Liliana Quevedo, Realtor
Quevedo grew up in Juárez and has been a realtor in El Paso for six years. She is an agent for One Realty El Paso.</em
As a bilingual realtor in El Paso, with roots in Juárez, I have a lot of connections in Mexico. I got my license in 2004, just when the market was starting to get really busy. I knew I’d be good at it, and I knew a lot of people from Juárez, so my database was pretty good. People find right away that they can trust me, and I think that has been the reason for my success. I get 90 percent of my business by word of mouth.
I started seeing a large number of people coming from Juárez in about 2009. That year, when the markets in other states weren’t looking too good, El Paso stabilized. And the sales of real estate were good because all these people wanted to come over.
They’re moving across because of security. In my group of friends, probably seventy have encountered some kind of violence: kidnappings of relatives or the death of some friend or relative. Eighty percent of my Juárez clientele, I would say, had something very specific happen in their lives that sparked their move to El Paso. They didn’t just read about the violence in the paper. They were threatened, they were asked for bribes, or they got assaulted. They feel safer in El Paso.
These clients are middle income to upper income. Many of them can’t afford to sell their houses in Juárez because the real estate there is pretty inactive. People can’t sell their homes and get the 20 to 30 percent down payment that banks require of foreign nationals on a new home. Because of that bad market, those clients usually come to rent rather than to buy. I would say around 60 percent are rentals. The rental market is booming in El Paso, especially in the nice areas that are close to the border. Three-bedroom houses between $800 and $1,200 a month rent really quickly, particularly if they are near good schools. In my market, I tend to have people wanting to move to the West Side. It doesn’t have much traffic.
Right off the top of my head, I’d guess that 30 percent of the people who come over get a job here or open a business, but a lot of them are commuting back and forth across the border because they don’t have another choice: The doctors don’t necessarily have a license here, and the businesspeople may not have visas to bring their work over to the U.S. side.
It’s sad. I used to go to Juárez every weekend. They have great restaurants, and all my friends were over there. But little by little, we would hear there was a kidnapping or a killing. It started with the cartels. We thought they were fighting against each other. Then other gangs started taking advantage of the situation, and all of a sudden we had not only a drug war but a gang war and groups that were kidnapping wealthy people. When we started seeing civilians being killed in the cross fire, we said, “This is not good,” and we thought it was going to take a while to stop it. We don’t see the end of it yet.
People doubt that the violence is going to spill over. But here and there you hear about violence related to Juárez in El Paso. You hear stories about gang members in El Paso being part of the violence in Juárez. I think there was one occasion where a gang broke into somebody’s house here and took them to Juárez and had them killed. You hear a lot of stories—that’s one that was in the media about three or four months ago.
In general, people moving from Juárez are welcomed. If they live here, they help the El Paso economy by spending money in restaurants, retail, doctor’s offices—all of it. Still, you do have some locals worrying that the schools are being overcrowded, and since people from Juárez do not pay taxes, that causes resentment. The traffic is another thing. People from Juárez do not have insurance. So if you are in an accident with somebody who doesn’t have insurance, that’s a concern.
I have these ties with the communities across the border because I grew up in Juárez. I lived in El Paso for about six months when I was seventeen years old, but I wasn’t a resident again until 2001. In Mexico I was in sales. I worked for the Limited for a while, then I had my own furniture business. After I moved to El Paso, I taught English and Spanish to Japanese students. I went to realty school a few years later. My mother pushed me tremendously. I had just been divorced and needed flexible hours to be with my three children. I was a little naive about that, since this job requires more than forty hours a week.
Sometimes in this job you are not only a realtor but a psychologist, a friend, and an adviser. I think people appreciate a good listener who can let them express their problems. I don’t just sell them whatever they want; I give them advice on what would be a good purchase for the future. I think they appreciate that. First, I try to focus on their immediate priorities, then I give them a case scenario for the future: If something were to change in their life, would this be a good investment? Could they resell it quickly? Could they rent it? The answers to these questions may change the sales price, the type of house, the location the client wants.
The experience of selling a house is different for every client. I can have a buyer who knows exactly what he wants, and in two days he has made his selection. Then others don’t know what they want. They go to one neighborhood, then they change their minds and go to another area.
The most time I spent with one client was a year and a half. And that was showing properties once a week! That was one of my longest clients, but, hey, it all depends on the urgency. People from Juárez have an urgency. They’ll decide in a month or less what they want.