Brad's Blog - My Journey to Earning the CCIM Designation

I’m pleased to share that I recently earned the CCIM Designation following over 200 hours of course work and successfully passing the 6-hour exam in Seattle last month. The acronym CCIM stands for Certified Commercial Investment Member. This designation has been earned by over 25,000 people since 1967 and about 13,500 individuals currently hold the designation.

Why Did I Pursue a CCIM Designation After 31 Years of Being a Commercial Real Estate Broker:

Reason #1 – FONK:  I have a Fear of Not Knowing (“FONK”). Over my career, I have seen many individuals with the CCIM designation and I wanted to know what they learned and experienced by going through the CCIM educational process.

Reason #2Joining a Club of Learners:  I love to learn. It is one of my favorite aspects of brokerage. I very much believe I learn something new every day and one of my observations about the CCIM program is its focus on education. In addition to the Core CCIM Curriculum, there are many other classes offered such as Negotiations, Splitting Profits in CRE, High Tech Marketing for CRE, Leveraging Historic Tax Credits, Commercial Loan Underwriting and at least 50 others.

Reason #3Another Network:  I have been very active in the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), Retail Brokers Network (RBN), and Association of Corporate Real Estate (ACRE). These organizations are all retail focused. Having an additional network of individuals, especially ones that are not retail focused, is a good opportunity to expand my network.

Reason #4 – Laying Future Groundwork: I have always believed that a certain percentage of my efforts were to make a buck today, but also a percentage were to lay the groundwork for my future endeavors. I view that I still have a long career ahead of me, but I believe some aspect of it will involve continuing to share knowledge with commercial real estate brokers. I think the CCIM organization will help me as I continue to develop this skill.

What Did I Learn from My CCIM Journey:

Before I share my takeaways from my CCIM journey, I want to explain why it took so long. Earning my CCIM designation, has been on my “to do” list for over 25 years (how’s that for procrastination). I first learned of CCIM in the mid 1990’s but back then, the only way to take the four Core Curriculum courses was in person a week at a time.  As a young broker who was married with young children, the opportunity cost of taking four full weeks off to earn the designation was not realistic for me.

Then as my brokerage career thrived and I ended up opening my own firm, Progressive Real Estate Partners, there never seemed to be the time.  Fast forward to 2020 and along came the pandemic and I learned that CCIM offered a hybrid option. As a result. I took all the required courses in 2020 and 2021. Each course was 4 hours per week over 6 weeks which was a perfect format for me. But then as a Covid cautious person, I was not prepared to travel to take the exam that is offered only twice per year. I finally took it last month in Seattle and was officially “Pinned” with the coveted CCIM lapel pin I’m wearing in the picture above.

Having gone through the experience, here are my takeaways for those that are considering the designation or those wondering what the CCIM letters after someone’s name might mean.

More Than a Cap Rate Perspective: Most brokers when selling a property think simply in terms of cap rate. They don’t understand how time, changes in lease rates, and changes in cap rates, can materially affect the investor’s return. The CCIM program is very oriented towards calculating the internal rate of return (“IRR”) of an investment. The problem with IRR is you can only truly calculate it in hindsight because you need to know what cash flow the investment achieved, what price the property sold at, and how long it was held. Despite these limitations, understanding IRR is relevant. A broker who understands a certain market and can speak to an investor in terms of the probability that rents will go up or down, who understands what the investors time frame might be, and understands how future cap rates can make or break an investment makes for a more valuable and insightful broker.

The Effects of Taxes and Depreciation: A huge amount of the CCIM program is analyzing investments on a before and after-tax basis. This considers the effects of ordinary income taxes (for most investors 37%), long term capital gains taxes (20% for most) and the recapture of previously taken depreciation (25%). Once again, most brokers just assume everyone is going to do a 1031 exchange and defer taxes, but those with a CCIM understand the effects of investments that may have modest amounts of net operating income over the early years, but then a large increase in NOI in the year of sale, can result in shifting gains from ordinary income to long term capital gains. They also understand the benefits of trading up to potentially create additional depreciation. Although CCIM’s are not accountants, they have an awareness of the issues of taxes and depreciation that most brokers don’t think about.

The Ability to Compare Owner/User Options to Lease Options or Two Lease Options: Most of this training compares leasing vs. buying or two lease alternatives from the user perspective. This is very valuable for brokers representing users. But the training also helps a broker better understand why a property owner might be better off selling a property to an owner/user vs. leasing it. The CCIM program is focused entirely on the metrics (which option provides a better IRR or Net Present Value). I do wish that there would be more of a qualitative discussion about placing value on those items that are harder to quantify such as the value of being near public transportation, or whichever property amenities may be valuable to the user.

The Effects of Leverage: The CCIM model considers unleveraged and leveraged investments with before and after-tax implications. I see a lot of benefits to understanding the effect of debt/reduced equity in an investment.

Most Importantly, CCIM’s are Individuals that Invest in Themselves: But more than the qualities listed above and those that I have not listed, someone with their CCIM has made a significant investment in themselves and in my opinion, this is extremely valuable. I have so much respect for the many individuals I spoke to during the two day Core Curriculum Review prior to the exam. I am particularly impressed by the young individuals who have made up to a $10,000 investment (cost of the courses, test, and travel) to make themselves better. I think one of the greatest benefits these individuals will get is not only helping their clients, but hopefully being encouraged to strategically and thoughtfully make investments that will allow them to benefit in the long term from their brokerage activities by becoming a prudent investor.

The Program has Room for Growth:  I would recommend more emphasis on how knowledge can realistically be applied to the real world. For example, the math may say that putting 70% leverage on an investment is a great idea because it will result in a much higher IRR, but there is very little discussion about how this leverage dramatically increases the risk to the equity and how to analyze how this risk impacts the decision-making process. I would also like to see a deeper discussion of the various product types as I think it is very beneficial to be able to intelligently talk to a client who is selling multi-family and wanting to purchase either a retail building or office building and better understand the factors involved in such a decision. I have other ideas for how the CCIM program can grow and if someone from CCIM is reading this blog and wants to discuss my thoughts, I would be happy to share them.


Overall, I am very satisfied with the journey and proud to have earned the CCIM pin.  I will definitely encourage many others to earn the designation. Furthermore, I look forward to applying much of what I learned to my own personal investments and the decisions that I need to make going forward regarding holding them, selling and paying taxes, or trading into other assets. I will also use my knowledge to better educate and coach the Progressive Real Estate Partners team and any other brokers and investors I work with or represent in the future.