Sara Benson, President and Chief Executive Officer
Sara Benson has been in real estate brokerage and appraisal for three decades. For 16 years, she worked with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as an independent fee appraiser, compliance inspector and 203(k) construction inspector. She routinely performed both desk and field review appraisals for major Chicago-area banks to ensure Federal compliance guidelines were met. Her specialties include valuation and feasibility analysis studies.
Published author and national speaker, Benson has been featured extensively in the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Crain’s Chicago Business and Real Estate Metro Magazine.
Benson is qualified as an expert witness on real estate valuation in the Circuit Courts of Cook, Lake and Du Page Counties in Illinois and holds active brokerage licenses in Illinois and South Carolina. She is an accomplished classical pianist.
Michael J. Reilly, Chief Operations Officer
Michael Reilly has more than 15 years experience in operations, project development and management. Reilly’s expertise ranges from database and systems planning and development, to data analytics and quality control. He has collaborated with numerous global partners to develop solutions for data acquisition and verification.
Reilly also designs and implements complete life-cycle database applications with a wide variety of tools and languages. He excels in streamlining operations to gain comprehensive and wide-ranging efficiencies. His managerial, analytical, and problem-solving skills make Reilly invaluable to the organization.
When he has time to unwind, Michael enjoys fishing with his friends and family and coaching his children’s tackle football team. Reilly is fluent in Spanish.
Whit Nelson, Chief Technology Officer
Whit Nelson is a developer who creates solutions and writes software for companies large and small. He also founded and co-owns a home brew supply shop in Chicago.
Nelson holds a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Minnesota, where he belonged to the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honors Society. In the arts community, Nelson is a writer, actor, and comedian. He also speaks conversational Mandarin.
Susan Kryl, Chief Marketing Officer
Kryl’s world-class experience ranges from healthcare branding and minority marketing programs to technology and financial services product launches.
Prior to founding the response and integrated marketing group, Kryl & Company, nearly 25 years ago, Kryl headed the direct marketing division of Chicago’s J. Walter Thompson office. There she led major product launches, including Discover Card. and complex B2B programs for global clients. Kryl also has extensive management experience on condominium boards in high-profile buildings.
Her leadership roles in the advertising community include terms as president of the Woman’s Ad Club and the Chicago Association of Direct Marketing (CADM). She has taught campaign planning at DePaul University’s Certificate in Direct Marketing Program. The advertising community has recognized her talent and her dedication: the Woman’s Ad Club and the American Advertising Federation named her Ad Woman of the Year. The Chicago Association of Direct Marketing awarded her its highest honor: the Charles S. Downs Direct Marketer of the Year Award.
Don DeBat, Director Media Consulting
Industry expert Don DeBat is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated author of three books on real estate and finance. As an award-winning former Chicago Sun-Times real estate editor, DeBat brings 27 years of newspaper reporting and editing expertise, and nearly two decades of media consulting to the company. A consumer and housing advocate, DeBat has written hundreds of columns on condominium and homeowner association living. DeBat earned Bachelor of Journalism and Master of Arts degrees from the University of Missouri.
In 1999, DeBat was inducted into the 16-inch Chicago Softball Hall of Fame in the media category. Ten years later, in 2009, DeBat was again inducted into the Softball Hall of Fame, along with more than 100 other players, as part of the historic Daily News/Sun-Times team which played for 38 consecutive years and still plays tournament softball today. DeBat’s proven team spirit, combined with his extensive real estate knowledge, is a striking combination of assets for the organization.
Cynthia Benson Clarke, Director Strategic Planning
Winner of a national piano competition scholarship, Clarke was graduated from Stephens College with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. She earned a Masters of Science of Education, with honors, from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. During her seven-year stay in Los Angeles, she taught school in Beverly Hills and also worked for the California Historical Society in program and membership development. She earned her real estate license and was affiliated with a large commercial brokerage firm in Beverly Hills.
Clarke co-founded and was co-owner of an entrepreneurial venture: The FIRM Aerobic Workout with Weights won numerous national awards for its groundbreaking fitness training techniques and award-winning cinematography. Clarke was responsible for systems development and implementation, licensing, fund-raising and financial accounting.
Clarke has traveled to six continents and continues to study piano and fitness.
Diana Karouzos, Director Customer Service
For three generations, Diana Karouzos’ family has been actively involved in the business of real estate. Karouzos double-majored in business management and finance and was graduated, cum laude, from St. Cloud State University in 2011. After graduation, Karouzos worked at the headquarters of ING Direct for one year before earning her Illinois real estate broker’s license in fall 2012. In 2013, Diana was awarded the “Rookie of the Year” by the North Shore Barrington Association of Realtors. Her total dollar volume exceeded $2 million in real estate sales in her first year in business.
While attending St. Cloud State University, Karouzos captained her Division I Women’s Ice Hockey team. She also served as the University Ambassador for two years and was the league team representative for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. Karouzos continues to coach young athletes as an Assistant Ice Hockey Coach for the Winnetka Warriors Hockey Club. Karouzos is a reasoned problem solver and an expert consumer advocate.
Edward J. Kane, Senior Industry Advisor
Edward Kane spent 34 years in the community banking industry in Chicago where he rose to senior vice president of lending and was elected to the bank’s board of directors. He also served as a member of the technology committee for the America’s Community Bankers Association.Edward served his community as president of the local Chamber of Commerce and the local Development Corporation. He also spent time on the housing subcommittee of the Citizens Advisory Committee for the city of Chicago.
Kane holds a BA in Sociology from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. After receiving his degree, he lived several years in Boston before returning to start his banking career in Chicago. His love of sports, especially rugby, led him to serve as president of the Chicago Lions Rugby Football Club, and as treasurer of the United States of America Rugby Football Union.