The CCIM Institute – Certified Commercial Investment Member Institute – celebrates five decades as a professional organization this year. Representing a global community of 13,000 members, more than 50 chapters and 30 countries, CCIM educates and connects the world’s leading experts in investment strategy, financial and market analysis. As the national CCIM Institute turns 50, the Southern Nevada chapter turns 29, a significant milestone for the chapter.
The recognized expert in the commercial and investment real estate industry, the CCIM Institute oversees the education, experience verification and testing required for the CCIM designation, a process that ensures CCIMs are experts in their field, both in theory and in practice. CCIM also has a professional affiliation with the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the world’s largest real estate association.
For 50 years, the organization has both led the industry and weathered changes in the field. CCIM Institute members, on average, close $200 billion annually in commercial real estate (CRE) deals. Over the past several years, the organization has been building opportunities for its members through education opportunities led by established practitioners.
Ask a member of Southern Nevada CCIM what the most important part of the designation is and the answers will be as varied as the professionals answering the question, but the responses center around five pillars:
- The power of the pin
- The path to the pin – the “How To” of earning the CCIM designation
- Education required to become a CCIM
- Networking; and
- The Institute itself and membership in the organization.
The Elite in Commercial Real Estate
CCIM is an elite designation that’s more than just recognition for completing a program. The red CCIM pin speaks of a career-boosting affiliation for commercial real estate professionals. It shows clients and other professionals in the field that the designee has put forth the effort to become an outstanding member of the industry. In fact, nearly 70 percent of designees hold the title of owner, partner, principal or president.
“Transactionally, clients that utilize a CCIM can expect an understanding of advanced financial investment concepts,” said Chris Richardson, CCIM, communications chair.
Membership augments education by providing networking opportunities. “You’re networking with like-minded individuals, and there’s the ability to do deals through investors who have come into our portfolios. They call us specifically because we’re CCIM and they only want to deal with CCIM,” said Chris McGarey, CCIM, 2017 president-elect.
It’s not just clients who understand the designation; other professionals do as well and the red pin paves the way to communication. Walking into a global conference with her pin on, Jennifer Ott, CCIM, knows when she meets other agents, retailers and developers they’ll recognize the pin and know that it stands for an advanced level of education and the qualifications to handle their business or work a transaction on their behalf.
“When I walk into a conference, if there are people there I’ve never met who are wearing their pins, we instantly have something in common,” said Ott. The pin is a symbol of, not just the education required to earn the designation, but also the investment of time and money spent in pursuit of excellence for a career in commercial real estate.
Make the Connection
CCIMs come from a variety of interrelated fields. The designation is conferred upon CRE professionals who have a track record of success in the field. The organization is made up of real estate agents and brokers, commercial lenders, leasing professionals, investment counselors, asset managers, appraisers, corporate real estate executives, property managers, developers, institutional investors, attorneys, bankers and other allied professionals.
CCIM members within these interrelated fields make up an enormous database of professionals who speak the same language and work with the same standard of ethics. They represent a group of professionals who can work together for the benefit of their clients, joining forces or representing different sides of a transaction.
Cathy Jones, CCIM, SIOR, CPA, received her designation in 2005 and was drawn to the organization by the education component as she changed careers. Jones is a CPA and her background was on the financial side. “I wanted to get a jumpstart in learning the fundamentals of commercial real estate,” she said.
Adam Gregory, CCIM, earned his designation in 2008 and now serves as treasurer for the organization. “For me, being on the finance side of the world, there are very few of us within CCIM that are on the mortgage banking side, so when we are calling bankers in the community or even nationally, being a CCIM gets my foot in the door with investment sales brokers. It makes everything a little bit easier.”
For example, when a recent transaction closed in Florida, Gregory’s CCIM status allowed him to go to the database, find a CCIM in Florida and pick up the phone.
“You have an immediate connection with fellow CCIMs,” Gregory said. “You connect that way, and there’s the ability to get the information you need.”
McGarey explained that it might not make it easier to reach out and find someone to work a transaction with, but it makes it easier to keep them on the phone once they’re found.
“If a brand new agent calls a significant real estate investor and a CCIM calls the same real estate investor, the CCIM designee is recognized worldwide – I think you’re going to keep them on the phone or at least have a better chance of getting through to them,” said McGarey. “It just gives you the extra power to communicate and engage with potential and existing clients.”
Top of the Class
For Salina Ramirez, CCIM, the education required to earn designation sets members apart from other commercial real estate agents and allows agents to give a different perspective on investment properties for their clients.
“We’re able to interpret investment portfolios, long-term holds, we can evaluate any properties they may want to sell or purchase from a different perspective,” said Ramirez. “The designation isn’t open only to brokers; we have appraisers and lenders that are designees. It’s for different industries that deal with the financial industry, it’s almost like getting your master’s in finance.”
The educational component of the CCIM designation is the foundation of the power of the pin. For Robin Civish, CCIM, it’s an important enough component she chose to serve as education chair on the board. Civish started CCIM coursework in 2006 and earned her designation in 2009.
