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What Is a CCIM and What Does It Mean to CRE Investors?

How to earn the CCIM designation; why to work with someone who has.

[Updated: Feb 04, 2021] Sep 11, 2020 by Marc Rapport
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Investors will often find themselves working with real estate practitioners carrying the CCIM designation at the end of her or his name. That acronym stands for certified commercial investment member.

"The CCIM lapel pin denotes that the wearer has completed advanced coursework in financial and market analysis and demonstrated extensive experience in the commercial real estate industry," the Chicago-based CCIM Institute says on its homepage.

The organization claims 13,000 members in more than 50 chapters in 30 countries around the world. Holders of its CCIM designation have completed at least 160 hours of case study-driven education. That’s equivalent to the course load for a four-year college degree and does not include the experience requirements.

The CCIM designation is not required to work in the commercial real estate industry. It does, however, lend an added layer of confidence for other commercial real estate professionals. When they see the CCIM designation, they know they’re working with someone who has qualifying experience and has completed the extensive coursework to earn the CCIM designation and can work with them on office, industrial, multifamily, and retail CRE analysis, negotiation, and investment.

"The designation process ensures that CCIMs are proficient not only in theory, but also in practice," according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). "This elite corps of CCIMs includes brokers, leasing professionals, investment counselors, asset managers, appraisers, corporate real estate executives, property managers, developers, institutional investors, commercial lenders, attorneys, bankers, and other allied professionals."

Experience requirements for CCIM designation

Professional experiential requirements for the CCIM designation include at least two years’ experience working in the commercial real estate industry (some tracks to the CCIM designation require five) and a portfolio that includes a qualifying volume of activities.

A qualifying volume would be one of these:

  • Three or more qualifying activities totaling $30 million or more.
  • Exactly 10 qualifying activities that must total $10 million or more.
  • Twenty qualifying activities without regard to total dollar volume.

That’s just for starters. Then there’s the coursework.

Coursework requirements for CCIM designation

The coursework part of the path to CCIM designation comprises four core courses -- on financial, market, user decision, and investment analysis -- as well as CCIM course on ethics, negotiation training, and electives.

Here’s the entire curriculum. The courses are offered in person in more than 150 cities in the U.S. and abroad and many are through the CCIM’s Ward Center for Real Estate Studies. There also are blended online and self-paced programs.

Three types of CCIM memberships

There are three types of CCIM memberships that institute candidates (the organization’s term for those pursuing that CCIM certification) can attain.

Here are their descriptions:

· Candidate Membership – This membership type is appropriate for most commercial real estate practitioners who are pursuing the CCIM designation. It requires no additional designations or advanced degrees.

· Fast Track – This membership is available to individuals who hold other eligible commercial real estate designations. (Examples include CPM designees or holders of the SIOR designation.) Fast Track members are exempt from some of the CCIM designation requirements.

· University Fast Track – Individuals with eligible master’s degrees from allied universities are invited to apply for this membership. University Fast Track members are exempt from some of the CCIM designation requirements.

The time and cost to become a certified commercial investment member

How long will it take? The institute says the CCIM designation program is designed to be self-paced and that students typically complete it -- including passing the final exam -- in one to three years, although it’s been done in as little as six months and as long as 10 years.

It also takes a significant financial commitment. The four core courses are currently listed online at $1,200 each if you’re a CCIM member, $1,460 if you’re a Realtor, and $1,735 for nonmembers.

Electives and continuing education classes range from free to $255 and there also are scholarships available from the organization itself and from local chapters.

Expand networks, enhance credibility, minimize risk, and close more deals

Earning the CCIM designation is time consuming, a financial commitment, and intellectually demanding.

The rewards, according to the CCIM, include becoming a leading expert recognized by a wide range of individuals and organizations in the commercial real estate industry, including property management firms, institutional investors, real estate brokerage managers, corporate real estate executives, and other commercial real estate professionals.

Those who choose to work with CCIM designees gain the input of a professional who has what the institute calls "the enhanced ability to help clients minimize risk," the insight of informed decisions, and the benefit of closing more deals, as well as a boost in their own credibility by virtue of working with a credentialed investor.

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