CCIM Feature

Classic Education

CCIM courses have stood the test of time.

By most accounts, 1969 was a year of historical milestones: Neil Armstrong took his landmark stroll on the moon, more than 400,000 people gathered for the first-ever Woodstock music festival, and a progressive group of young commercial real estate professionals established the CCIM Institute. Though Wikipedia may not include the organization’s founding as a landmark achievement, many designees believe CCIM’s investment principles advanced the field of commercial real estate just as Armstrong accelerated space exploration and Woodstock influenced an American cultural shift.

Commercial Investment Real Estate conducted an informal survey of members who have held the designation for more than 30 years to find out how the CCIM education has influenced their careers, which courses and concepts have helped them thrive, and how their status as designees has given them an edge during the past three decades.

Building a Solid Foundation

Though many long-standing designees said the combination of CCIM’s education
and its powerful member network provided a one-two punch that launched their careers, Commercial Investment 101 — Financial Analysis for Commercial Real Estate — is considered to be the pivotal course.

“I opened my own office in 1977 after eight months of doing site selection in malls and strip centers for a chain of retail franchises,” says Jon W. Spelman, CCIM, founder of Jon W. Spelman Commercial Real Estate in Waco, Texas. “Learning the basics of commercial real estate investment in CI 101 was important, especially the financial analysis tools,” adds Spelman, who earned the designation in 1981. Over the years, he continued to see the return on his investment in the CCIM courses. “I gained the analytical knowledge in both a quantitative and qualitative sense that set me apart from the regular brokers with whom I competed.”

As a couple of young real estate agents in the then-microscopic market of Sierra Vista, Ariz., Aytan A. Dove, CCIM, of Aytan Dove Appraisal Co. in Dover, Pa., and his brokerage partner drove nearly 10 hours to attend CI 101 in Las Vegas in 1976. The course turned out to be one of the best investments of Dove’s career.

“On the drive back home, we developed a plan to expand our one-story office building, which would make it financially feasible to expand our real estate business,” says Dove, who achieved the designation in 1979. “With just the knowledge from that one course, we demonstrated to the building’s owner — and the bank — how we could expand the office, acquire tenants, and establish rents. We accomplished our goal in just eight months because 101 showed us how to research the market and project income and expenses. I continue to use this process every day in my appraisal work.”

Similar to Dove’s experience, learning the basics of income and expense analysis elevated many CCIMs to the next level. “I learned to evaluate investment properties with different cash flows and risk factors,” says Robert B. White, CCIM, senior vice president of Lee & Associates in Fort Myers, Fla. “Fully understanding your clients’ comfort with risk and being able to demonstrate how various factors such as interest rates, vacancy, and capital improvements impact return on investment was critical,” says White, who was pinned in 1982.

Gaining a practical understanding of discounted cash flow analysis has been one of the most critical elements for Warren Klutz, CCIM, MAI, of Warren Klutz & Co. in Bristol, Tenn., who also holds an MBA. “I was told by an individual who had completed the CCIM course work and obtained an MBA that I would be wasting my time earning the MBA,” says Klutz, who earned the designation in 1981. “I now speak from my own experience. Anyone who wants to acquire the skills they need to be successful in commercial real estate should go through the CCIM program.”

While many designees concur that CI 101 served as the most important foundational piece, some pointed out that the value of the CCIM education’s sum outweighs its parts. “The total experience was more valuable than any one course,” says J. Rudy Henley, CCIM, of WV Commercial in Charleston, W.Va., who earned the pin in 1980. “The instruction related to the projection ofincome and expenses, after-tax cash flow, valuation related to discounted cash flow and interaction with instructors and students combined represents the value to me.”

Game-Changing Principles

After acquiring the fundamentals, many CCIMs cited the Institute’s instruction related to tax and 1031 tax-deferred exchanges as pillars of their education. “CI 101 got me into the business, but CI 103 [User Decision Analysis] helped me stay in the business,” says Steve Cannariato, CCIM, of Hawkins & Cannariato, in Boise, Idaho, who earned the designation in 1982. “As my career developed, I found myself primarily helping users of commercial real estate make occupancy decisions, which is the essence of 103. I still use CI 103 concepts and skills just about every working day.”

The 57th member to earn the designation, Sheldon F. Good, CCIM, of Good Realty Group in Chicago, says the tax-related investment and law concepts have been the most important take-away throughout his 50-plus-year career. “The effects of taxes on property ownership and investments, depreciation, tax-deferred exchanges” made Good’s deals newsworthy and helped him land other assignments, he says. “I have completed many transactions because of my extensive tax knowledge,” Good adds.

Taxation principles and 1031 exchanges have also had the biggest impact on Albert S.P. Wong’s career. “Many investors have rejected opportunities because they did not realize that the tax refunds create a positive cash flow,” says Wong, of Palace Realty in Honolulu, who earned his pin in 1973. As a broker in Hawaii in the 1970s, Wong’s tax-deferred exchange experience gave him a distinct advantage since accountants, attorneys, and other real estate professionals were not well-versed in these complex transactions. “Real estate in Hawaii can have great returns from appreciation, but in order to improve the asset we used the cash flow statement to introduce the 1031 concept.”

