Similar to most industries, the commercial real estate profession has various professional trade groups. In addition to offering a place for like-minded members to share ideas, learn about new trends and provide formal education on specific subject matter, nearly all of these trade groups award various designations. For example, my business card reads “Ira Krumholz, CPM.” The letters stand for certified property manager and represent a real estate designation that I have achieved from the Institute of Real Estate Management. And although some people may have an understanding of this designation, most can only guess as to its meaning. This month, we are going to take the mystery out of the most common commercial real estate designations, explaining not only what these letters represent but also how they are achieved.
Certified Property Manager (CPM) & Accredited Residential Manager (ARM) – As highlighted above, these designations are offered by the Institute of Real Estate Management and represent professionals that have demonstrated the requisite skills, education and experience in the field of property management. This institute is also a subsidiary of the 800-pound gorilla in the U.S. real estate industry – the National Association of Realtors or NAR. Nationwide, NAR has over 1.2 million members, including nearly all of the residential real estate agents and many commercial agents.
Real Property Administrator (RPA) & Facilities Management Administrator (FMA) – Similar to a CPM, both of these designations are associated with acumen in the field of property management. BOMI International (not to be confused with the Building Owners and Managers Association or BOMA) offers both of these designations. The RPA designation focuses on building systems, risk management, brokerage and maximizing the financial performance of real estate while the FMA designation is for the tenant or owner of a facility and focus on building systems, technology, furniture systems and routine maintenance.
Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) – This designation is awarded by the CCIM Institute. A candidate must pass a series of classes as well as a comprehensive exam, achieve a threshold of commercial transactions and obtain recommendation letters from existing members in order to receive it. The classes are focused on the investment side of the commercial real estate industry and the majority of classes as well as events and conferences are geared toward this type of activity.
Society of Industrial and Office Realtors (SIOR) – The Society of Industrial and Office Realtors provides the SIOR designation for its members. The requirements are similar to those for a CCIM and include courses and a final exam, a transaction threshold and letters of recommendations. SIORs are somewhat more focused on the activities of the end-users of real estate, be it a tenant or an owner/occupant. Both the CCIM and the SIOR designations are popular amongst brokerage professionals. They also offer the ability to be a part of an international network of professionals. For the smaller brokerage operation or independent broker, these networks can be a great resource to transact business not only across the nation but around the world.
Certified Shopping Center Manager (CSM) and Certified Leasing Specialist (CLS) – These are two of several designations provided by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) to promote the highest standards for members of the shopping center industry. ICSC is a global trade association with more than 70,000 members in 100 countries. The John T. Riordan School for Retail Real Estate Professionals is the global flagship preparatory program for real estate professional in the shopping center industry.
Graduate, Realtor Institute (GRI) – Earlier in this article, we mentioned the fact that NAR is the dominant real estate organization in the United States. So the fact that they also offer a host of designations, including GRI, should come as no surprise. But the GRI designation is different in a few ways. First, although it is based on real estate principles, the primary perspective is residential in nature and focuses on factors and influences that affect buyers and seller of homes. And second, the specific requirements are governed by the individual state chapters rather than by the larger central organization.
Member Appraisal Institute (MAI) – The Appraisal Institute is the leading trade organization for the appraisal profession, with over 22,000 members. The MAI designation focuses on valuation and evaluation of real estate, including commercial and residential properties. It is unique because in addition to coursework and experience, achieving it also requires a fouryear college degree.
When I received my CPM designation, I was presented a pin. While the pin was nice, it was the presenter’s words that caught my attention, as she said, “This is probably the most expensive piece of jewelry that you will ever own.” Although these designations are only three or four letters long, they represent significant effort and investment. So the next time you see someone sporting one of these designations, you can be certain that they earned it. Ira Krumholz