CCIM Education

Ward Center Evolves

One of the biggest challenges facing commercial real estate practitioners is remaining relevant in an industry that is changing almost on a daily basis. Recognizing that need, the CCIM Institute is helping CRE professionals stay current with classes from the Ward Center for Real Estate Studies. These non-designation courses, many of them offered online, provide designees, candidates, and other real estate professionals with the knowledge they need to create new business opportunities in today’s market.

“The real estate market, like all markets, changes,” says Maryann Mize, CCIM, 2015 chair of the Ward Center and a senior vice president/senior credit officer at Charlotte State Bank in Port Charlotte, Fla. “Ward courses provide a timely, efficient way to re-tool by covering relevant topics. CCIM members who keep their skills and knowledge current are able to quickly adjust their practices and seize opportunities.”

In the first half of this year, the Ward Center will roll out new courses covering real estate taxes, corporate real estate services representation, and business writing. These offerings join the 20 or so existing courses on such time-tested subjects as financial analysis, disposition analysis, and valuation.

Providing up-to-date material was built into the Ward Center’s mission, says Walt Clements, CCIM, executive vice president/CEO of the CCIM Institute. “Our membership expressed a need for more real estate education to stay current,” he says.

Ward classes are developed by real-world practitioners who call on their own industry experience to present practical, “learn it today, use it tomorrow” content. For example, Mark L. Levine, CCIM, who is developing the real estate tax update that debuts in March, has more than 40 years’ experience as a broker, real estate tax attorney, and investor and is former director of the Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management at the University of Denver.

Ward courses address a number of topics to appeal to a broad base of real estate professionals. “CCIM members comprise generalists and retail, office, multifamily, hospitality, and industrial specialists,” Clements says. “In addition we have real estate lenders, appraisers, property managers, acquisition analysts, and a variety of other commercial real estate specialties. Our intent is to offer relevancy to each of our specialty groups and the latest in a core body of knowledge applicable to all.”

“As a lender, I appreciate the full menu of Ward courses,” Mize says. “I personally make it practice to take at least one Ward course per year.”

Looking further down the road, Clements envisions courses in urban planning, legal contexts of real estate decisions, and capital markets. The increasing globalization of commercial real estate is another topic of growing importance. Clements sees international courses focusing on “where to make the first business move in the global market and how to engage with international investors desiring U.S. real estate.”

Consistent Winners

Many of the earlier Ward courses continue to resonate with CRE professionals far beyond the classroom. “The High-Tech Marketing course is seminal,” says Hugh Wade, CCIM, with Spire Commercial Real Estate in Anchorage, Alaska. “It really helped me understand the role of social media and how I can actually implement it constructively. It’s one of those courses that probably merits taking once a year, to get the full dose of what is changing and how we can use it.”

Two courses that Clements recommends as having the widest appeal are Real Estate Financial Analysis Using Excel and Negotiations because “those skill sets areas are used daily.”

“The Excel course was fantastic,” said Steve Caton, CCIM, a partner/broker with Caton Real Estate Group in Naperville, Ill. “It not only helped me utilize Excel to the max, but it helped me better understand concepts that I thought I had mastered when building my own spreadsheets.”

With an uptick in development, especially in multifamily and industrial, the Feasibility Analysis course has new-found relevance. “It gave me a handle on development projects from the CCIM perspective,” said Shannon Mar, a Realtor with Guarantee Real Estate in Fresno, Calif. “This course is invaluable if you want to work closely with developers of all types.”

Any Time, Anywhere

Another advantage of the Ward Center courses is the variety of formats. While some are offered as live, seminar presentations, most of the courses are available online, as self-paced but primarily as instructor-led workshops. “The online presentations can be as short as 90 minutes and as long as a series of four or five two-hour sessions,” says Mark Polon, CCIM, senior instructor and former chair of the Ward Center. This increases their availability to the entire industry. “The goal of the Ward Center is to provide information not only for those in the commercial real estate business, but for anyone whose business touches that realm,” Polon adds.

He sees almost all Ward courses being relevant to designees and industry veterans. “Even if the material in a Ward Center course is based on classic valuation processes, there will be a contemporary, timely slant to the delivery,” he says.

Investing in the Ward courses helps maintain the relevancy of the CCIM designation as well, Clement adds. “These courses cover critical areas of knowledge necessary for remaining a recognized expert in commercial real estate.”

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