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9 Member Parliamentary Delegation From Ghana Parliament Visits Chicago

…. On Real Estate Work Visit

1“The 21st century will be shaped by what happens not just in Rome or Moscow or Washington, but by what happens in Accra as well. You have the power to hold your leaders accountable and to build institutions that serve the people. America will be with you every step of the way as a Partner, as a friend” – President Obama, Accra 2009

It is interesting to note that the real estate industry in Ghana is growing. In recent years the real estate sector has experienced an exponential growth with the market undergoing increased activity with buying, selling, and leasing of property for residential, commercial and investment purposes. The government believes that the growth has a potential of having a positive impact on the economy. Hence the need for the Ghana government to consider enacting the Real Estate Licensing Act, that it believes would introduce a high degree of integrity and probity into the Real Estate Industry.

The Real Estate Licensing Act would help eliminate fraud, dishonesty, unfair practices and improve competition in the industry. The involvement of the government body in the industry would help protect consumers by ensuring that all Real Estate professionals are licensed and properly educated. It believes that knowledgeable Real Estate Agents and Brokers would be able to competently carry out their tremendous responsibilities responsibly and bring a high degree of professionalism into the industry.

The need to improve the image of the real estate industry in Ghana and pass a Real Estate Licensing Act which will protects the public, bring transparency and best practices in within the industry led a Nine-Member Parliamentary Delegation on a work to visit Chicago from August 2nd to August 8th 2015.

On Sunday August 2nd, the delegation which was made up of members from a joint committee on Water, Works & Housing and the Committee on Lands and Forestry led by Hon. David Oppon-Kusi, Ranking Member of the Works and Housing Committee arrived at the O’Hare Airport, Chicago to begin their 7 day work study of US Real Estate.

They were met on arrival by Mrs. Vicky Sampah, Managing Broker of L’Abri Realty in Aurora, Illinois, Founder and President of Ghana Real Estate Professionals Association (GREPA), . who organized, sponsored and hosted this event in collaboration with the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), Illinois Association of REALTORS® (IAR), Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS® (MORe) and the International Real Estate Federation (FIABCI)

The Event was officially opened on Monday August 3rd with a brief introduction by Vicky Sampah.

On the National Level

Members of the delegation were introduced to the History and Overview of the National Association by Katie Stouffs Grimes – MD, NAR Global Alliances. Stacey Moncrieff (Vice President, NAR Business-to-Business Communications ) talked about the impact on Society and NAR Initiatives whiles Joe Schneider (Manager, NAR Global Outreach ) gave NAR Global mission and initiatives.

On the State Level

The Director of IAR Government Affairs, Greg St Aubin, explained the US Government’s Role in Support of the Real Estate Industry. He also made suggestions to refine the Ghana Real Estate Draft Bill. Mr. Aubin was backed by Jim Kinney (President & Chair of Global Task Force, Illinois Association of REALTORS®), Mike Drews (President-Elect, Illinois Association of REALTORS® ), Doug Carpenter (Treasurer, Illinois Association of REALTORS ) and Bill Caton (Vice –Chair IAR Commercial Committee) who threw light on the Regulatory Context through Practitioner Perspectives2

Also discussed was legislation within the State of Illinois, Code of Ethics, Enforcement the Cooperating Marketplace from the local perspective and overall best practices.

Special invitation was made to the State Representative of the Illinois 33rd District Marcus C. Evans Jr. who spoke on the American Dream &Value of Property Ownership.

The need for a Multiple listing service by MRED CEO, Rebecca Jenson and other presentations from Attorneys, Title Companies, Insurance and Appraisers were made.

The second day of the work visit was dedicated to education and tour. Speakers from the CCIM Institute and the REALTOR University described the various Real Estate Professional Courses, Certifications and Designations offered. The Delegates were proud to hear that 28 students from Ghana had successfully taken and passed the CCIM Foundations in Commercial Real Estate Class.

They were given a tour of the Roosevelt University’s Vertical Campus – The Wabash Building; a 32-story structure was completed in March 2012 and stands 469 feet tall, 100 feet across and 170 feet deep, Green building, Green campus, Green initiatives. Roosevelt’s Wabash building won a number of sustainability awards since its opening, including Gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in Washington, D.C. in late 2012 and recently won the 2015 International Real Estate Federation’s World Gold Prix d’Excellence Award at its recent World Congress meeting held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The Delegates also spent time at the Marshall Bennett Institute of Real Estate, the Chicago School of Real Estate offers two master level programs in real estate: a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Real Estate and a Master of Science in Real Estate (MSRE). Tour and presentations were given by Paul Matthews, assistant vice president for campus planning and operations and Justin Osadjan, Director of International Programs

The Delegates were very interested in the Real Estate programs offered in the school and asked questions about admissions, scholarships for prospective Ghanaian graduate students and how the Ghanaian Universities can Affiliate with the School.

