CCIM Feature

Expand Your Expertise

Multiple designations broaden business opportunities for CCIMs.

Specializing in one industry sector helps commercial real estate professionals stand out and become well-known experts. However, being a generalist can help to increase business, marketability, and flexibility. While carving a niche and broadening your scope each have distinct advantages, obtaining professional designations also adds credibility and cachet to your resume.

But combining the education and prestige of two — or more — professional designations is the key to success, some commercial real estate professionals have found. For instance, pairing the knowledge and skills acquired through the CCIM designation program with the Certified International Property Specialist, Certified Property Manager, or Member, Appraisal Institute, designations provides unique insights into specialized aspects of commercial real estate.

On the other hand, experts who’ve spent years building niche careers in international real estate, property management, and appraisal seek out the CCIM designation to gain a broader perspective of the general commercial investment and brokerage world. Despite the order in which they earn their designations, industry professionals who have combined a specialized designation with the CCIM education have discovered that the dual knowledge and skills provide the ability to work through a recession, build professional credibility, and garner new business ventures.

Help in a Down Economy

“Right now brokers can’t give away property,” says Timothy S. Allen, CCIM, MAI, a principal with Seagle & Associates in Fuquay-Varina, N.C., who depends on appraisal work to see him through challenging times. But he expects the value of both designations to help him in the coming months. “If foreclosure becomes more clear to certain market participants, having both designations will serve me well. I can help certain people avoid the consequences of foreclosure by pairing them with investors that have surfaced through my participation within the market as an appraiser,” he says.

Others argue that dual designations aid in meeting client expectations. “Having the CCIM and MAI designations helps to assure clients that a true professional will provide them with real property solutions,” says Joseph E. Thompson, CCIM, MAI, president of Thompson Valuation and Consulting in Roanoke, Va. Generally in economic downturns, decisions such as owning versus leasing and buying versus building as well as questions about sale-leasebacks become critical whether you are a user, investor, developer, or lender, Thompson says. “By holding the CCIM and MAI designations, it is evident in the eyes of a client that you possess the tools to properly analyze market data and help them apply it to critical choices.”

In today’s market, clients also seek agents who have taken the time to add value to their services, says Alan L. Powers, CCIM, CIPS, CPM, a broker with Solutions Management Group in Visalia, Calif. Combined with his other designations, “the CCIM educational platform has enabled me to create a higher and more competitive brand in my market,” he says.

Build Credibility

Having more than one designation can boost your credibility in the local market, particularly among prospective tenants and property owners. “Owners are very worried about slowing the free fall of asset value,” says Denise E. Headley, CCIM, CPM, senior manager at Colliers Turley Martin Tucker in Indianapolis. “Having dual designations has definitely given both me and my company an advantage in our marketplace,” she says. And while no one is happy with the market right now, “property owners] are reassured that we are doing all we can to retain tenants, watch the net operating income, advise on energy-saving payback measures, help determine which capital projects attract tenants, and preserve our assets’ values,” she notes.

As the group leader of a $500 million portfolio in Indianapolis, Headley decided that to really succeed in property management and build client trust, she needed to understand the complete picture. “The CCIM education helps with that. The CPM training taught [me] what it takes to bring management of an asset to a superior level, but I have to have credibility on an acquisition/disposition level,” she explains.

To entice clients and establish his credibility, Thomas G. Morgan, CCIM, CIPS, owner of CM Commercial in Salida, Colo., uses his dual knowledge to analyze the market on a global level. “You get basic market and investment fundamentals from CCIM and you get cultural backgrounds to learn about transaction structures in other countries from CIPS,” he explains. This can be helpful when working with international clients, he notes, allowing you to explain the differences between transactions in the U.S. and those in their own markets. Also, since CIPS teaches currency exchange, “you can understand and relay the correct information to clients in a mathematical way. For example, if a client completes a deal in U.S. dollars but the price used to be in [British] pounds or vice versa, you can help figure out the internal rate of return for future sales,” he says.

Expand Your Network

Networking with other commercial real estate professionals who hold multiple designations is a cornerstone for establishing strong business relationships. And Gregory Carbone, CCIM, CPM, vice president of property management for Trefoil Properties in Lansdale, Pa., finds this to be a key benefit. “It is really important to be able to network with peers, [to find out] how properties and the market are changing,” he says. “I’m exposed to leaders and deal makers every day through these organizations and it serves me to keep in front of industry trends.”

