The real estate landscape is littered with acronyms: SRES, GRI, SCLS, CRE and MAI are among the alphabet soup that real estate agents and brokers often attach to their names.

The designations can represent anything from two hours of online study to months of classroom education. Some designations are available to agents based solely on agent experience, extensive qualifications, and payment of a huge fee.

One of the most valued designations today is as lofty as a master’s degree or doctorate within the industry and it requires a mix of lengthy courses and work experience — the Certified Commercial Investment Member designation.

The CCIM designation is earned by few agents, with just 6 percent nationwide earning it, the title is picking up popularity in key markets, such as Florida and along the Gulf Coast.

That’s because many Fortune 500 firms and high-powered real estate investment trusts will only work with brokers who have earned the CCIM lapel pin.

“The numbers in Florida are definitely going up, membership has been increasing at a double-digit rate this cycle,” Adam Palmer, a principal and managing director with LandQwest Commercial, in Fort Myers, and the 2018 president of the CCIM Institute’s Florida chapter, told Business Observer. “I think that’s because there’s a recognition out there, among Fortune 500 firms and others, that CCIM is the upper echelon of commercial real estate education.”

Across the Sunshine State, approximately 1,000 commercial real estate agents or other practitioners hold the CCIM designation, though the institute’s ranks have climbed 10 percent annually in the Florida for each of the past three years.

The institute, part of the National Association of Realtors, also is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The group has been in Florida since 1974.

Getting the designation has been a challenge, with CCIM candidates facing multiple hurdles.

Until recently, when online classes began to be offered, candidates had to travel to cities where week-long CCIM “core” courses were taught, typically in large cities such as Chicago, New York or Washington, D.C.

Candidates must take seven courses to receive their designation and pass a six-hour final exam.

Moreover, CCIM candidates also have to prove that they have completed a specified number of transactions or have been involved in deals carrying a pre-determined dollar volume.

CCIM also requires that agents must have at least two years of commercial real estate experience, in most cases, before they can start their coursework.
Palmer points out that part of the process weeds out those who aren’t as productive in the business.

The courses aren’t cheap, either. Tuition for most classes is in excess of $1,000 per class, not including lodging, meals and other expenses associated with traveling to complete the coursework.

Karl “Dee” Maret, national co-director of Coldwell Banker Commercial NRT, who is based in Tampa, said hia journey to CCIM designation cost more than $20,000.

A year after receiving his CCIM designation, Coldwell Banker offered Maret the chance to go into management, where he’s advanced steadily over the past five years.

Maret said there has never been a question about his competency or ability.

“It’s not called the Ph.D. of commercial real estate by accident,” he said.