CCIM Feature

Two Of A Kind

Land specialists bet on dual designations to win business.

In problem-solving, it’s often said that two heads are better than one. In today’s commercial real estate market, two designations may be better than one as well. A particularly powerful combination is the CCIM designation coupled with the Accredited Land Consultant, or ALC, designation of the Realtors Land Institute.

ALCs are recognized land experts. To achieve the ALC designation, these land professionals complete a rigorous curriculum, covering subjects such as land development, site selection, and creative land planning. And, like CCIMs, they demonstrate their experience by providing a portfolio of closed transactions.

Slightly more than 200 real estate professionals hold both the ALC and CCIM designations, so these dual designees represent an exclusive network of the best in the business. Four dual designees — Mitchell A. Kessler, CCIM, ALC; Larry Ilfeld, CCIM, ALC; Christina Kurtz-Clark, CCIM, ALC; and Patricia M. Burns, CCIM, ALC — discussed how they put their designations to use in their daily business.

Why did you achieve both the ALC and CCIM designations?
Kessler: In today’s real estate environment, every edge that you can get helps. Having both the ALC and CCIM designations has undoubtedly opened some doors that previously did not exist.

Ilfeld: I agree with Mitch: It’s about the competitive edge. The CCIM designation speaks for itself in its prestige and the message it conveys to clients about the designees’ professionalism and capabilities in all fields of commercial real estate. The ALC designation holds the same place of prestige in the land arena.

Since there are only about 200 of us who have attained both designations, we arguably can hold ourselves out as an elite group of real estate professionals. Three years ago, I elected to get the ALC designation because I would be the only ALC in New Mexico and one of only a handful of RLI members in the state. I felt that having the ALC would give me a unique edge in land brokerage, and it has.

Kurtz-Clark: For me, it was about the land specialty. I have always enjoyed working on land projects and with land clients. The ALC program was a perfect match for me. And since there is an accelerated program offered to CCIM designees, working toward the ALC designation was a no-brainer.

Burns: I began by wanting to learn more about land and site selection. ALC and CCIM are the best designations in the industry: No other designations compare in terms of the levels of education and prestige.

How do you use the designations to differentiate yourself?
Kessler: I emphasize to clients that I am one of only a few real estate professionals who hold both designations, and that I am able to access both organizational networks to help my clients accomplish their goals. Networking among professionals in both institutes has helped me tremendously in both sourcing deals as well as being able to share information and ideas.

Ilfeld: The knowledge I’ve gained has provided an inherent advantage. In many instances there’s a crossover between the highest and best use of the land — it may be agricultural, or it may be transitional or best converted to some type of commercial use. Having both designations gives me a unique perspective to make an educated evaluation. My clients appreciate that.

Kurtz-Clark: With land-use issues becoming even more complicated and intertwined with commercial projects, the ALC designation sets me apart from other commercial brokers. I have a proven track record along with the education and certification to back it up.

Burns: Having both designations gives me the ability to recognize other options for clients. In the present economic climate, you have to use all of your skills to complete a transaction.

What’s the best benefit of holding the two designations?
Kessler: To me, the best benefit is the ability to market myself as the most knowledgeable person regarding real estate and land in my market area.

Ilfeld: Exactly. Being able to offer a unique skill set is the best benefit.

Kurtz-Clark: Because I work in a male-dominated business, having two designations gives me the credentials to compete and earn the respect of my peers. My marketplace is on the west side of Orlando. This is a tertiary marketplace and, with dual designations, I receive referrals from other brokers who are unfamiliar with my marketplace and want credible representation for their clients.

Burns: I agree that two designations give me the creditability to compete and earn the respect of my peers. And networking opportunities have resulted in many new friends and associates. I have learned so much from not only the courses, but also from my fellow ALCs and CCIMs.

How have the designations helped you adapt to the new marketplace?
Kessler: The last two years have definitely been challenging. I am currently finishing up negotiations with a hedge fund to joint venture several different projects with them. Having both designations, along with my previous professional track record, definitely gave me the credibility to initially open up discussions with them, and helped me gain their trust and confidence.

Ilfeld: Rural and agricultural land transactions certainly have been affected by the global economy, but their volume hasn’t declined as much as in other many other property sectors. So to be able to put deals together and accurately hold oneself out as a true commercial real estate professional and a land professional is even more meaningful than in a more “normal” market. I can position myself as being particularly qualified to serve a wider range of clients.

Kurtz-Clark: Designations help create opportunities. I worked with a client who unfortunately had to short sale a small residential development property in Minneola, Fla. The dual designations helped me work this small but complicated project through the lender and the city government red tape to finally close the sale of 2.5 acres for a community park.

Burns: My designations have helped me to be more versatile in commercial real estate. In my smaller market, I am much more knowledgeable in many different property types. Like Mitch, I decided to concentrate on my education during the slower times so I will be ready when the market rebounds. I now handle several commercial foreclosures. When the banks recognize my designations, they have more confidence in me.

Any closing comments?
Kessler: I would encourage all real estate professionals who are looking to become more knowledgeable and more successful to join organizations such as RLI and CCIM and start working toward obtaining one of these designations.

Ilfeld: Then be sure to use them. Once you get your designations, it’s important to use them as part of your everyday marketing efforts. It’s an easy way to build your visibility and expand your professional reach among clients and colleagues.

Kurtz-Clark: And take advantage of the professional network you gain by having professional designations. In the spring of 2007, just after completing my ALC designation, I left the small local brokerage firm I had been working with for the past decade and joined Coldwell Banker Commercial. The support of my ALC and CCIM friends gave me the boost and encouragement to make the move and further my career.

Burns: After you receive the designations, always continue your education through the other courses and programs. Both organizations offer a range of exceptional training and valuable tools that definitely set you apart.

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