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Local real estate offices as community builders

Erika Villegas, owner of RE/MAX Real Estate Offices in Oak Park and Aurora, IL, looks past the boundaries of office competition to be a positive force for communities.

Owner Highlights

Local real estate offices as community builders

Local real estate offices as community builders

Erika Villegas, owner of RE/MAX Real Estate Offices in Oak Park and Aurora, IL, looks past the boundaries of office competition to be a positive force for communities.

An Unexpected Journey

Erika started her real estate journey roughly 16 years ago, shortly after the birth of her first child, when a career change had her deciding between going to school or going to work. Real estate popped into her mind, as she had a wide network of people and her and her family’s recent experiences in buying and selling properties were not positive. These circumstances pushed her into real estate classes, which began an unexpected journey.   

Today, Erika is the co-owner of two real estate offices employing a total of 38 agents with her business partner, Joe Castillo. They purchased the existing Oak Park office in August, 2019. Erika wanted to move into owning her own office after she reached the limits of her personal capabilities, selling 80 units that year. The second office came at the start of 2021 after growing the first with 20 agents.

Overcoming Indistry Biases

Upon starting her office, she felt a need to prove herself to help break into what is a close-knit real estate community. Often in the Chicago area, the mentality is that if you do it in the city, you can’t do it in the suburbs, and vice versa. Much of her business was coming from the Southwest Side of Chicago, so many would attempt to put her in that box.

Having grown up mostly in the Southwest Side of the city, for Erika, segregation along neighborhood boundaries was normalized. It wasn’t until well into adulthood, while visiting her mother in Topeka, Kansas, that she was exposed to a neighborhood with many multiracial neighbors. This gave her a new way of viewing the existing racial dividing lines in her city, where crossing streets like Pulaski and Ashland feels like crossing into a different world.

Erika has had to deal with countless microaggressions in her industry. The comments are frequently pointed toward her clients, which are often people of color. They take the form of other agents asking whether incoming buyers “know the area well,” or “where the down payment was coming from.” In other cases, sellers have wanted to disregard offers from certain people and have questioned the buyer’s qualifications without ground in factual information provided by lenders or attorneys. These situations happen most commonly when an underrepresented minority is moving into a majority community. 

In all cases, Erika stands firmly with her clients and is forming these experiences into positive motivations to help undo our segregated communities.

Photo Credit to Alexis Sleeper

Expanding the Boundaries of Local Real-Estate Offices

While transactions are always a part of the real estate growth equation, she is keeping her eyes and ears open to expanding the boundaries of what growth could look like, in areas such as construction and investment and their impacts on community development. She views her work as helping the flow of hopeful people moving throughout and embedding themselves into communities.

She values open communication with clients and exercises this value daily. She shares when her knowledge is lacking and takes the time to educate herself on the gaps to best serve her clients. One might think clients would dislike the admission, but Erika says that it helps build trust and allows her to continue growing.

It is her goal to ensure that her name means something in the industry. Whether it is being used by other agents as leverage, or in its own right, she wants to ensure her name denotes trust, honesty, and outcomes. When asked when she feels most innovative, she replied: 

“I feel most successful and innovative when I see my agents hit goals and I played a role in supporting them. I know I’m doing something right when I can help my agents and clients achieve.“

Get in Contact if You’re On the Move

If you’re finding someone to help you choose your next home with a community-oriented approach, doing so is easy by contacting Erika Villegas’s offices in the contact information below.


Phone Number:  (708) 386-1400

Photo Credit for the header photo goes to Carlos Cartagena