The 2009 Powerhouse Issue – Pt. 1

by Chicago Agent


Welcome to Chicago Agent magazine’s second annual full-color Who’s Who issue. We’re pleased to present you with 35 of this year’s most powerful industry members, all together in one magazine. 

Inside this issue you’ll find marketers, lenders, developers, architects, interior designers, association heads, brokers and, of course, agents, all making a name for themselves in Chicagoland real estate in 2009.

We did our best to bring you a wide variety of different members of the industry, because in these volatile times it’s exciting to know that people are finding success in a number of real estate fields. 

In the following pages you’ll see veterans of the housing industry that are leading the way with staying power and stamina. We have new faces and some who are returning after a leave of absence. The pages are in no particular order, as it is impossible to rank the different ways these people have changed the face of the industry.

Take notes as you go, because these are the people rising above the rest at a time when success doesn’t come easy.


Aaron Gitler, Neena Vlamis 
CEO, President
A and N Mortgage Services, Inc.

With 21 years of combined industry experience, Neena Vlamis and Aaron Gitler, president and CEO respectively, joined forces seven years ago to form A and N Mortgage Services, Inc. The two dog owners decided to start their business while hanging out on the dog beach, and Gitler’s dog, Ralph, still comes to the office every day. An Illinois State Credit Union Service Provider, A and N Mortgage Services made the list of Top Ten Most Dependable Mortgage Brokers of Chicago in Chicago Magazine in 2007. Creating a tight-knit, family company, Vlamis says her favorite part of her job is “sitting down with a client and getting to the root of their financial fears and questions.” For right now, Gitler and Vlamis are working toward growing their relationships with Illinois state credit unions and the real estate community. While they both still enjoy visiting the dog beach, Vlamis likes to spend her free time with her husband, Dean of PERL Mortgage, and her two sons. 

Ayoub Rabah
Founder and President
Great Street Properties 
In less than five years, Ayoub Rabah has managed to build a company of 20 employees and two offices with a client base including Chase, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and Bank of America. As founder and president of Great Street Properties, which focuses on managing and marketing bank owned properties, Rabah has consistently ranked in the top 5 percent of agents in the Chicago Association of Realtors, and ranked in the top 1 percent in 2008. Focusing on customer service, community relations and employee cultivation, Rabah has sold over $100 million in real estate. Rabah plans to increase the number of his buyer agents in the West Loop to handle the traditional real estate transactions and continue to respond to a high volume of foreclosure leads. Born in Chicago, Rabah grew up in the suburbs of Berwyn and Western Springs and graduated from Illinois State University with an International Business degree. Rabah currently lives in Lincoln Park with his lovely wife, beautiful four-year-old daughter and mischievous two-year-old twin boys.

Ahmed Badat, AHWD, CIPS, 
e-Pro, TRC
Broker, AMB Realty & Investment; President, Mainstreet 
Organization of REALTORS
“I left the apartheid-era South Africa in 1985 as a second-class citizen and today I stand at the podium as the president of the eighth-largest Realtor organization in the country,” said Ahmed Badat when accepting the title of president of the Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS. With the current commercial real estate market, Badat is reshaping his approach to seek out opportunities for his investors, both locally and internationally. “The results of rising vacancies, declining rentals and many new projects taken off the drawing board have created new opportunities for the well-capitalized investor,” he says. Badat has earned the Certified International Property Specialist, a designation that only 2,300 real estate professionals worldwide hold. In his 23 years in the industry, Badat has worked with clients from not only Chicago, but from the Far East, Middle East and South Africa.

Art Collazo
Group Director
Collazo Group, Koenig & Strey

Repeatedly named one of the top agents at Koenig & Strey for the last 10 years, Art Collazo’s current focus is on making Chicago a greener place to live, with projects such as Honore Green, Barry Green and Claremont Green. Collazo is working toward a green designation with CAR, and hopes to continue to be a one-stop shop for all of his clients. “Every transaction needs a team from start to finish and we can put together the best team out there,” says Collazo, who also wants to continue to work with buyers and sellers to overcome the challenges that exist in the current market. A golf enthusiast in his free time, Collazo’s favorite part of the industry is the satisfaction of a buyer who loves his or her new home.

