Certified Managers Are CEOs Of Properties

October 31, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS - No longer only a janitor or caretaker, certified property managers can be viewed as the CEO of a property, caring for it as a business as well as a building.

"Once upon a time, property managers were collecting rents and on bad days, unclogged a toilet or two," said David Fortune, vice president of corporate real estate services for National City and president of the West Michigan Chapter 62 of the Institute of Real Estate Management. "Anyone could call themselves a property manager at one time. Now with the complexity of the property, it has become not just a property, but an investment."

Besides caring for the upkeep of the building, certified property managers find ways to add value to the property and therefore the investment, Fortune said.

"There's really a fiduciary aspect, too," he said. "Because you're managing an asset for someone else."

Anne Ficeli, senior property manager at Grubb & Ellis|Paramount Commerce, said property management is becoming a larger part of real estate investment.

"They're looking for a little more than someone to just handle the maintenance on the property," she said. "They're looking for return on investment; they're looking for cash flow."

Fortune said properties in all industries can benefit from a good certified property manager.

"Property managers are a critical part of planning in a property," he said. "No matter where commercial properties are positioned in the market, they need a competitive edge to increase their bottom line."

To become a certified property manager with the Institute of Real Estate Management, Fortune said, candidates have to have 36 months of experience with qualifying properties, adhere to a code of professional ethics that are enforced diligently and pass a certification exam. Candidates can choose from a two-day skills assessment exam or they can write a management plan similar to a thesis on a building, to display a broad understanding of the complexities of a property and how to add value to that property.

To prepare for the exam, the Institute of Real Estate Management offers courses such as ethics, finance, maintenance operation, marketing and human resources management.

As the position has changed and gained more responsibilities, the pay scale has changed as well. According to an Institute of Real Estate Management survey, there has been a marked growth in the compensation level for certified property managers.

The average salary was $53,714 in 1997, but it grew to $67,714 in 2001. Just five years later, the survey found, the median annual compensation for certified property managers is $95,000.

Fortune said though he has not seen a study of increasing compensation in West Michigan, he has seen a growing interest in property management in recent years with the rise of real estate investment trusts.

"Trustees need to prove to their clients that you have people that are extremely skilled in knowing how to maintain the value of that property and add to the value of that property," he said.

Ficeli said she believes the emphasis became stronger on property management as the economy weakened.

"I think it changed when the economy started to take a dip and real estate started to become a lot more attractive as an investment," she said.

More real estate companies are taking the service seriously as an investment tool they can offer for their clients, Ficeli said.

The change has affected the way property managers view themselves as well, Ficeli said, with more working toward certification and industry designations.

"Property managers are starting to take a more serious look at what we're doing and how it impacts the bottom line," she said. "It's not just making sure the properties are maintained and the rents are collected. There is a lot more to it than that."   

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