On the CCIM networking side, Carbone is exposed to brokers who work in his market and are looking for deals. For instance, at a recent CCIM networking event, he ran into a broker looking for a property that matched a parcel his company had under development. Currently talks are still ongoing, he explains. On the property management side, “I have been introduced to various energy management contacts at large firms that I can use as a sounding board as my company develops our internal energy management plan,” he says.

Having both the CCIM and MAI designations has helped Terry J. Broussard, CCIM, MAI, owner/broker of Broussard Realty & Appraisal in Kaplan, La., triple his income due to the knowledge he gained from the designation education. His biggest profit center was franchisees when they learned he could offer both brokerage and appraisal services, he explains. “After I did a few deals, they made more money and were willing to pay me to keep the train rolling.” Now a site selection expert and certified appraiser in seven states, Broussard helps retail clients and national tenants find “the right corner to maximize gross sales.”

With the CIPS designation, new business opportunities also expand globally. “I have joined the International Real Estate Federation as a result of my CIPS and am currently working with clients and brokers from Paris, Russia, and Mexico,” Morgan says. Last year, he was selected to manage a $55 million development in Sonora, Mexico. The principal owners of the 4,600-acre beachfront property contacted him based on his background. “They knew what the designations stood for and knew I would be the best person to work with,” he says.

New business opportunities also can lead to recognition and repeat clients. At his previous brokerage company in Visalia, Calif., Powers became the standout agent, earning a place in the company’s Hall of Fame for $1 million in commissions in just four years. Working with an Italian family on one deal helped him achieve the goal and use both his international and brokerage expertise.

The family purchased a $4 million apartment building in California’s Joaquin Valley and wanted to manage it directly. “[The family] added value by following my recommendations as a consultant and sold the property — using my brokerage services —a year later, for $5 million,” Powers says. Since then, they have been repeat clients.

Property managers also can seek new business ventures through dual designations. Prior to joining NAI/Realvest in Maitland, Fla., Mezdi R. Birdie, CCIM, CPM, director of retail investment for NAI/Realvest, worked with a national real estate investment trust. REITs were taking off in the market and the company only wanted to hire professionals with multiple designations. Because of this, Birdie was able to get firsthand REIT exposure, he says. Based on his CPM and CCIM knowledge, he also has served as an expert witness for real estate-related trials by becoming a receiver for a financial institution, taking over all responsibilities of a failed portfolio from the owner.

Thomas G. Ewing, CCIM, CPM, a broker associate with Re/Max Property Source in Rockford, Ill., also was asked to be a receiver because of his two designations. “I was a court-appointed receiver for all types of properties [and with duties ranging] from managing, listing, and completing a sale,” he says. Ewing draws from his CPM background to “help deal with tenant needs while being able to control expenses to maximize the NOI of a property.” He also uses his education to determine the accuracy of properties’ insurance coverage and assessed values, using the knowledge to bid out the insurance package or help the owner protest the assessed value, he explains.

The most recent receiverships he worked on included a four-family apartment building and a 1 million-sf industrial building. For both of these projects, Ewing used his property management experience and knowledge to oversee the properties’ operations and relied on his CCIM education to analyze their fair-market values, he says.

After having the MAI designation for 19 years, Allen pursued the CCIM designation to better understand the brokerage community in Fuquay-Varina, N.C., and the surrounding markets. He decided to follow the sage advice of a fellow broker who once told him that “as a broker he sells the sizzle,” and Allen, the appraiser, “sells the steak.” With both designations, however, Allen is able to deliver the sizzle and the steak.

Through his designation combo, opportunities for new business arise. “Most of the time, when I get hired, it is usually because of some form of litigation where both hats come into play … understanding both sides of a coin yields a certain dynamic that clients appreciate,” he says.

With multiple designations, commercial real estate professionals open themselves up to a wide range of opportunities. Through the willingness to excel at their craft, those who further their education eventually outshine their competition.

Stephanie Bell

“I went through the [recession in the] 1980s and purposely set out a market plan that would not have the boom-and-bust [nature] that comes with real estate cycles.” — Joe W. Milkes, CCIM, Milkes Realty Valuation, Dallas“We were anticipating a slowdown in the market and wanted to develop an avenue of business that would create a steady stream of income.” — Yvonne Jones, CCIM, CPM, Zifkin Realty Management LLC, Chicago“I help struggling companies rethink their business models, which includes determining the most profitable use of their real estate.” — Audie Cashion, CCIM, Alpha World Properties LLC, High Point, N.C.Stephanie Bell is associate editor of Commercial Investment Real Estate.

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