Arthur R. van der Vant
President and CEO
Major Enterprises, Inc.

In 2008, Arthur R. van der Vant, president and CEO of Major Enterprises, Inc., decided to enhance his brokerage by becoming an Accredited Auctioneer of Real Estate. Focused on an auction method of marketing, van der Vant is also a member of the National Auctioneers Association and the Illinois State Auctioneers Association. Currently, he participates in brokerage and auction of a variety of distressed situations, including R.E.O., asset management, judicial and non-judicial foreclosures, court-appointed receiverships and bankruptcies. A 22-year veteran of the industry, van der Vant started working in real estate right out of college. This year, van der Vant is focused on creating more opportunities for his real estate agents. “My priority is to establish an environment of teamwork and collaboration in which Major and its agents prosper in the changing market,” says van der Vant. In his free time, van der Vant enjoys yoga and gardening. 

Ginger Downs, 
Terry Penza, Pam Krieter, Peggy Kayser
The Community Alliance of Chicagoland REALTORS (C.A.C.R.) is a collaborative venture of the Chicago Association of REALTORS (CAR), the Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS (MORe), the North Shore-Barrington Association of REALTORS (NSBAR) and the REALTOR Association of Northwest Chicagoland (RANWC). This new and exciting venture focuses on regional real estate-related issues that can be better addressed by the collaborative efforts of the four associations and their respective leadership. Opportunities for information sharing, education on the marketplace, joint leadership and membership events, as well as sharing data and resources through C.A.C.R., benefits their more than 34,500 REALTOR members throughout the Chicagoland area. Recent collaborative efforts have included a Regional Economic Forecast last January and preparations for the boards’ second collective leadership retreat for its incoming board members and selected committee chairs, featuring keynote speaker Stefan Swanepoel. 

A public Web site for C.A.C.R. is underway, with a formal rollout expected later this year. 

Michael Pierson, Chris Eigel 
President and Chairman, CEO
Prudential Preferred Properties

They’re back and having fun again! Since acquiring Prudential Preferred Properties (PPP) in early 2007, PPP has gained significant market share. While several other firms have downsized, Pierson and Eigel have bucked the trend opening in several strategic Chicagoland locations and continuing to attract highly talented agents to the company. In two years, PPP has proudly welcomed over 300 experienced agents, bringing the firm to 515 sales professionals. Pierson and Eigel believe the firm’s proprietary agent tools and key online marketing systems have enabled PPP’s agents to outperform a tough marketplace. “At Prudential Preferred Properties, we believe that our agents are our strongest asset, and are the focal point of everything that we do,” says Pierson. “This philosophy has served us well as agents are looking for the best business home to help them grow their business,” says Eigel. As for the future, keep an eye on these two. They’re back, having fun and they don’t intend to slow down any time soon.

Cory Robertson
Garrison Partners

The only thing Cory Robertson likes more than selling new homes is training salespeople to sell them. “Seeing new people take what they have learned and then succeed is my favorite part of this business,” says Robertson, principal at Garrison Partners. A board member of the Sales and Marketing Council of HBAGC for six years, this year Roberston will serve as president. Robertson began his 21 years in the indusry by working with his family’s construction and real estate development company in Detroit, Robertson Brothers, which was founded by his grandfather and great uncle just after WWII. The company is still run by Robertson’s father today. Though he grew up on the construction side of the business, Robertson was recruited to sales and marketing after moving to Chicago in 1991. Garrison Partners currently has significant projects in Chicago, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Dallas and Omaha, Neb. Robertson’s main goals for the future are to “attract, develop and retain the greatest talent in new home sales, period.”

