Mark of Distinction
Launched in 1954 as the Investment Property Exchange and Taxation series of courses amid what was a very different world of commercial real estate, today’s CCIM Institute has evolved along with the industry. Its designees, which now number more than 15,000 globally, have brought the institute’s combination of course mastery and practical application to disciplines ranging from brokerage to lending. The expertise of CCIM designees is especially relevant as investors traverse the unfamiliar terrain of secondary and tertiary markets.
If a major brokerage firm is vying for “the big projects with the big boys, they’re going to send in the number-one team,” Wayne D’Amico, the Chicago-based CCIM Institute’s 2013 president, tells Real Estate Forum. “But when you get down into the second level, the second tier, even at the bigger companies, you know that a CCIM within that company has the experience versus the guy that happened to pick up your phone call.”
D’Amico bases that assertion on the exacting nature of the CCIM program. “In order to achieve certification, you have to have evidenced mastery of the core content: fundamentals of investment and market analyses of commercial real estate,” says D’Amico, senior advisor for New York City-based Lance Capital Management. Even after the content has been mastered, though, a CCIM candidate has to demonstrate that “you’ve been hands-on with qualified transactional activities. You can’t be selling a house and get credit for it.”
That level of rigor—and the highly concentrated nature of the curriculum, which D’Amico likened to taking a masters class in the space of a week—has long been a mainstay of the CCIM designation, first offered in 1969. What’s evolving is the way in which it’s presented. Building on the institute’s Site To Do Business, a proprietary demographics and market analysis technology platform available to members, “We want to merge the technology platform with the education side, so that we’re not only teaching the analytical side but also teaching and using the technology side,” says Karl Landreneau, who assumes the presidency of the institute in January. “The outcome is to have a really diverse, up-to-date education program that teaches application.”
There’s a lot that’s new about the program going into 2014, although keeping it current is also part of the institute’s DNA. “We’ve just gone through a major course rewrite,” says Landreneau, director of commercial sales and leasing at NAI Latter & Blum in Baton Rouge, LA. “We also developed, several years ago, something called the Ward Center for Real Estate Studies.” Through the Ward Center, “we can react to changes in the market through education that may be needed and broadcast it out in different ways: webinars or live classrooms. And we use our chapter network to facilitate anything that changes in the marketplace like capital leases and/or the new tax regulations that are coming out. We’re working on a program now to incorporate the Obamacare tax changes.”
Asked how the CCIM Institute is unique among industry accreditation organizations, both Landreneau and Colliers International’s Richard Fulton tell Forum that it’s due to CRE practitioners doing the teaching. “Every instructor has to sign an affadavit that they are a practicing commercial real estate professional,” Landreneau says. “We teach theory, but we also teach practical application.”
Adds Fulton, a Nashville-based Colliers VP, “What we try to do in the classroom, which I think most of us do well, is to relate the concepts that we’re teaching to how you can use those concepts in the real world to become a better practitioner of real estate. Having been in the real estate business as a practitioner for 40 years, I can assure you that I can relate any one of the concepts in the courses to how i’ve used it” in order to get a deal done.
When the students finish any of the courses—including Commercial Investment 101, 102, 103 or 104, among others—they must fill out an evaluation form on the course and instructor before taking the test. “One of those line items is ‘did the instructor relate real-world experiences to the concepts taught?’” Fulton says. “That is the box I will look at particularly to see if I did a good job of relating those concepts to how you use them in the real world.”
In the words of Joe Larkin, president of First Realty Advisors in Denver and an instructor for CCIM’s CI 103, 104 and Advanced Negotiations courses, “CCIM instructors talk the talk and walk the walk.” One of Larkin’s recent students summed up a key differentiator of the CCIM education: “He said the CCIM course was the first time he had learned to apply the many theoretical real estate analysis concepts he’d learned in his MBA program,” Larkin says. The CCIM courses also analyze investments to calculate an after-income-tax ROI, another concept that’s elusive in many graduate-level real estate programs, Larkin notes.
That ability to calculate ROI is especially important now, and particularly for smaller investors, Fulton says. “Being able to analyze a potential real estate investment for that client and being able to truly show them what their after-tax return will be is extraordinarily valuable in today’s climate, more so than ever, because you have clients that want to get a better return on the money they have,” he says.
It works both ways, as Fulton points out: instructors can find that the principles they’re teaching apply to what they’re doing currently outside the classroom. “Surprisingly, I find that I’m using the concepts that are taught in the Market Analysis course, which is 102, more than ever,” he says. “We’re having to analyze a market more deeply than we used to. Is it a growth market, is it a market where prices are going to appreciate? Market analysis is becoming more critical when we look at investment real estate today.”
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