On the 3rd day of the Work Visit, The Delegates traveled to a surburban town of Chicago where they were hosted at the main office of the Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS® (MORe). At MORe, they were scheduled to continue a more detailed discussion on how brokerage functions, professional standards, education and Association structure

They had the opportunity to listen to Real Estate Attorneys, Mortgage, Appraisers, Title and Insurance Companies all playing independent roles in each transactions.
The event was facilitated by Marsha Collins-Mroz (Global Chairperson- MORe). The resource persons for the day were made up of :

Mortgage – Cross Country Mortgage

Attorney – Joe Fortunato

Title Company – CityWide Title (Michael Walsh)

Insurance – State Farm Insurance (Laura Deppert)

Appraiser – CityWide Services – (Michael Walsh)

Paul Martis – Commercial Real Estate

Lynn Madison (president-elect MORe) with Kate Sax discussed Association structure, contracts, forms and disclosures whiles Regina McDowell (Director of Education – MORe) gave detailed training programs, continuing education, certifications and designations offered at the local level.

The Delegates continued their work on day 4 with International Consultant, William Endsley with presentations on International relationships and transactions. Meeting space was sponsored by Century 21 S.G.R Inc. With over ten years experience in developing international markets, Bill and Vicky started the Ghana Scorecard project in 2011. The Ghana Scorecard presentation was the hallmark of the event. It connected all the dots they had gathered throughout the week listening to the various organizations / Associations.

The Delegation was treated to a social event sponsored by FIACI – Midwest and the Chicago Association of Realtors.

To round up the occasion, the parliamentary delegates met with the Counselors of Real Estate(CRE), a high profile group in real estate advisory and counseling . This organization is made up of all professions within the Real Estate industry and each member specializes in counseling and advisory for clients making investment decisions. The Counselors offered their support to the Ghana Delegation on the formulation of the Real Estate License law.

A consultant with The International Real Property Foundation (IRPF) reviewed the draft Bill of 2012 and made his recommendations. The ideas was to review and provide recommendation of the law so that the real estate industry in Ghana would have a regulatory framework to allow the profession to exist, protect the public from unscrupulous behavior and be unbiased treating all practitioners.

Michael Gorham and Clark Wallace who are experienced regulators. Michael Gorham, an Attorney, is the past Director of the Colorado Division of Real Estate and past President of the Association of Real Estate Law Official (ARELLO), and Clark Wallace served as the Real Estate Commissioner for the state of California during the 1990’s.

During the session, Michael Gorham was hooked up via video-conference where he meticulously went over the technical aspects of the Bill with the members of the delegation. Michael Gorham views the proposed Ghana Real Estate License Act as an excellent draft which should provide the framework for the sound regulating of real estate salespersons and brokers. In summary the draft bill requires the licensing Board to regulate the practice of Real Estate brokerage in the areas of education, testing, applications, enforcement/conduct and communication.

Members of the delegation were very engaged and asked a lot of thoughtful and relevant questions which I believed advanced will the course of the bill. It was very educational and enlightening. As a veteran real estate professional in the US who attended the real estate forum, I was astounded at the subject matter that was presented to the delegates. The delegates were exposed to all the major topics relevant to the best practices of the real estate industry as it is practiced in the US.

Another topic that was discussed was the need for an efficient real estate data aggregation. Data aggression is any process in which information is gathered and expressed in a summary form. In real estate, a common aggregation purpose is to acquire information about a particular property based on specific variables such as price, terms and description.

Data aggregation allows brokers to efficiently market a seller’s/landlord’s property. This allows buyer/tenants and their representatives to determine which properties are available for lease / purchase. A representative from the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) representing Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED) made the case for an efficient MLS system. The MLS is a tool to help listing brokers find cooperative working buyers to help sell their clients home. Without the collaborative incentive of the existing MLS, brokers would create their own separate systems of cooperation, fragmenting rather than consolidating property information.

Overall the event was very well planned from the beginning of the session to the end. I was impressed with the depth of knowledge and expertise that was displayed during the session. I know the members of the delegation were very informed and I know that with the knowledge gained they are in a position to make the necessary adjustments to the Licensing Bill under consideration and make the bill relevant not only to real estate practitioners in the country, but also bring the practice of real estate in Ghana to international standards.

George Ansong, Real Estate Consultant , Atlanta Georgia

Affiliate Member – GREPA

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