MBA Diversity & Inclusion Interview: Deborah Garcia-Gratacos of DEVAL

(One in a recurring monthly series featuring efforts of the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee, part of MBA’s commitment to increase racial, gender, sexual orientation and ethnic diversity within the mortgage banking industry.)

Deborah Garcia-Gratacos is President and founder of DEVAL, Irving, Texas, responsible for overall strategic direction and operating results.

DEVAL is a non-bank, Hispanic, woman-owned special loan servicer in the nation specializing in subservicing for residential real estate assets, primarily for Hispanic “high-touch” loans. DEVAL has provided financial, real estate and management consulting services to clients since 2002. DEVAL serves its public, private and institutional commercial clients with a range of real estate, financial, accounting and management consulting services on a local and national level. The company recently received Fannie Mae approval for mortgage servicing.

Garcia-Gratacos is a licensed attorney with a professional and educational background in real estate and finance. A provider of consulting services to both private and public clients, she has served clients on numerous levels, including HUD, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Interior, the State Department, the General Services Administration, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Department of Agriculture. Prior to founding DEVAL, García-Gratacos worked as a Real Estate Consultant for Arthur Andersen LLP Valuation Group in Vienna, Va.

Garcia-Gratacos has a Master’ s of Business specializing in Real Estate from the University Of Florida Warrington College Of Business; a Juris Doctor from the University Of Florida Levin College of Law; a Dual Bachelor’s of Arts in Public Administration and Criminal Justice from the University of Central Florida. She is also a Certified Residential Underwriter with the Mortgage Bankers Association and sits on the BB&T Springfield Local Advisory Board. She is aa native of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. She can be contacted at

MBA NEWSLINK: How large is the potential Hispanic market for mortgage lending and servicing?

DEBORAH GARCIA-GRATACOS: Hispanics are the fastest-growing segment of the American population, with 55.3 million in the United States in 2014. And this is projected to grow to 30 percent of the population by 2060. But the influence that Hispanics have on housing is even bigger than that number suggests, since they accounted for 69 percent of the total net growth in homeownership in 2015.

And compared to other groups, there is still plenty of space to expand in this sector, since only 45 percent of Hispanic households own homes, compared to 72 percent for non-Hispanic households. That’s why many lenders have developed specific programs to appeal to these borrowers. This is the future for our industry, and those who can understand and serve this market are going to reap the biggest benefits.

NEWSLINK: What challenges do servicers face in meeting the needs of the Hispanic consumer?

GARCIA-GRATACOS: There are both language and cultural barriers that servicers need to address to serve the needs of this community.

Unfortunately, a majority of the documentation that gets sent to borrowers is in English, which is likely to get discarded if someone’s dominant language is Spanish. Despite abiding by the letter of federal law, many mandated servicer communications will be completely ineffective if they are produced in English-language versions only.

In addition, when borrowers have questions about their loan, especially if that loan goes into default, they often have no one to call who speaks Spanish. These are significant areas that could devastate Hispanic homeownership, because borrowers will not know if and when terms change, or what remediation is available.

Culturally, servicers often don’t understand the multi-generational aspect of Hispanic households, which differs from the typical non-Hispanic household. There may be multiple points of view and multiple decision makers, so a more involved approach is called for.

NEWSLINK: When it comes to loss mitigation in particular, what are some of the important steps servicers can take to better serve Hispanic consumers?

GARCIA-GRATACOS: I think there’s an important pivot that servicers who want to reach this market need to make–it’s not just a matter of having communications here or there that can be transcribed into Spanish. It is a full-on effort to provide bilingual single-points of contact for the Hispanic book of business. Servicers can set up dedicated Hispanic loss mitigation and call center personnel supporting these single points of contact. Lenders can hire underwriters and quality control personnel who are fluent in Spanish.

And online tools need to be converted as well, which means providing a Spanish website portal as well as FAQs addressing hardships with step-by-step action points fully translated in Spanish. Servicers also need to be equipped with a complete library of loss mitigation documentation covering all of the alternatives available under loss mitigation.

NEWSLINK: How is DEVAL equipped to serve the Hispanic community?

GARCIA-GRATACOS: As a Hispanic-owned organization we built our business from the ground up with a passion to serve the under-served Hispanic homeowner. We have a team of skilled bilingual underwriters, quality control, customer service and loss mitigation personnel.

We also maintain a complete catalogue of documents fully translated into Spanish to run parallel with the current version of English legal documents.

These efforts underline the significance we see in this borrower segment and our commitment to serving them well.


The MBA Diversity and Inclusion Committee was formed in 2013 to provide leadership and guidance to help the real estate finance industry gain a competitive advantage by increasing diversity in leadership, workforce and suppliers.

MBA encourages its members to support these efforts and to recognize the competitive advantages of embracing a diverse and inclusive workforce and marketplace. For more information about the MBA Diversity and Inclusion Initiative, click

MBA holds its annual Summit on Diversity & Inclusion from Nov. 16-17 at the Capital Hilton in Washington, D.C. To register, click Early registration ends Oct. 5.

For more information, click