David E. Hanna
President, Chicago Association of REALTORS; Managing Partner, Prudential SourceOne Realty

As a 15-year veteran of the industry, David E. Hanna believes that it has never been more critical than in today’s climate to reach out and learn about the complexities of what his members are going through, and how the association can better service them and their clients. As a volunteer with CAR, Hanna spends an average of 30 hours a week on association business, in addition to his full-time responsibilities as managing partner of his brokerage. Hanna helped CAR advocate for buyers to use the $8,000 tax credit at the closing table. “While some of my colleagues argued that the buyer should have the finances upfront, and use the $8,000 refund as a later infusion of cash in their home,” says Hanna, “we advocated for consumers to have the funds available at closing, and let them determine where in their investment they wish to use it.” On the weekends, Hanna can be found with his wife, Denise, and their four children on their farm in Crete, where the avid horse lovers tend to their many pets. 

David C. Hovey, FAIA
Optima, Inc.
Developer + Architect = Optimal. The equation has guided David Hovey from the company’s inception in 1978 to its success today as the foremost design-build firm. This pursuit of excellence has earned him awards in every decade, from his foundation as a student at Illinois Institute of Technology, through his years as associate professor and, now, trustee. A talented artist, Hovey expresses a whimsical side with his exterior sculptures for Optima Camelview Village, “Sundance” and “Windsong,” noting “while homes are rational and scientific, art should be fun.” The future is busy for the active Hovey, who has no plans to retire and is currently conceptualizing a new 55-story development in Chicago, while overseeing completion of the 675-unit Optima Camelview Village in Scottsdale, Ariz., and the 665-unit Optima Old Orchard Woods in Skokie. He and wife, Eileen Sheehan Hovey, direct the company’s in-house teams that include two of their older children, both active in the business that is in their blood. Thirty-three years and two generations later, Optima is a thriving family of homeowners, staff and award-winning developments. 

Dean Vlamis
Vice President of Residential Lending
PERL Mortgage

Dean Vlamis emerged onto the scene eight years ago when he walked into PERL Mortgage with no experience and asked for a job. What Vlamis lacked in experience, he made up for in determination. This self-taught businessman is now considered one of the Top 200 Producers in the nation, according to Mortgage Originator Magazine. Through the new Preferred Partner Program, Vlamis leads a team of marketing professionals, agents and loan officers in an effort to help them co-brand their business and target new markets. Vlamis is currently working to maximize the benefits for both his own business and the businesses of his Realtor partners. “We hope this new marketing approach will help expand our business and help our partners in these difficult times,” Vlamis says. “The great reward is that as their business expands, so does ours.” Vlamis enjoys spending time with his wife Neena, their sons Michael and Kosta and their two dogs Neysa and Reese. The family enjoys frequent trips to their home in Long Beach. Ind.

Dione Spiteri
US Appraisal Group, Inc.

Australian-born Dione Spiteri has a concise vision: to dramatically increase public confidence in appraisers and appraisal management. “US Appraisal Group is the outlet for commercial and residential lenders that are unhappy with poor service and quality levels from other appraisal management companies,” says Spiteri. “This year, we are also focused on our Attorney Appraisals division, which engages the best appraisers to help attorneys solidify their cases.” Spiteri is committed to collaborating with like-minded visionaries that seek to change public perception of the appraisal industry. Her company, which is entirely paperless and runs solely on Web-based applications, offers an entrepreneurial culture and unique work/life balance options for her highly driven team. Spiteri is an area director for the Entrepreneur’s Organization and was elected to serve as a regional representative for the Chicago chapter of the Appraisal Institute. She is also a member of the National Association of Independent Fee Appraisers, CAR, the Employee Relocation Council and holds a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University.

Dan Gjeldum
Vice President
National City Mortgage

With over 12 years of experience, Dan Gjeldum acknowledges the impact that his work has on his clients every day. “The most important part of my job is that I get to help achieve the American dream of homeownership,” Gjeldum says. “A lot of people have taken that for granted in my industry.” This commitment to his clients’ needs is why Gjeldum was awarded National City’s Platinum Circle and Circle of Distinction awards for individual production. By mid June, Gjeldum hopes to exceed his personal best for annual closing volume. Also, Gjeldum plans to continue to strengthen his relationships with his partners in the industry. In today’s economic climate, Gjeldum believes that “continuing to build upon those relationships will be vital to the long-term success of both myself and, more importantly, my Realtor partners.”

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