A June report showed immigrant homeowners were a strong market throughout the recovery from the housing bubble burst, and Atlantic County had one of the strongest in southern New Jersey.

This comes as no surprise to Todd Gordon, a real estate agent with Prudential Fox and Roach Real Estate in Margate, who said the casino industry has helped attract immigrant homeowners for years.

The only difference is that many who are buying now are taking advantage of low rates and prices, Gordon said. Incentives for first-time homebuyers in certain municipalities also are encouraging the increase in sales.

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This includes Egg Harbor Township, Galloway, Atlantic City and Ventnor, Gordon said. The incentives help with the down payment or money toward the purchase.

N.M. Salim Jahangir, 36, is an immigrant from Bangladesh and first came to Atlantic County in 2007. Jahangir said he went house hunting in 2010 and found one he liked in Egg Harbor Township.

Having previously lived in Atlantic City with his family, Jahangir said, he was happy to find a home in a quieter neighborhood. If the prices hadn't been so low, he would not have bought a house so soon.

Gordon had explained the municipal incentives, which resulted in Jahangir receiving $20,000 from the township, which helped reduce his mortgage.

The first-time immigrant homebuyer market is strong in New Jersey, but Atlantic County was one of the strongest from 2000 to 2010, based on the June report by Americas Society/ Council of the Americas and Partnership for a New American Economy.

It showed that the large increase in foreclosures and declining home values has attracted some of the 12,388 immigrants who moved to the county in the 10-year period to buy homes.

The benefits to such a move are twofold, according to Jason Marczak, director of policy at AS/COA. First, the immigrants tend to buy homes in areas where there are many vacant properties, and therefore are a concern for high crime.

Most American homeowners might stay away from these areas, Marczak said.

Secondly, by buying the homes in those areas, they breathe new life into it, he said. "By nature, they are more willing to take the risk in an area which may have once been in decline. They help boost the median home prices and rejuvenate these areas."

The economic opportunities these immigrants bring include the demand for local produce and retail, Marczak said. They revitalize the area when supermarkets, drug stores and other local businesses move into the area.

"They are pioneers in their communities, whether they are high-skilled or hands-on laborers," Marczak said. "They are not as well off as others and go to areas the working and middle-class (Americans) hesitate to go to."

In the decade covered in the report, the median home price increased by $4,141, Marczak said. While this is not an overwhelming increase, it is significant enough to make a difference for the average homeowner by stabilizing the value of their home.

The immigrants who buy houses also serve as a success story for family members who will join them in buying into the area, Gordon said. The casino industry has generated a lot of interest from people around the world to relocate for jobs.

He said he works with those first-timers, even if they do not have a credit history, to be able to immediately or eventually become homeowners. They are fulfilling their dreams by buying the homes, while taking advantage of affordable prices.

Contact Anjalee Khemlani:

609-272-7247; @AnjKhem on Twitter


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