CCIM Today (Written in 1988)

When Raymond Gottlieb started in real estate in Birmingham, Ala., in 1967, he was surrounded by people with 30 years' experience in the business. That is to say, they had repeated their first year 30 times. Tax benefits of commercial property ownership were news to them.

Two years later, he and his partner took the Investment Property Exchange and Taxation course of the National Institute of Real Estate Brokers, and Birmingham had two fewer uniformed real estate practitioners.

For Gottlieb, it was the difference between being a salesman and dealmaker. He remained a salesman, but he was also a partner in negotiation with attorneys, accountants, and other professionals in gaining the best ownership terms for a client.

His experience is not unusual. In 21 years, thousands of other commercial real estate practitioners have gone from ignorance to awareness of potential, thanks to the same course and its descendants. About 3,000 are taking courses now. About 5,000 have earned the CCIM designation.

The courses are the product of the Commercial Investment Real Estate Council of the Realtors National Marketing Institute. They stem from a program of instruction begun in California and adopted by CCIM Institute, which itself is part of the National Association of Realtors.

The names have changed. Some of the main characters have passed from the scene. Some remain to push for increased professionalism which they initiated and promoted with the help of many others over the years.

Today in 1988, similar to 1970, the formal title of designation of those who complete the course and other requirements is Certified Commercial Investment Member or CCIM. This little book is about that designation and the instructors who created it. It is about people like Ray Gottlieb, practitioners of a profession, which has served investors and other buyers and users of commercial real estate better because of CCIM.

Tony Perry is another CCIM with a tale. He drove up from Kankakee, Ill., to Chicago one day 20 years ago, having been told the CCIM course was in session. He took it and its followers, then went to Hawaii in 1972 for his final-exam interview, which he flunked. Perry took it again the following January in New Orleans and passed.

He still urges his new associates to enter the program. He has used his CCIM information to help turn Kankakee around after it was hit by loss of industry in 1983.

Jack Peckham, CCIM, in Boston, was one of the first CCIM designees after the program went national in 1967. Like Ray Gottlieb in Birmingham, Peckham found he knew from CCIM what others didn't know.

Using it, he exchanged a luxury high-rise building for 31 properties in seven states. In the process, Peckham had to educate his client, who smiled when he gave Packham his $500,000 commission. CCIM is not substitute for “street smarts,” Peckham says. But it puts in street-smart hands the sophistication of the professional.

Jay Levine, CCIM, one of the founders of CCIM, has seen CCIMs become multimillionaires using what they learned. The CCIM instructor is unique because he trains competitors, he says. But they are less competitors than people to work and make deals with. The CCIM program creates a network that allows a member to “call anywhere in the country and get a straight answer,” according to Levine.

CCIM stimulated “massive evolution” of the commercial real estate business, says John Keepper, Coldwell Banker manager in Schaumberg, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. When he took the first CCIM course offered in Chicago during February 1967, his classmates included successful practitioners for whom the course was apparently too great a challenge.

Used to a pure and simple network approach and very good at it, they found the complex exchange and taxation material beyond them. It was a matter of new technique and new knowledge.

For Keepper, the lessons remain applicable. What he learned in CCIM classes still works, helping to meet today's marketing challenges involving large, foreign investors and changing tax laws. CCIM's orientation to ever-changing markets is unique, Keepper says.

CCIM makes a difference in other ways, too. Skip Newberg, a post chairman of the Commercial-Investment Council, changed jobs in 1987, moving to California from Minnesota. He is convinced that being a CCIM helped him get the new position. He is equally convinced that five years ago it wouldn't have.

Such is the rising importance of the CCIM designation. CCIM, therefore, is an instructional program and a network of commercial and investment real estate practitioners. It is a badge of achievement and an industry dynamic. Let us consider its origins.

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