The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University (above) predicts that the number of Hispanic households will continue to climb within the next 15 years.

With experts predicting that millions of Hispanic households will be purchasing homes in the next five years, the real estate industry has been undertaking various strategies to tap into that growing market.

From developing marketing materials specifically geared for Spanish-speaking consumers to hosting seminars and workshops, everyone from real estate brokers to home inspectors to lenders is trying to woo Hispanic homebuyers.

Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies predicts that the number of Hispanic households will continue to climb within the next 15 years. By 2010, 49 percent of the nearly 13 million Hispanic households nationwide, or more than 6.3 million households, will own homes, the center estimates.

In 2003, there were 33,355 Hispanic homeowner households in Connecticut, or 30.7 percent of the 108,582 total Hispanic households in the state, according to Nancy McArdle, a researcher and consultant for Harvard University who cited information from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

For Prudential Connecticut Realty, wooing Hispanic homebuyers means integrating services for potential homebuyers who wish to conduct business in Spanish.

“We have a company vision of being the best service providers in real estate,” said Steve Richards, senior vice president of operations for Prudential Connecticut’s Northeast region.

The company last year decided to figure out how to best serve Hispanic homebuyers, so company leaders got together with the nearly 50 Prudential Connecticut agents who speak Spanish and asked them for advice.

“We saw the need ourselves,” Richards said.

The advice they got was to make the process easier for homebuyers whose first language is Spanish. But instead of creating another department or starting a special marketing campaign, the Spanish-speaking agents had a different suggestion: Put the company’s number in the phone book.

So in the third quarter of last year, Prudential Connecticut established dedicated phone lines and voice mail in the offices that have Spanish-speaking agents and published those numbers in the Spanish Yellow Pages. The phone numbers can connect homebuyers directly with those agents.

“It’s not a centralized system,” Richards said.

But that’s how they like it. Prudential didn’t want to add more administrative roadblocks to what can already be a complicated process.

“[The new phone numbers] just drop one of the barriers away,” Richards said.

Because the new system is so direct, the company hasn’t tracked its success. But Richards said he plans to follow up with the company’s Spanish-speaking agents to find out if it’s working.

The company also has a link on its Web site that lists all the Spanish-speaking professionals at Prudential Connecticut.

A Need for Services

In November, ERA Real Estate launched, the Spanish-language sister site to its existing consumer Web site. Visitors can search for homes throughout the country and access property information and office and sales associate profile pages.

“Almost every major company serving the industry has some marketing materials in Spanish,” said Gary Acosta, chairman of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, a group that is planning to start up a chapter in Boston.

That wasn’t the case a few years ago when only a few companies were offering bilingual information, he said.

But the industry is realizing that reaching out to Hispanic consumers can mean more business, particularly in states with big concentrations of Latinos, such as California, southern Florida and some parts of Texas.

“If you’re not communicating to the Hispanic market [in those states], you’re going to be quite limited in the amount of business you’re going to be able to attract,” Acosta said.

And Acosta believes there’s even more of a need for products and services in areas where there is a fast-growing Hispanic population, like parts of Massachusetts, Georgia, Wisconsin and North Carolina.

A study that the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals did almost two years ago found that the No. 1 barrier to Hispanic homeownership was the lack of information about the homebuying process. Other barriers included shortage of down payment money, limited credit history and language.

In another study that was released at the National Association of Realtors’ annual conference two months ago, more than half of Latino homebuyers reported that one of their main barriers to homeownership was finding a trustworthy adviser who could guide them through the homebuying process.

Acosta believes that type of information “has been absorbed by the industry” and companies are responding with various outreach and educational efforts. Today, organizations like NAR and the Mortgage Bankers Association have developed diversity training for their members.

Two years ago, Freddie Mac established CreditSmart Espanol, a national consumer credit education initiative designed to prepare Latinos for the financial responsibilities of homeownership. The financial literacy program provides information on credit and credit management, insight into how lenders assess credit histories and how credit plays a role in achieving financial goals – including buying a home.

“From an educational standpoint, we’ve seen a lot of progress,” Acosta said.

However, one area where more progress needs to be made is in mortgage lending, said Acosta, noting that products that are more flexible and have lower down payment requirements should be established.

Some national lenders, and Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, offer loans for borrowers who are having trouble with down payments or who lack a credit history. But Acosta believes more can be done.

“There are opportunities for the mortgage industry to develop more relevant lending products,” he said.