Connections Through Camaraderie A Look At IREM New York

Since 1933, the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) has been the leading source of the education, credentialing, and development for real estate industry professionals both in the United States and abroad. As an affiliate of the National Association of Realtors, IREM provides credentialing to managers of multifamily apartments, condominiums and homeowners' associations, public and assisted housing, as well as office buildings and shopping centers. Education and certification is available to managers at all levels, from site managers to management company executives. According to the group, IREM is the only organization committed to serving all property managers of all property types.

An Overview

IREM counts 16,000 individual members and 540 company members who have earned the organization's credentials. IREM also has 700 associate members, a non-credential form of membership. IREM has 85 chapters across the United States, as well as established chapters and partnerships around the world. Ranging in size from under 20 to over 400 members, each chapter offers members a wide variety of locally sponsored educational events and other support services. Paid staff administers some chapters, while others are supported and run entirely by volunteer efforts. The organization is directed by a leadership team of volunteer members and is run on a day-to-day basis by a group of association management professionals. A member-driven organization, IREM consists of committees, subcommittees, regional vice-presidents, state chapter presidents and a national board of governors.

Management With a Mission

The mission of IREM is four-fold: to educate real estate managers and certify their competence and professionalism, to enhance its members' professional competence, to serve as an advocate on issues affecting the real estate management industry, and to advance the professional stature of real estate management. IREM offers three different education- and experience-driven credentials, each of which comprises a membership category:

CPM (Certified Property Manager) designation: for individual property and asset managers working with large portfolios of all property types - residential, commercial, retail and industrial.ARM (Accredited Residential Manager) certification: for managers of residential portfolios, including conventional apartments, federally-assisted housing, public housing, condominiums, dormitories, homeowners' associations and mobile home parks. AMO (Accredited Management Organization) accreditation: to recognize excellence among real estate management firms. Only firms that achieve the highest level of performance, experience and financial stability can earn the AMO accreditation.

IREM also has an associate membership category open to real estate professionals without an IREM credential who are involved in virtually any area of real estate management.

IREM helps its members advance their careers by providing them with state-of-the-art educational programs that are delivered in three ways: through traditional classroom course instruction, via home study courses, and on the web. It also offers members products, such as books, videos and marketing tools as well as insightful research reports that help members benchmark their operating costs against others in their market area. The Journal of Property Management, an award-winning bimonthly magazine, delivers news and information members need to solve management problems and improve business operations.

IREM is also strongly committed to legislative advocacy. It is part of a legislative advocacy team that consistently monitors and advances issues of public policy to promote and protect the right to own, use and transfer real property. IREM members have access to the most up-to-date legislative and regulatory information available as well as communication channels to help them understand issues and seek solutions to relevant public policy problems.

A Chat With the Chief

The Cooperator recently had the opportunity to speak with Michael Martino, president of the New York Chapter of IREM.

Q: How long have you been the chapter president?

"Just since November. But I'm not new to IREM. I've been with this organization since the 1980s."

Q: Have you held any other office within the organization?

"Oh, yes. I was treasurer of the Greater New York chapter, president elect; two-term president, and two-year regional vice president for New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania."

Q: What are your goals for the new position?

"First and foremost, the local chapter has been doing some good stuff. I want to maintain progress and build on the chapter's success. The chapter has been growing in strength and range of service for many years. I don't want to reinvent the wheel.

"Having said that, I want to interject some things. First, I want to enhance communication within the organization, responding to the needs of the membership. I think we should be as responsive as we can in fulfilling the members' needs.

"Secondly, I want to see some new faces involved in the programs, particularly in the setting of policy. I think new blood is vital to the long-term success of any organization, especially in chapter governance committees.

"I also to continue to expand networking and fun events. From cocktail parties to golf outings, we have to remind ourselves that people's time is valuable. We want to make our outings informative while putting a fun spin on it all. It's our responsibility to keep our members apprised of changes in the industry, from updates on terrorism and security standards to keeping an eye on the world of finance.

"Similar to the events, I want us to build on the success of the seminar series. We will continue with dynamic and noteworthy speakers that keep people's attention. The key, in my opinion, is to always make this information as interesting as possible."

Q: What sort of challenges do you face?

"It's two-fold in New York. We need to give IREM members something in the way of service. And make it meaningful. But we're all sensitive to budgetary issues. We want to hold the line while maintaining structures. So we're always balancing the need for good speakers and a comfortable environment, with the bottom line. So we bid on everything, looking for economies of scale. We keep our programming to high standards, while still keeping money aside for when the industry is in a down cycle.

