Illinois REALTORS® meet with Ecuadorian Consulate General

Another successful meeting made possible by the Illinois REALTORS® Consulate General Liaison program!

The meeting with Carlos Lenin Housse Dávalos, Consulate General of the Republic of Ecuador was led by the Illinois REALTORS® liaison, Betty Milam, broker with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services/Koenig Rubloff Realty. Milam is originally from Ecuador and has been very involved in international real estate.

The meeting was also attended by Sharon Gorrell, the Illinois REALTOR® working group staff liaison, and by Vicky Silvano of Century 21 SGR in Chicago. Silvano was recently appointed as the Chair of the Consulate Liaison Working Group.

The group discussed differences in the Illinois real estate market and industry practices in Ecuador. Milam will be formulating a housing seminar with the Consulate’s trade office for first-time home buyers within the Chicago area Ecuadorian community in the near future.

Illinois REALTORS® expands Consulate General Liaison roster

national flags of countries all over the world

Bigstock images

A shared curiosity about countries and cultures outside the United States has drawn Plainfield/Aurora REALTOR® Vicky Sampah and Naperville REALTOR® Andy Velkme into the Illinois REALTORS® Consulate General Liaison Program.

The program, which is still accepting applications, serves as an important way for REALTORS® to work with foreign nationals interested in living and investing in Illinois.


Vicky Sampah (center) and Jim Kinney (right) welcomed a visitor from Ghana (left).

The countries they’re matched with are in two continents about 4,000 miles apart. Sampah, managing broker and CEO of L’Abri Realty & Management in Aurora, is matched with Rwanda, a country in East Africa, bordered by Congo, Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi. Velkme, a broker for Caton Commercial Real Estate, is matched with Latvia, a European country bordered by the Baltic Sea, Estonia, Russia and Lithuania.

Sampah, who became a REALTOR® in 2003, says, “I’ve always had an interest in Africa and its real estate industry development.  After looking into Rwanda and its resources, I became intrigued and my interest in the country grew vastly. I believe that Costco and Starbucks have set the foundations for us to build relationships with Rwanda and this is going to be an exciting journey.

Rwandan national official flag. African patriotic symbol banner element background. Flag of Rwanda waving in the wind with detailed fabric texture, illustration

Rwanda flag (Bigstock Images)

“I am originally from Ghana, West Africa with 15 years of combined real estate experience,” she says. “I worked with the government of Ghana in public service and gained policymaking and legislative experience. I always had passion for global real estate and institutional development, especially for the African Continent where real estate regulation is almost absent. My experience with real estate practice in Illinois, coupled with great opportunities to engage in Capitol Conferences with Illinois REALTORS® has made my vision even clearer.

“Since 2011, I have supported the Ghana Real Estate Professionals Association (GREPA) with its formation and development as well as consulting Ghana’s government in developing the Ghanaian Real Estate Bill.  I felt the African continent was disconnected as far as real estate and saw the need to connect.”


Andy Velkme holds Latvian flag and stands with his family in Chicago’s Daley Plaza in a celebration of the Baltic Way in 2014.

Velkme says joining the Consulate General Liaison Program is the “perfect way to blend his professional and social life together.” Velkme and his wife (Indra) take their children to K-12 Latvian school on Saturdays to learn about geography, literature, language and more. He says Chicago boasts the most active Latvian community outside of Latvia itself.

“Through the Consulate General Liaison Program, I hope to promote real estate opportunities in Illinois to Latvian citizens and to show that real estate here is a safe investment,” says Velkme, “an even better value than real estate on the east or west coast.”

Sampah echoes Velkme’s sentiment, saying, “I have learned how coffee has helped forge relationships between Rwanda and American corporations such as Costco and Starbucks, and I foresee a great opportunity for expansion of real estate business between both countries. As a Consulate Liaison, I can educate Americans about Rwanda and eliminate preconceived ideas they have about each other, thus opening more opportunities for business.”

Latvia flag ,original and simple Latvia flag

Latvia flag (Bigstock)

Background of liaison program

Earlier this year, Illinois REALTORS® launched the Consulate General Liaison Program, matching REALTORS® with international real estate interests and/or connections to countries represented in the diplomatic community in Illinois.

Originally, Illinois REALTORS® forged ties with eight countries, modeling the program after the NAR Federal Political Coordinator program and the Illinois REALTORS® State Legislative Contact Program. But since May, the size of the program has more than doubled.

More REALTORS® are welcome to apply so the program can continue to grow. See the list of current liaisons here.

Previous stories about the Consulate General Liaison Program include:

Did you get the October magazine yet?


Check your mail this week for the October Illinois REALTOR® magazine, which includes a message from incoming president Doug Carpenter and a cover story “Celebrating our past; looking to the future” about the future of our association.