“Education is the cornerstone of the CCIM designation,” said Civish. “By being involved in education, we continue to grow our membership and grow the chapter and the number of CCIM designees.”
How important is the education component? Civish ranks education first and networking second.
“Education is really what the CCIM is all about,” said Civish. “It’s some of the most intense education that you can get with any designation. It’s been compared to a master’s in real estate. It’s not something that people take lightly.”
She ranks education above networking because the educational component is required – without it, there’s no networking with, or membership in, the organization.
The CCIM core classes include Foundations of Commercial Real Estate, “A two-day class to get your feet wet,” according to Phillip Dunning, 2017 CCIM president.
The class covers investment terms and lingo, analysis and introductory topics. The second course is more about demographics, the service industry and the basics of employment, the third a lease versus buy scenario and the fourth, tax analysis for capital accumulation. There’s also an online ethics class and a class on negotiation.
So why should anyone starting out in CRE seek the CCIM designation? “I had this question from a friend of mine who just got his real estate license,” said Dunning. His answer was that education is imperative in the CRE field; without being educated, there’s no way to understand all the terminology in all the processes which professionals undertake. “By taking the core classes you get up to speed much quicker and have a better understanding of the industry.”
A Strong Network
Dunning joined Southern Nevada CCIM in 2008 and the local board of directors in 2013. He became chapter president, both to serve the membership and because of the opportunities to network and make friends in the industry. “We interact so much with each other on a regular basis it would be hard not to become personal friends with so many of these people.”
Gregory has been on the board for eight years and intends to serve another few to help new CCIMs and board members transition in. “Just to make sure CCIM stays on the pedestal that it is, not just with the community, but nationally. The Southern Nevada chapter is a very well recognized chapter within CCIM Institute.”
“We have had a very good, strong and active board,” said Jones, who serves as chair of the Sponsorship Committee and previously served as both chapter president and treasurer. “Everybody on the board is engaged and making a contribution. It’s not one or two people driving the decisions on the board.”
Ramirez got into commercial real estate 12 years ago, but didn’t really get involved with the Southern Nevada chapter of CCIM until about three years ago.
“My broker, Soozi Jones Walker, is on the education board, and also an instructor for CCIM classes,” said Ramirez. When she realized what the designation had done for Walker’s career, she joined.
A Community that Cares
During the economic downturn, the Southern Nevada chapter experienced difficult times, an echo of the industry itself. Those hard times didn’t diminish the organization’s dedication to the community in which it’s membership lives and works. Michael Dunn, CCIM, SIOR has been a chapter member for the last 12 years, during both the difficult real estate economy in the 1990s and the recent recession.
Along with serving as membership chair, Dunn worked in financial operations for the chapter, including education, the monthly luncheon and the chapter’s fundraising events. Today, he said he feels honored to have helped the Southern Nevada chapter through one of the darker financial stretches because the organization makes a difference in the Southern Nevada community through charitable contributions.
Ramirez added of her work on the Social Committee, “I enjoy serving my community and thought it was a great opportunity for me to get involved and support CCIM. I handle a lot of our chapter’s special events, networking events, community sharing and a lot of community volunteer work.”
One of the special events hosted by the Southern Nevada chapter is the annual wine tasting and silent auction event. The event reflects the membership’s passion for both networking and charity. This year marks the 21st annual event, with proceeds going to a litany of charities including a local at-risk elementary school, Three Square food bank, and Spread the Word Nevada, which promotes literacy.
The CCIM Institute
“The Institute is the governing authority and Southern Nevada CCIM chapter is the local affiliate of the Institute that sponsors chapter events, monthly lunches, hosts core classes, government affairs, awards scholarships and donates to local charities,” said Richardson.
It’s the individual chapters that are responsible to train the organization’s leaders, promote knowledge and enhance members’ referrals. Each chapter provides sites for core classes and instructors to teach them from local certified experts.
“One of the things that impressed me when I first got the designation was how strong our chapter is nationally,” said Jones. “We’ve won the President’s Cup Award at least the past decade if not longer just because of how well our chapter does, the amount of membership we have, the programs we have, the draw we have to our programs.” The President’s Cup award recognizes chapters that have demonstrated a high degree of skill, ingenuity and innovation in promoting the membership benefits of the Institute.
“My level of commitment has increased,” said McGarey. “I am the 2017 president elect and have been on the board a couple years. The whole reason I committed to that is, it’s going to help my business exponentially by networking, not just locally, but internationally with other CCIM’s.”
Beyond that, though, why put in the time? “Why would you go for a Ph.D.? It’s going to take some time, and it’s going to be a lot of hard work, but you’re going to be a doctor as opposed to not being a doctor when you’re done,” said McGarey. “So the designation, while difficult – and it’s probably one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done – is well worth it. I have a couple other designations and the exam portion of the CCIM was by far the hardest I’ve ever done, but you know what? I love being able to talk about it now.”
“To me [the CCIM designation] means that I am working with somebody who is trusted and educated, and who follows the same ethics and guidelines that I do,” said Ramirez.
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