Letters behind name signify level of expertise

Chris Stephens

The other day I was asked about the meaning of the letters CCIM behind my name. Commercial real estate, like most professions, has a number of designations obtained through study, examinations and demonstration projects. Real estate designations, such as CCIM, are similar to CPA (certified public accountant) in the accounting field or CLU (certified licensed underwriter) in the insurance profession.

Many of us obtain these designations in an effort to gain as much knowledge as possible about our profession, to better serve clients and to enhance our careers. A designation signifies a verifiable high level of ability. Yet, others without letters behind their names may have high ability too. Many people with tremendous expertise are working in commercial real estate without a designation and provide excellent service.

In Anchorage, the alphabet of commercial real estate designations represented includes CCIM, CPM and SIOR, obtained through affiliates of the National Association of Realtors, and the MAI designation through the Appraisal Institute. This column does not include the numerous residential real estate designations.

CCIM stands for certified commercial investment member and designates an expert in commercial and investment real estate. CCIMs have completed a curriculum that covers skill sets including ethics, interest-based negotiation, financial analysis, market analysis, user-decision analysis, and investment analysis for commercial investment real estate. CCIMs are experts in brokerage, leasing, valuation and investment analysis.

This is the most popular commercial real estate brokerage designation in Anchorage, with 12 CCIM brokers. In addition, four CCIMs in Anchorage who are not brokers work in the areas of development, management and personal investment.

CPM stands for certified property manager. This designation is awarded by the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM®), an international organization of managers of all property types — commercial, residential, retail, industrial. Obtaining the CPM designation requires study in property maintenance and risk management, real estate finance, valuation and marketing, and human resources as well as an examination and years of experience. There are five CPMs in Anchorage.

SIOR stands for Society of Industrial and Office Realtors®, a network with more than 3,000 members in 580 cities in 20 countries. They are specialists in industrial and office real estate. The course of study includes various CCIM and CPM courses and others, plus market experience. While similar to the CCIMs, these brokers tend to work more closely with industry rather than investors. There is one SIOR in Anchorage.

The appraisal designation MAI, for Member Appraisal Institute, is well known. MAIs have significant experience and education in property valuation. Courses of study include appraisal principles, various approaches to determining value, market analysis, highest and best use, and finance. They are considered the last word in valuation by financial institutions, courts, property owners and investors. While MAIs are qualified in all property types, they are primarily commercial appraisers. There are 17 MAI appraisers in Anchorage.

All of these designations have strict codes of ethics and adhere to the highest standards of professional business conduct.

Chris Stephens, CCIM, is a local associate broker specializing in commercial and investment real estate. His column appears every month in the Daily News.