Other feature stories include:

  • The opportunities for REALTORS® through the growth of the Consulate General Liaison Program;
  • Advice on protecting your office and your clients from cybercrime;
  • How the Real Property Alliance is helping Chicago taxpayers file tax appeals; and
  • All the regular columns written by Illinois REALTORS® staff members.

I can’t wait

Read it online now!

Illinois REALTORS® learn from Czech counterparts


(l to r) Sharon Gorrell, Joanna Krouz (Broker, Keller Williams, Buford, GA), Jan Borůvka and Jana Herdova.

By Jana Herdova and Sharon Gorrell

Jana Herdova, Illinois REALTOR® Consulate Liaison and NAR President’s Liaison to the Czech Republic, along with Sharon Gorrell, Illinois REALTOR Housing Policy Advisor and Staff Liaison to the Global Working Group, participated in a two-day trade mission in the Czech Republic during the past week.

In her capacity as president’s liaison, Herdova coordinated the mission with Jan Borůvka, Secretary General for Asociace realitních kanceláří České republiky (ARK ČR) and is also the Co-Chair of the Property Agents Committee for European Association of Real Estate Professions (CEPI-CEI) where he works on behalf of real estate professionals on industry standards and public policy in the European Parliament of the European Union.

Herdova and Gorrell toured property developments, attended a building and real estate trade show, and participated in a round table discussion on real estate markets and global business programming for associations.

Gorrell explained how the Illinois REALTORS® Global Working Group structure and partnerships with organizations such as AREAA, NAREB and NAHREP would better prepare members to engage in global business. A better understanding of other cultures will help members become trusted advisors to clients from anywhere in the world.

Borůvka pointed out similarities in his association’s advocacy and public policy. He shared that there is pending legislation in the Czech Parliament that will establish a license law policy. While the Czech Republic currently does not require professional credentials to sell real estate, he is hoping a regulatory framework will help their real estate practitioners become the best, most qualified, trusted advisors to their clients too.

Also, the monetary policy has resulted in very low interest rates, even lower than U.S. rates, he said. A low supply of new units, coupled with the low interest rates, has generated a large demand and has pushed up prices. A mixed-use development just outside of the Prague city center has duplexes in the $600,000-plus price range and condo prices roughly half that.

The developer shared that the green building movement is gaining some ground there.  However, like the U.S., the costs are relatively high and people have to think long-term to realize the increased investment.  The Czech Parliament has also had several discussions on policies such as set-asides for affordable housing units.

In a discussion with real estate broker and owner of Professionals Real Estate Consultants s.r.o. Tomáś Duda, we learned about some of the commercial trends in office space.  “Co-worker” style offices are becoming quite popular because they allow independent or small business owners to access communal spaces, administrative services and other office needs for a monthly fee as an alternative to leasing entire spaces. This has provided an affordable option for many business owners.

Borůvka is looking forward to learning more about Illinois while sharing information on the Czech real estate industry and European Union standards so our members can better guide clients who may want to invest or relocate there. The ARK website can be found at this link: and the CERI site is These are good resources to gain a better understanding of the European real estate industry.

“For us, it was extremely interesting to hear the news about the real estate market in Illinois,” Borůvka said. “It is always interesting to watch the development of the real estate market in a developed economy. Compare it with the development in our country. Many things can so easily be estimated in advance.”

Borůvka is happy to help NAR and Illinois REALTORS® interested in doing business in Europe or helping European clients here in the U.S.  He plans to attend the 2018 NAR Convention in Chicago to connect with Illinois REALTORS® and experience the rich Czech heritage the Chicagoland region enjoys.

CAR Global Council panel discussion encourages understanding of different cultures

Earlier this month, the Chicago Association of REALTORS® presented a panel discussion on the topic “How to Monetize Global Real Estate” at the East Bank Club. Mabél Guzmán served as moderator for three panelists: Sonia Anaya, Jim Kinney and Susanna Cherubin-Delisi.

The panel had a well-rounded collection of advice and experiences to share with the group.

Anaya highlighted the fact many members are probably engaging in global real estate and are not even aware of it. She said, “You may sell a home in your own backyard to a client from a different country. In most instances, the cultures and the common practices they are accustomed to are different than the way we do a transaction.”

Understanding those differences and having the ability to relate in a culturally astute way is becoming more and more important in today’s marketplace.

According to NAR’s Profile of International Activity (, foreign buyers purchased $102.6 billion of residential property from April 2015 to March 2016. While the global economy and currency fluctuations will impact annual global activity, international investors and home buyers are a part of our economy. Our members, as the trusted advisors, should have some understanding of culturally diverse business practices.

Kinney mentioned the value of the Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) designation and tools available for REALTORS®, including the international property database through (
“These are here for the members to use and help their clients, both inbound and outbound,” said Kinney.