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October 31, 2014

In Ghana, Building a Real Estate Industry From Scratch

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In Ghana, Building a Real Estate Industry From Scratch

With the help of NAR, Vicky Sampah is creating industry standards for the African nation.

It’s because Vicky Sampah, GRI, e-PRO®, loves the real estate profession so much that she returned to a place where the industry is in such dire straits. In her home country of Ghana in west Africa, there isn’t even an official housing policy, let alone any kind of standards of conduct or license requirements for real estate professionals. As she describes it, “anyone can call themselves a practitioner without having credentials. There is not a lot of credibility in the industry.”

But this is a woman who came to the U.S. in the 1990s and eventually earned a master’s degree in real estate finance and management from Roosevelt University in Chicago. This is a woman who went on to get 12 years of broker experience under her belt. Why would she go back to Ghana , back to a country that honors little to none of the training that made her such a success in the U.S.?

For a simple reason: to make things better.

“I realized I needed to bring some of the knowledge I received in the U.S. to the citizens of Ghana,” Sampah says.

In Ghana, scam artists pervade the industry, she says, and because there are no contracts with clients, agents often break their commitments. With no laws governing real estate practices and no industry education in the country, there are very few professionals who home owners can rely on for support, guidance, protection, and loyalty in the world of buying and selling real estate. And the degradation of the industry leaves many agents with few business options.

“Because [the industry] is undeveloped, most of the real estate professionals there are caretakers of vacant homes,” Sampah says. “It’s very primitive.”

So in 2011, Sampah founded Ghana’s first and only real estate association, the Ghana Real Estate Professionals Association (GREPA). That’s what brought her to NAR’s 2013 REALTORS® Conference & Expo in San Francisco as an honored international delegate of Ghana. NAR has given the Ghana association ethics training materials, and Sampah says the association is on its way to adopting NAR’s Code of Ethics. It also plans to integrate the MLS model into the country’s real estate industry.

GREPA does have some bylaws so far addressing how properties should be listed and certain standards of conduct for real estate agents. The association also plans to start a school for real estate education in Ghana.

“It’s difficult to set up because it’s not as big as it is in the U.S.,” Sampah says. “But I imagine NAR once struggled to find its footing the way we are now."

“Because of support we’re getting from NAR, I think a lot of the work has already been done for us,” she continues. “I think we’re about 30 percent there, and within two years, we should have formalized rules.”

Sampah is excited to bring home her passion for the industry.

“The U.S. is where I fell in love in real estate. It’s where I got my experience, and it’s where I learned the client comes first,” she says. “Customer satisfaction is key. I realized I made people happy by going the extra step. That’s what the people of Ghana need. They need commitment.”

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