A pair of Illinois REALTORS® provided top-level training to Ghanaian real estate professionals, part of a years’ long outreach designed to boost professionalism and standards of practice in the country.

Plainfield REALTOR® Vicky Sampah, herself from Ghana, began work with real estate agents and government officials in the country nearly a decade ago.

It’s a partnership that has yielded cross-cultural collaboration and prompted discussions about how to enhance standards in Ghana’s real estate industry.

Chicago REALTOR® Maurice Hampton agreed at the last minute to teach the first Accredited Buyers’ Representative course in Accra, the country’s capital, in October. It didn’t hurt that he’d developed a personal interest in the West African country.

“About three or four years ago, I took an Ancestry DNA test and found I have roots in Ghana,” said Hampton. “I became fascinated with the history of the country, the neighboring country of Ivory Coast and the slave trade.”

Students listen during the Ghana Real Estate Education series. PHOTO BY GREPA

Their efforts come as the country wrestles with a severe housing shortage. In part because of Sampah’s efforts, the country now has a real estate organization modeled after the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). It is called the Ghana Real Estate Professionals Association (GREPA).

“Ghana has a housing gap of about 2 million,” Hampton said. “There is a lot of opportunity there. But anyone can sell property there, so it is important to work with a REALTOR® who can perform due diligence and find out if someone has the right to sell the property they claim to own. All private property is recorded with the land administration.”

Recognizing unique challenges

Sampah and Hampton have been serving the real estate needs of international clients for years, and both have been part of the Illinois REALTORS® Global Business Council (GBC) and the Illinois REALTORS® Consulate General Liaison Program. Sampah, owner of Abri Group, LLC, was the 2018 GBC chair and Hampton, co-owner of Centered International Realty, is the 2019 GBC chair. Hampton is also chair for the NAR Global Business Councils Forum.

Sampah began planning the four-day Ghana Real Estate Education Series months ago. She worked with colleagues at NAR and colleagues in Ghana to determine the best real estate courses, find a convenient location and arrange technical and logistical details. She planned to be the main instructor for the ABR and e-Pro classes.

As the date for the training neared, family medical challenges prevented Sampah from leading the classes. She thought of Hampton, who’d once told her he would love to teach in Ghana.

Hampton (center) with several of his students. PHOTO BY GREPA

Fortunately, Hampton was able to take Sampah’s place on relatively short notice. She prepared him for the series and arranged for friends in Ghana to meet him and get him acclimated to the country. She watched his classes on Facebook Live and communicated with him daily.

First-time visitor’s perspective

Hampton said he enjoyed the opportunity to teach in Ghana and appreciated the arrangements Sampah made to help him explore the area around Accra. He was able to gain a better appreciation for the country and the people who live and work there.

“I’ve enjoyed my career so much,” said Hampton. “It’s exciting to think that I am helping build the profession in a country where they don’t even have a license law yet. But Vicky has built a network of people who are determined to get a license law passed through an effective association.”

Whether touring the countryside or the capital city, visiting with students or complete strangers, Hampton said he was impressed with Ghana. “The weather was perfect, and the water was clean. It was very eye-opening to see people living off the land, in circumstances that some would consider poverty. But they had food and shelter. They said they felt safe. I felt safe.”

Hampton said he’s more appreciative than ever about the proceedures U.S. professionals use to protect consumers and prevent fraud.

Years in the making

Sampah’s interest in Ghanaian real estate dated back to 2009, following the U.S. housing crisis. Curious about what it would take to start a brokerage there, she discovered the country didn’t have real estate license laws, wasn’t regulated and didn’t yet recognize the value of exclusive agent agreements. She was advised that to succeed, she needed to help organize an association like the NAR. At first, she wasn’t sure this was the right approach, but a few years later, she changed her mind.

“When I got to Ghana in 2011, I realized that it was hard to research the market because there wasn’t much information available online,” she said. “I worked with like-minded individuals to set up GREPA with guidance from NAR.”

Previous attempts by others to form effective associations faltered because they weren’t benefit-driven, Sampah said. Experience told her that continuing education, advocacy and the availability of resources such as multiple listing services would be key. As she shared her knowledge with her new friends, she built valuable relationships and created a database of real estate professionals who wanted to play a role in Ghana’s real estate evolution.

In 2014, Sampah moved back to Illinois but she did not stop trying to improve the real estate industry in her birthplace. She shared photos from events like the Illinois REALTORS® Lobby Day and Capitol Conference in Springfield, and she explained how members would meet with their elected officials and advocate legislation that would benefit property owners and the real estate profession. She hoped her peers in Ghana would be able to someday organize similar events.

Assessing and moving forward

“I was impressed with the number of students (30) we attracted to the first series,” said Sampah, “as well as their quality.”

Ghana Deputy Works and Housing Minister Freda Prempeh posed with Hampton for photographs. PHOTOS BY GREPA

“Many of our students had earned degrees abroad at prestigious universities,” Hampton said. “They were higher-level learners. I didn’t have to change my style to accommodate them.

“I know my trip to Ghana is not a one-time thing. I will be making many more trips there,” he said. “I also know we’ll have to find an instructor there who’ll help us teach at a lower cost.”

Plans are already being made for another education series in Ghana, they said, while looking back on the first series with pride.

“We helped conduct the first ABR class in Ghana,” said Sampah. “This was a great milestone for us to achieve.”

“It was a dream come true for me,” said Hampton. “It was amazing!”

What is GREPA?

GREPA stands for the Ghana Real Estate Professionals Association.

The organization was founded to promote professional standards, ethical behavior, continuing education and shared information in real estate through local and international networking.

Find out more about GREPA and its connection to REALTORS® at www.repagh.org/member-services/international-realtor-membership.