Profile: ‘Amateur Hour Is Over,’ Says IREM President

By Teresa O’Dea Hein, Managing EditorProfessional management is key in tough economic times, believes Regina (Reggie) T. Mullins, CPM. With more than 24 years of industry experience, Mullins brings a lot of expertise to her role as the 2008 president of the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM). This year marks IREM’s 75th anniversary. In Mullins’ nine months as IREM’s 2008 president, she has reached out to real estate professionals all over the U.S. and overseas as well through speaking engagements and meetings. Her travels have taken her from Des Moines, Iowa to El Paso, Texas, to Japan, Korea and Poland, among other chapter locations. IREM has members in 33 countries.Based on polling of its members, IREM’s strategic plan this year is focused on five areas: workforce development, technology, risk management, sustainability and business communications. Mullins is vice president of commercial real estate management for Cafritz Co., based in Washington, D.C., and also serves on the firm’s management committee. Prior to joining Cafritz Company in July 2007, she was a senior portfolio manager at Cushman & Wakefield, responsible for a portfolio in northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland. Prior to joining C&W in 1997, she was a senior property manager at two different Washington, DC-area property management firms where she was responsible for 18 commercial properties totaling more than 2 million square feet.  Major management projects she has supervised include the start-up of two office buildings totaling 600,000 square feet, a $20 million building renovation, and a $5 million renovation of an existing shopping center. She holds a B.S. degree in Management.Mullins earned the Certified Property Manager (CPM) designation from IREM in 1984 and has been a member of the association’s northern Virginia Chapter No. 77 since 1987. She was honored by the chapter in 1995 as “CPM of the Year” and served as chapter president in 1997. As well, she was an IREM regional vice president in 2001 and 2002 and has chaired and/or served on IREM’s Membership, Management Plan, Legislative and Education Committees. Mullins earned her Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) designation from the CCIM Institute in May 2003. MHN: In your opinion, what is the current state of the property management industry?Mullins: I prefer to call it real estate management, not property management, because we’re not just managing sticks and bricks. When the going gets tough, a CPM knows how to add value. In this economic climate, amateur hour is over. Now, you have to generate value from the operations side of real estate investmentsAcross the country, I’ve noticed that people are doing more with less. They’re having to take on more properties with less staff. And the changes in the last 15 years on the financial side have required many more property managers to improve their financial skills. While their titles may be property managers, a lot have gotten more involved in refinancing, acquisitions and dispositions. A lot of our chapters have sponsored seminars teaching people how to calculate things like Internal Rate of Return (IRR) and Net Present Value.But at the same time, people also want to have a balanced life, which is hard to do with computers, email and Blackberries going all the time. I see a lot of our members—especially younger ones—looking for more flexibility in their jobs.And the availability of online leasing calls for a whole different way of marketing.MHN: What advice would you give to a property manager reading this article?Mullins: Naturally, the first thing I would say is get involved in IREM. You can take all kinds of classes to advance your career.Secondly, network. You will not believe how useful that can be. Networking is the key to success in real estate. It’s all about networking and contacts.Finally, enjoy what you do. Our days are never the same. You have to be a people person and a problem-solver—a jack of all trades. MHN: Are there misconceptions about what “green” means in the real estate sector?Mullins: The thing about green is that people think it’s only about energy and it isn’t. It’s not just lights and HVAC. It can encompass many approaches, from choosing recycled carpet tiles to water conservation, waste management and so many other alternatives. There’s so much that can done. Plus, it’s not just about the savings but also the social responsibility side. Residents are asking for green. I believe people will make leasing decisions based on the social aspects of sustainability. Younger people have recycled all their lives.MHN: Tell us a little more about IREM’s anniversary plans.Mullins: One of IREM’s 75th anniversary initiatives is a program to provide education and jobs for returning veterans. To that end, the association is funding 20 scholarships for site management courses.The Appraisal Institute, Building Owners and Managers Institute International (BOMI), CCIM Institute, the International Facilities Management Association (IFMA), the National Apartment Association (NAA) and the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors (SIOR) have all signed on as sponsors of IREM’s current, year-long 75th anniversary celebration. IREM’s anniversary celebration will culminate with a gala during its fall meetings in Chciago this October.  This will be held in the same location where IREM was formed in 1933 (when the hotel was called the Stevens Hotel; today, the site is occupied by the Conrad Hilton Hotel).Staffing is always an issue on multifamily properties, so the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) has created a timely solution. IREM recently launched an internship program that introduces newcomers to the field of real estate management. To mark the first phase of the program, which will be expanded over time, an internship section has been created on IREM’s online job board, www.iremjobs.org. Here, employers can post internship openings at no cost, and students can search for positions, upload resumes and apply to postings directly through the site. IREM now has 81 U.S. chapters, eight international chapters, and several other partnerships around the globe. Membership includes over 18,000 individual members and 500 corporate members.