JP Letnick has seen just how difficult the home-buying experience can be for Canadians who don’t speak English fluently.
His Letnick Estates Group acted as real-estate agents for a mother and son, recently, whose first language was Mandarin.
While the son could speak English well enough, his mother could not and neither of them felt comfortable with contracts.
They chose Letnick Estates Group because it offers residential and commercial real estate transactions in French, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, and Russian.
Letnick and his wife, Joanna Wang, helped the family navigate Kelowna’s real-estate market. They helped them purchase a half-duplex under construction and even arranged for customization since the home wasn’t completed.
It was an especially rewarding moment for Letnick, who said the family had been working with another agent that couldn’t communicate with them.
“It’s almost like a sigh of relief,” Letnick said of the moment a client can speak in his or her native tongue. “It’s not like Vancouver or Calgary, where buyers can find agents who speak their language. They find it helpful and refreshing. They’re happy.”
It’s not just foreign buyers, either, who are coming to Kelowna looking for help buying a home.
Letnick said the vast majority of his customers—he estimates 90 per cent—who request help in a language other than English are Canadian citizens or permanent residents.
That could mean new Canadians who have rented for long periods and now want to buy, or it could mean someone from Quebec who is retiring to the Okanagan.
“When people hear ‘second language’ they think ‘foreign buyer,’” Letnick said. “But that’s not necessarily the case.”
With the introduction of a speculation tax in BC, the Letnick Estates Group has noticed a slow down in Canadians from other parts of the country looking to relocate to the Okanagan Valley.
“This is a sad situation,” he said. “Many of our clients from outside the Okanagan bring unique talents and business ideas to the Valley which is now being suppressed by the NDP provincial government.”
Letnick said his agency will also strive to help someone who might speak another language—be it German, Hindi, Spanish, or another—by offering translation services.
It’s all in an attempt to offer all-in-one marketing for listings and developments with clients at the forefront, he said.
Letnick’s seen at least three instances, personally, where a foreign-language buyer had signed an Exclusive Buyers Agency agreement without understanding what it entailed.
One case has even landed in court, Letnick said.
Letnick said not only does that not sit well with him in general, he also realizes his Letnick Estates Group and its eight teammates carry with them a name built on honesty and trust in the Okanagan.
JP is the son of Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick.
“We have a strong reputation to maintain,” JP said.