When Carmen and Oscar Cifuentes met in 1991 at a local dance in San Diego, little did they know how much they had in common.
But one dance and one particular glance set things in motion.
“He took a look at me and there was nothing he could do,” Carmen says. “From then we were a team in every way.”
A team with strikingly similar backgrounds that became the bedrock of their success. Oscar and Carmen each immigrated to the United States from Colombia in 1978, leaving behind poverty and a country in political unrest.
From it, they persevered, found their footing and eventually began living the American dream. Oscar spent 24 years in the United States Navy and then 14 years as an independent real estate broker. Carmen started five businesses, sold real estate and helped raise the couple’s 10 children.
With the youngest two daughters graduating high school in 2018, and the question of “What’s next?” on the horizon, the two sat down and wondered what to do.
The answer was simple: grow the brokerage.
Through the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP), the pair were very familiar with RE/MAX. For years NAHREP and RE/MAX have partnered to help increase Hispanic homeownership and wealth. Since 2015, more RE/MAX agents than any other brand are recognized in NAHREP’s Top 250 Latino Agents Report.
Knowing the RE/MAX reputation with NAHREP, the Cifuenteses realized what they had to do if they wanted to grow.
“It was time to take the next step,” Carmen says. “We knew we couldn’t do it alone, so we started looking and doing lots of research trying to find the best place that would help us grow. It was not really difficult to make a choice. Looking at numbers, data, the overall brand, and the look and feel, it wasn’t hard to choose RE/MAX.”
1. If Latinos were a stand-alone country, they would be one of the top 10 economies and would be the 3rd fastest growing GDP.
2. U.S. Latino GDP is growing 70% faster than the U.S.’s non-Latino GDP.
3. Despite being only 18% of the U.S. population, Latinos are responsible for 82% of growth in the U.S. labor force since 2008.
4. With a purchase power of $2.13 trillion, the real consumption of Latinos in the U.S. grew 72% faster than the rest of the population.
5. Latinos are America’s most youthful group and are growing six times faster than non-Latino groups.
In late 2018 the couple opened RE/MAX Country in Valley Center, California, a small and diverse town in North San Diego County.
The rural area is ripe with a perfect built-in population for the Cifuenteses. It has a large military veteran and Hispanic population, two markets they already have a strong footing in. The area also is devoid of many gathering spots for people working remotely or needing office space, something the Cifuenteses considered when opening an office. The couple is leasing a building big enough to be used as a co-working space for others in the community; the idea is it will be a resource for the community but also bring in potential clients.
The Cifuenteses are looking at a burgeoning 2020: They’re adding agents and expanding their footprint in northern San Diego County. Recently at a NAHREP event, Oscar was speaking with a mortgage broker from Texas who was interested in getting a start in real estate. Oscar stopped him there, grabbed his arm and took him to the RE/MAX booth.
“As we know, if he wants to get his start, there isn’t anywhere better than RE/MAX,” Oscar says.
With the goal of growing from a small brokerage to a powerhouse, the Cifuenteses have planted seeds in their rural, farming community. Now they are waiting the for the first crops to pop up.
“I think with RE/MAX we will definitely have an impact on the local market,” Carmen says.
Oscar Cifuentes arrived in Miami with his mother in 1978 at 18 years old. He couldn’t speak English, but quickly found a job in a furniture store, his hard work mattering more than anything else. In that first week in the United States, he saw a bridge draw up to let a ship pass through. It was like nothing he’d ever seen. In a new culture and new town, he knew he was in the right place.
“I thought, ‘This is heaven,’” he says.
Across the country, Carmen arrived in San Diego at the same time. She’d been adopted at 14 and brought to the United States with her siblings. She was behind on her education — she started kindergarten at age 10 — and didn’t have the resources to advance her education. But here she was in the land of opportunity. At 22 she started her first business, a newspaper she later sold. She’d go on to start several more businesses, including in technology and marketing.
“I didn’t know that didn’t know, so I just did it,” she says. “People ask, ‘How did you do that?’ It’s simple. I worked hard.”
It would have been easy for the couple to relax and relish in retirement. But it’s not in their mindset. They couldn’t sit tight. It’s always been about the process and always about growing. From making it to America, to starting a family to finding success in all they do.
Partnering with RE/MAX and growing their business was the next thing.
“We love real estate.” Oscar says. “We absolutely love to do this.”