Lupe ‘Lupita’ Uribe grew up in Southeast Los Ángeles with four other daughters of a single mother who would move from one rental house to another, and learned an important lesson that serves her well these days.
When the landlord would show up to collect rent the first of the month, he was not interested if a faucet needed to be fixed or if a water heater leaked. They were only interested in getting their money.
“I was so tired of seeing my mom renting in places that you don’t have a choice,” said Uribe, who eventually helped her mother buy her own house in El Monte. “She bought her house for $117,000. That home is now worth more than my home here in Fresno!”
Today, Uribe, the mother of two children (Brandon, who graduated from UC Irvine helps her with the business; Michelle, who recently graduated from Central High School will be headed to USC) is president of the Fresno chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP).
She is co-owner with her husband of Villa Río Estates Realty, and maintains a hectic schedule. The 44-year-old Uribe, who is also a member of the Fresno Association of Realtors, got into the real estate business at the height of the housing rush in 2007 only to see the bubble burst the following year.
Uribe has cleaned houses, studied to be a bilingual teacher and flipped houses (often putting her two children to work painting and rehabbing during the summer).
She doesn’t need a reminder of how her past has shaped her current career. She has a photo of her humble beginnings in East Los Ángeles on her refrigerator door. “Every morning when I open my fridge, I reflect on that,” she said.
1. How did you get started in real estate?
“Prior to me entering the real estate business, I was a stay-at-home mom. I was managing our own personal properties. We are also investors. We were buying homes and fixing them up and renting them out. So, I had prior knowledge of real estate a little bit, and the lingo and knowing all the issues. I had always wanted to join the real estate industry, but my main focus was making sure my kids were very well taken care of at home and off to a great start in education.
“Right before 2007, I started working on getting licensed. I was always reluctant about going through the test, because people said half failed. I’m one of those people that will not take ‘no’ for an answer. I took the test and passed it my first time. My husband was the broker. He opened up the office, and we had 12 agents right before the market collapse. We had two business partners. Six months later, they walked out. So, we were left to make a decision: Either continue or close our doors. I shared my thoughts with my husband, and he said that in order for me to remain in this business is to approach real estate different. Seven years later we are still in business.
“We did go through struggles when the market went down. We do have very loyal customers that have come back to our services, and the referrals. I’ve been blessed with referrals from Wells Fargo, Golden One, and Kings Mortgage.”
2. How would you describe today’s housing market?
“It’s hot! It’s shifted into a whole different direction because now we have a shortage of homes. When the market declined, we had so many homes and now if I get a new buyer, I’m lucky if I show them two or three homes. The most affordable homes are the ones that tend to get more activity. The higher-end homes stay on the market a little longer. But you’re always going to have more average (income) people and high-end people. I’m able to service first-time homebuyers, which I’m such a big advocate for home ownership.
“Homeownership for me is important because I grew up in Southeast L.A. renting with my mom. I’m able to feed off to my clients that you can start small and build your wealth, whether it’s a little casita in southeast Fresno, but it becomes your home. You’re buying a piece of America. especially for our gente who are always seeking a home ownership dream.”
3. For new-home buyers, what is the most important thing to understand?
“Research. It is important for them to research. Buyers going into buying a new home don’t realize they can utilize the services of a Realtor. When I sell the new homes, I like to go in there and negotiate. When you go and see a model home with all the upgrades, you don’t get those upgrades. It happened to me personally. All of a sudden, my kids said, ‘Where’s the piano? Where’s this.” You just buy the shell. Just buy your shell so that you don’t finance all those beautiful upgrades into your loan.”
4. How about for first-time homebuyers?
“They need 10 times more help because of the process. I’ve serviced doctors, attorneys and you would think they are highly educated. But they will tell me, ‘Lupe, explain to me the process. I don’t know the profession, so I’m depending on you.’ I’m going to try to get as much as I can for my buyer. I look at their money as if it was mine.”
I THINK HOMEOWNERSHIP SHOULD BE GIVEN TO THAT PERSON WHO IS COMING IN WITH A DOWN PAYMENT. WHY? BECAUSE THEY SACRIFICED.Lupe Uribe, co-owner of Villa Río Estates Realty
5. How has the real estate market changed since the Great Recession?
“I would say servicing clients with more knowledge because you hear so much of the past so that you have to look at educating them. There are so many misconceptions or misunderstandings. People can have this idea of what they’ve heard, or they’ve had a bad experience. That was one of my biggest challenges when I became a Realtor. They would say that ‘because of you I lost my home, or my payments went up.’ What happened in the past of people buying a home and the lender not explaining the loan product they were signing was the biggest challenge. Those (adjustable rate) loans were not designed for the average consumer. They were meant for the investor who would re-sell the house later on.”
6. Who’s to blame for the housing collapse?
“I became a Realtor just before the decline. I was exposed to the meltdown. People were buying $700,000 homes with $7,000 crazy mortgage payments. I think people were pushing up the homes. If one bid one price, the other would bid higher. The other factor too was the lenders didn’t verify state income. Now, a lender wants to verify the income, the employment, everything. I tell the buyer, ‘Was your income tax, everything that is required for a loan application asked of you?’ That is a good lender.
“I want to educate my buyers. The more knowledge they have, the more educated they are. When the market was so hot, consumers were buying more home than they could afford. Someone working at McDonald’s making $25,000 a year buying a $300,000 home … the math doesn’t add up. You have taxes, insurance. They had no idea what they were buying into. It was just sign, sign, sign.”
7. What is the best way to create affordable housing?
“Not everyone was designed to be a homeowner. I think homeownership should be given to that person who is coming in with a down payment. Why? Because they sacrificed. If you want to savor that feeling of being a home owner, then you have to put money aside every month and come in with a good down payment because it will allow you to savor that home ownership with more gratitude. When I bought my home on the high market, I bought with 20 percent down payment on a $412,000 house.
“Those people who went to a lender (during the high market) just signed, signed, signed and didn’t put a down payment. Those are the people that walked away from home ownership because it didn’t cost them a penny. Where it had us that bought into the market with a good substantial down payment because we had to pay. We were invested.
There are two questions I ask a buyer: ‘Are you prepared to be owners? And, do you have your down payment?’ Si te cuesta, lo cuidas (If it costs you, you’ll care for it).”
8. How did you get involved with NAHREP? What are your main responsibilities as president?
“When I became a Realtor, my second year I was invited to a luncheon. I was captivated by the mission statement: To help others in the industry reach homeownership and helping others grow. There was a vacancy with NAHREP. There are 20,000 members nationwide. Through NAHREP, I’ve been to the White House twice. I don’t any other organization would allow me to savor going to the White House for briefings related to our real estate industry.”
“There are so many responsibilities. My main responsibility is my board. It is 80 percent new. Seven of them are Realtors. We are required to put on educational events and forums together. A gala, mixer, advocacy more than anything else.”
9. Home ownership in the U.S. has dropped to 64.4 percent, its lowest rate since 1967. What is the primary factor for this?
“It’s pretty self explanatory. It goes hand in hand. People were losing their jobs. The gardener couldn’t maintain his business. The housekeeper no longer was needed because the CEO lost his job. The real estate industry was the heart of the housing bubble. I always tell people that ask me it’s like the octupus. We are the head, and then you have the gardener, the concrete layer, etc.”
“I think two years ago it bottomed out. I think we now see a steady growth in home value.”
10. What are the biggest challenges facing homebuyers today?
“I would look at it as them not getting accurate information. They have a lot of misconceptions. Also, lack of knowledge because they may not know. I’m a huge advocate for educating. This is the biggest investment of your life.”