Candidate Spotlight

CCIM Candidate Spotlight: Debbie Barber

Debbie Barber

Self-starters, go-getters, doers — whatever the term — commercial real estate attracts the type of person who enjoys staying busy. But even among an energetic cohort like CRE professionals, Debbie Barber is not one to let a moment go by idly. A lifelong North Carolina resident, the commercial broker with Kittrell & Armstrong is active in her church, volunteers with the local fire and rescue department, assists in supporting homeless individuals in the area, and even wrote her first children’s book in 2016.

She’s also hoping to earn the CCIM Designation in 2022, having completed all the course requirements and submitted her portfolio for review. Commercial Investment Real Estate spoke with Barber about her experiences in CRE and how she juggles so much — all while making time to hang out with Bailey, her Yorkie puppy.

CIRE: What experience, professionally and personally, led you to seek CCIM Designation? 

Debbie Barber: I became very interested in land development. I purchased a beautiful 20-acre tract of land near Waynesville, N.C., and developed it into a residential subdivision in 2006. I really enjoyed that project and all the dynamics that went into the planning process. I sold it in 2007 and moved from the mountains to Roanoke Rapids, N.C., where I experienced my first taste of dabbling in the commercial sector. I was instantly hooked. It was definitely an eye-opening experience and one that laid the foundation for my career as a commercial broker. The real estate firm where I was employed was a residential firm, and none of the brokers worked in the commercial sector. I knew the only way for me to be successful was to obtain a formal education. I began seeking ways to obtain more knowledge regarding maneuvering commercial real estate acquisitions, dispositions, and leases. I found CCIM Institute and was very impressed with all that it had to offer. I immediately enrolled and found a wealth of information in the curriculum. It was like drinking water from a fire hose, but it gave me the knowledge and confidence I needed to continue to pursue my career as a commercial broker. In 2009, due to circumstances beyond my control, I left my career in real estate and returned to the legal profession. But in 2016, the owners of Kittrell and Armstrong approached me about an upcoming position in their firm. I was thrilled to be offered the opportunity to work with such a fantastic group of brokers. I call this my pie-in-the-sky job. Not that it is so easy — it is just so enjoyable! 

CIRE: What was the aha! moment when you knew it was worth the time and effort? 

Barber: When I initially enrolled in CCIM Institute in 2007, I was unaware of the true value of the Designation. I enrolled solely for the purpose of gaining knowledge of the dynamics of commercial real estate transactions. However, since joining Kittrell and Armstrong, I have had the opportunity to work alongside so many great CCIM Designees. I have found the Designation provides a much higher level of professionalism — a level that I definitely strive to obtain. 

CIRE: Have you been able to put your education to use? How has the Designation curriculum impacted your professional abilities? 

Barber: I have been so fortunate to be able to have opportunities to apply all that I learned through the CCIM curriculum in working with clients in day-to-day transactions. The courses have provided me with the knowledge necessary to evaluate investment assets for our clients, to be able to discuss those evaluations, and to provide the client with the information necessary for them to make an informed decision regarding whether to purchase, sell, or hold an investment. This is not a skill set I had prior to completing the CCIM curriculum. 

I have been so fortunate to be able to have opportunities to apply all that I learned through the CCIM curriculum in working with clients in day-to-day transactions.

CIRE: What has been the most challenging aspect of your journey toward CCIM Designation? 

Barber: The most challenging aspect for me has been my timeline to complete the curriculum. I completed several of the courses  prior to leaving the real estate profession in 2009. Subsequent to joining Kittrell and Armstrong, I committed to finishing the curriculum and obtaining my Designation. I found it a little challenging to pick up where I left off so long ago. However, CCIM Institute has been so helpful in getting me reacclimated, I feel I will be able to successfully obtain my Designation in the spring. 

CIRE: What support structures have helped you during this process? 

Barber: I have to say I have been truly blessed with so many support structures that have helped me succeed in my commercial real estate career. First and foremost is my wonderful husband, Jimmy. He has been my cheerleader from the start. Not having a working knowledge of the commercial sector when I entered the institute, I found the course material quite challenging. My husband and I laugh about it now, but I will confess that halfway through each course, I would call him on Wednesday night sobbing uncontrollably and blubbering, “I’m never going to pass this class! I don’t know what I am doing! I’m coming home tomorrow!” Each time my husband would tell me, “Honey, you are going to pass. You can do this — just calm down, study, and finish it out.” He was right — I passed each course and moved on to the next, only to repeat the same scenario midway through that class.

CIRE: Is there one particular CCIM who inspires you? 

Barber: Since joining Kittrell and Armstrong, I have received tremendous support and guidance from CCIMs in the firm, including the three managing partners, J. Bryant Kittrell III, Stanley H. Armstrong Jr., and Thomas F. Stoughton, as well as my coworker, Polly Holt. The knowledge and experience this group brings to the table is outstanding, and it is a privilege to be able to work with them and gain knowledge from their many years of combined experience. I am truly thankful to each of them for their guidance, inspiration, and encouragement in pursuing my CCIM Designation.

CIRE: Is there a particular deal that has been especially interesting or special to you? What lessons did you learn from it?

Barber: While I enjoy all aspects of commercial real estate, I find investment property analysis the most rewarding. In a recent transaction, a client was selling one of his long-term holdings and looking for another income-producing asset for a 1031 replacement. After searching the market, I pulled several income-producing properties that I thought would be a good investment based on their price point, cap rate, tenant’s current lease terms, and location demographics. I ran an investment analysis on each property to give the client a clear picture of the performance of the asset. This gave him the information needed to make an informed decision about which property would give him the most return on his investment. He ranked his top choices, and we were able to negotiate favorable terms on the investment of his choosing. We closed the deal in approximately two months. It was special to me because I was able to incorporate skills that I had learned in the CCIM curriculum to assist our client.

For more on the CCIM Designation process and curriculum, visit  Earning the CCIM Designation.

Nicholas Leider

Nicholas Leider is senior content editor for Commercial Investment Real Estate. Contact him at

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