Mark Lee Levine, CCIM, professor and former director of the University of Denver’s Burns School, also cites CCIM’s tax planning tools, including installment sales, 1031 exchanges, and accelerated depreciation, as some of the most valuable assets of the program. Levine, who earned the designation in 1978, educated colleagues about real estate tax implications during the CCIM “super sessions” in the 1980s. These specialized courses offered unique insights into relevant and timely topics in the industry, similar to the Institute’s Ward Center for Real Estate Studies courses today. Levine later helped to rewrite CI 103 to reflect changes brought about from the Tax Reform Act of 1986.

The Tax Reform Act pushed Dove and many other CCIMs to apply their skills in new and different ways. “Everything we had learned in real estate taxes got turned upside down in 1986,” Dove says. However, the skills gleaned through the Institute’s courses gave designees confidence and adaptability in the marketplace. “CCIMs had the skills they needed to adapt and not be stuck in a mold when the market shifted. In every area — financing, taxation, ownership, investment parameters — CCIMs know how to adjust, adapt, and stay sharp,” he says.

Other key concepts CCIMs cited as being instrumental to their success include calculation of internal rate of return, discounted cash flow, lease analysis, application of financing to an investment, market analysis, capitalization rates, and time value of money/net present value, among many others.

“The No. 1 concept for me is net present value. Of all the tools in my CCIM toolbox, this is the one I find most valuable,” Cannariato says. “Whether it is comparative lease analysis, lease versus own analysis, or subleasing and buyouts, I use NPV on almost every transaction.”

In addition to adding value for clients, learning how to apply financing to investments has helped Cannariato build his own net worth. “Being able to speak the language of lenders, understanding loan underwriting, calculating potential loan amounts, and evaluating various mortgage financing alternatives has been invaluable for projects I have developed and purchased for my own account.”

Professional Advantages

While many CCIMs shared stories of how CCIM’s professional network provided them with business opportunities, Radine Coopersmith, CCIM, of Consultants at Real Estate in Pagosa Springs, Colo., says it helped her gain credibility in a largely male-dominated industry. “In the early 1980s, there were few women in the commercial investment end of the business and it was hard to gain access to the larger commercial real estate deals,” says Coopersmith, who earned the designation in 1980. “I called my pin my red badge of courage!”

For most of her career, Coopersmith served clients as a consultant and buyer’s agent, specializing in 1031s to help clients build wealth. “I still use the basic concepts I learned way back in the 1980s as well as work to keep up with industry changes,” she says. “I just completed work on a successful Chapter 11 reorganization plan for a rural hotel property. Without the CCIM educational background, this property would have been lost. I find it much easier to deal with lawyers, accountants, and financial planners because I can relate to returns and risks in terms they are used to dealing in.”

The designation has also given CCIMs who were relocating or advancing their careers an immediate “in” with potential employers. “In 1983 I moved to Sarasota, Fla., and within four weeks I was hired as a commercial manager for Merrill Lynch Realty,” says Daniel J. Page, CCIM, of Michael Saunders & Co., in Osprey, Fla. “This never would have happened without the CCIM designation.”

Cannariato, who also serves as a current CCIM instructor, agrees. “Having the designation behind my name has opened doors, provided me with assignments, and given me credibility,” he says. For example, a former student whose firm was disposing of excess land in Cannariato’s market reached out because of their networking experience during a CCIM course. Cannariato won the assignment and successfully marketed and sold the property. “The opportunity to do business with other CCIMs is a very positive benefit of the designation,” he adds.

This survey conclusively revealed that the CCIM education has had a positive influence on nearly every designee’s career, allowing them to weather even the worst market cycles.

“Everything we learned 30 years ago is still relevant,” Dove says. Yet in the current climate, the onus is on each designee to stay sharp and remain viable in the marketplace. “The foundation provided by the CCIM courses is strong enough to get you started,” Dove adds. “But it’s up to you to build on that foundation over time with continuing education, specialty courses, and other experiences to stay relevant.”

Jennifer Norbut is senior editor of Commercial Investment Real Estate.

Milestones in CCIM Education

1969 CCIM Institute is founded and confers the designation to 300 designees.

1972 CCIM education and training expands with national instructor auditions and training sessions.

1982 CCIM launches peer-reviewed scholarly publication, Commercial Investment Journal, which is now the award-winning Commercial Investment Real Estate magazine.

1992 CI 101 is taught in Russia, marking the international expansion of CCIM education.

2007 CCIM establishes the Ward Center for Real Estate Studies to provide timely education on current industry topics and trends.

2010 CCIM’s core curriculum is rewritten to infuse new case studies and concepts reflective of the current commercial real estate market.

CCIM Releases Financial Analysis Spreadsheets

Whether you earned the CCIM designation 30 years ago or just received your pin, you can now download Microsoft Excel spreadsheets of the most recent versions of the CCIM Institute’s Excel Financial Calculatorand the Discounted Cash Flow Workbook, which are available exclusively to CCIM designees.

These essential analysis tools are invaluable in today’s marketplace, says 2013 President-Elect Karl Landreneau, CCIM, director of commercial sales and leasing for NAI/Latter & Blum in Baton Rouge, La. “The spreadsheets speed up the analysis process, help CCIMs organize data in a clear and concise manner for presentations, and allow you to examine the ‘what ifs’ by conducting sensitivity analyses,” says Landreneau, who uses the Excel calculator and DCF tools to develop client presentations and to train new agents.

Designees can log in to download these tools at

Jennifer Norbut

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