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Onofre helps Iowa Latinos buy homes


Claudia Onofre moved to the United States from Guatemala when she was a little girl. Her family lived in California for several years before coming to Iowa when she was a teen. She was home-schooled, and after completing her secondary education, Onofre worked various jobs before finding her niche as an interpreter.

While interpreting for a mortgage company, she began to realize how much information was lost in translation. The company’s workers had little or no understanding of Spanish, and she didn’t have much technical knowledge of mortgages. Moreover, many Spanish-speaking customers were new to the American system of banking and finance. She decided the only way to do justice to the needs of the customers would be to understand the Spanish and understand the business.

“Helping the Hispanic community is very important to me,” she said. “It is a big step to obtain your first home.”

The company she was working for at the time, America’s Mortgage Corp., trained her in loan originating. Onofre says she’s glad to work in a field where her talents and accomplishments are more important than degrees. Three years ago, Bankers Trust Co. recognized her talent and hired her. She currently serves as a residential mortgage originator and assistant vice president.      “The toughest part of my job is dealing with customers who don’t speak the language and are unaccustomed to using or trusting a bank,” she said. “Part of my job is teaching them how to be a bank customer. You have take them by the hand and guide them through what they need to do to establish their credit, set up bank accounts, and budget and save their money.”

Is isn’t an instantaneous process. As Onofre helps customers establish good credit so they can purchase their first homes, she is also establishing relationships.

“It’s important for [customers who don’t speak English] to have someone who they trust and have learned to trust over time, not just a translator.” Onofre takes an active role in the Hispanic community, serving on boards of directors of and volunteering for several organizations, including Latinos Unidos of Iowa.     

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