"IREM is a valuable designation, both in terms of education and the honing of skills. But there are competing groups. People pick and choose where to devote their time and money. So it's important that we give them the best service out there in order for them to do their jobs as best as possible. We're in an environment with competitors with other valuable services. This keeps us on our toes and inspires us to be all the better."

Q: Can you give me a snapshot description of the New York condo and co-op market?

"In general, the way of real estate in New York and the entire northeast is extremely hot. It's a sellers' market. Yet sophisticated buyers will still find value. More specifically, it's a strong market for condos and co-ops.

"It's all about timing. Condos and co-ops had once lagged with renters, but that's changed. They were slower to recover from the slump in the 1980s, but have now come back strong. Co-op boards are more responsible; they're more sensitive to business and keeping up with the industry. They're much more sophisticated these days and they need to be. They're savvy with budgets and the maintenance of physical assets. They look great.

"The entire real estate industry is looking great. Employment is hot. We're out of the 1980s and looking into real assets - and the bottom line. The industry has come of age and the demand is extremely high for people with IREM credentials.

"Of course, we're always a little conscious of overselling. And evaluation needs to continue to be realistic. If people don't become over-leveraged and maintain a balance of reality, we'll all be fine."

Q: What are the advantages of joining your organization?

"There are many benefits to joining the IREM family. You have opportunities for education and keeping your skills sharp. You get to work alongside well-respected, seasoned professionals. The IREM designation is respected because it means an exceptionally level of knowledge and industry skills. The designation tells owners, clients, and employers that you not only have the skills, but a high standard of integrity. We stress self-policing. We're an ethically-oriented organization. We look for the good of the whole. We take great measures to make sure our organization maintains the ethical standing our industry demands."

Q: What is the biggest misconception about IREM?

"At times outside people look at IREM as elitist. Or as something that can't be attained by everyone. So we're attempting to make it clear that there is ability to attain our accreditation in a reasonable amount of time.

"Quite frankly, it's difficult to get these designations. But we're making pains to make it easier for opportunities in training. We're sensitive to the courses and the compression of time, without sacrificing the standards.

"We've heard the complaint that our accreditation takes too long, so we've responded to that. We have a new program that lasts only one year. It's accelerated and provides the opportunity to jump from one course to the other without any down time. We're also stressing mentorship in the New York chapter. So those enrolled in the course can call up their mentor for advice in the accreditation process.

"So we're breaking down misconceptions and grievances without sacrificing our high standards."

Q: What do you enjoy most about IREM?

"That's easy: the camaraderie. You can't replace that. You pick up the phone. You call for help in a peer group dealing with the same situations. There are experts all around you; people are always helping each other.

"And this helps you go forward. And it's all for the mutual goal of raising standards in education and ethics. We practice this on a day-to-day basis and help each other.

"On a more personal level, I've got an example. I'm doing some business in Kansas. So I recently opened up the IREM catalog and found a fellow CPM in Kansas. And he got me the lay of the land in this little town in Kansas in which I was doing business. It's phenomenal. We're just there to help each other.

"Whether you're starting new, out there on your own, or just want to keep ahead of the game, membership in IREM is invaluable."

Q: What is your background in the real estate industry?

"I come from a diversified business. I'm a self-employed consultant in real estate finance. One of my specialties is affordable housing. My practice stretches from general consulting to the sales end and refinancing. And as you can imagine, I'm heavily involved with IREM. I'm also the mayor of the village I live in."

Q: So you've got a full plate.

"We all have full plates. It's unbelievable. I wanted to stress how important it is to work together with such a dedicated team of professionals. The ability to work with these colleagues, whom are both astounding professionals and great people, is always a worthwhile experience. Sometimes I look at the table, at who's sitting in front of me, and I'm astounded.

"I'm looking forward to going forward in 2004 with the officers and committees. Moving forward with this team is an opportunity that's too good to miss. IREM is a great organization. And the local structure is hard to resist. They make it informative and they make it fun. You can't pass that up.

"And it's all volunteers. We're a volunteer organization. My colleagues in IREM have a lot of time and effort in their hearts. And they're doing it to give back to the industry and their colleagues. I'm grateful and flattered that they've selected me to represent them and work with their team and chapter. It's all about teamwork at IREM."

Will Nedved is a playwright and freelance writer living outside New York.

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