo Anne Johnson, managing broker at Westgate Realty Group, Inc. in Falls Church, says most clients who do not speak English are uncomfortable trusting English-speaking REALTORS® – especially with financial information. Agents can’t figure out what houses to show clients if they can’t find out what the clients can and cannot afford to buy.

Having someone involved in a transaction who does speak both English and the clients’ language is handy, but as Sarah Stelmok, an associate broker with Century 21 New Millennium in Fredericksburg, explains, that’s not always the solution, either. Her Spanish-speaking buyers were doing great throughout most of a transaction with the aid of a Spanish-speaking buyer’s agent, but when it came down to presenting the HOA documents, the buyer’s agent wasn’t available, leaving Sarah’s team scrambling to try to find someone fluent in English and Spanish to help the buyers over the hump.

The competition for clients is fierce. Finding your edge is your key to building business, and with a growing segment of the home-buying public speaking another language these days, figuring out how to break that language barrier might not be a bad way to spend a strategy session or two, or at least to minimize risk and keep your non-English speaking client transactions on track.

Information about VAR’s new member service partner, LLE, can be found at www.VARealtor.com/LLE.