What is a certification in property management?

When a property manager presents you with their business card, you might have observed a series of acronyms following their name. These abbreviations, such as CAM, PCAM, CMCA, and others, represent a property management certification obtained, indicating their level of education and expertise in the field.

To better understand their purpose and meaning, we’ve listed a few common property management certifications below for reference.
What is a certification in property management?
  • CAM – Community Association Manager: This property manager certification is awarded to individuals who have completed a specialized training program in community association management. It covers various aspects of managing residential properties, including finance, maintenance, resident relations, and legal responsibilities.

  • AMS – Association Management Specialist: The second tier in the career development pathway for community association managers is marked by achieving the AMS designation. This credential signifies a heightened dedication to professional growth and the advancement of the community association industry. Pursuing an AMS designation is particularly advantageous for managers to enhance their career opportunities by increasing their knowledge and expertise.

  • PCAM – Professional Community Association Manager: The PCAM designation represents the apex of achievement in community association management. Available to senior managers, it stands as the most prestigious and nationally recognized accolade for managers specializing in this field. Attaining the PCAM designation places you among an exclusive and esteemed group—the finest in the profession.

  • CMCA - Certified Manager of Community Associations: The CMCA designation is one of the most prestigious certifications in property management because it is the only international certification program designed exclusively for homeowner and condominium associations and cooperatives managers. It is offered by the Community Association Managers International Certification Board (CAMICB). To obtain this property manager certification, candidates must meet specific education and experience requirements and pass a rigorous examination. CMCA’s are well-versed in all aspects of property management and are considered highly qualified professionals in the industry.

  • ARM - Accredited Residential Manager: The ARM certification is offered by the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM). It focuses on residential property management and covers topics like property marketing, risk management, budgeting, and fair housing laws. It is designed for individuals managing residential properties such as apartments and condominiums.
Besides the ones mentioned above, there are additional certifications available, such as LSM (Large-Scale Manager), AAMC (Accredited Association Management Company) designations, and more. This can be in addition to required certifications in your state or province, and it’s important to review those as well.

Now, let's delve into why all those acronyms can have a significant impact on your community.
  1. Property management certifications matter

    While not all companies employ certified managers, the best property management companies will be staffed with certified professionals because they have a culture of growth and learning. Not to mention that some states require community managers to have an active license in order to lead an association.

    Earning a property manager certification demonstrates a property manager's commitment to professional development and signifies a certain level of expertise and knowledge in their field. For example, if you’re on the board of a large association, you may want to look for someone with the LSM specialty designation. Likewise, if you’re part of a residential apartment building, you may look to a manager with the RAM designation from NABO. Using what you know about certifications will help you find a manager whose skill set is tailored to your unique needs.

  2. Know the difference

    We described above the main property management certifications. Understanding what they stand for and the difference between each will help you determine the manager’s seniority and experience, as some certifications require 5 years of management experience.

    According to the Community Association Institute (CAI), they tier designations starting with the Certified Manager of Community Associations (CMCA), with progression to the subsequent designation of Association Management Specialist (AMS) and culminating with the highest certification, Professional Community Association Manager (PCAM). Once they’ve attained this level of accreditation, community managers can achieve specialty certifications, such as the LSM or Large-Scale Manager.

    The Institute of Real Estate Management, or IREM, offers certifications, including Certified Property Manager (CPM) for those managing large portfolios and Accredited Residential Manager (ARM) for those focusing on small to medium portfolios.
    For apartments, condominiums, and cooperative properties, the industry group known as National Associated Builders and Owners (or NABO) offers a specialty certification known as RAM or Registered in Apartment Management.

  3. More than knowledge

    Achieving property management certifications speaks to more than just additional know-how. A property manager who has invested additional time and dedication to his profession is the type of individual you want on your team. What’s more, it says something about their company, too. A property management company that encourages ongoing development is committed to delivering the utmost service to clients like you.

  4. State requirements

    In some areas, specific property management certifications are required. Before contracting a property management company, you’ll want to be familiar with these minimum requirements and ensure your manager is compliant. But don’t let that stop you from searching for a professional with designations that exceed the minimum requirement. After all, your ideal property manager will go above and beyond in all aspects of their role; additional certifications speak to their ability to do that.
Communities should work with certified professionals as they are more likely to provide competent and reliable services. Additionally, they show that the property manager is keeping up with industry standards and best practices, which can lead to more efficient and effective management of your community. However, it's essential to note that while certifications are valuable, practical experience and a good track record are also crucial factors to consider when choosing a property manager.

Read our article 12 characteristics of a good property manager and management company, to learn more about the attributes you should look for in your community manager and management company.

At FirstService Residential, we hire service-minded people to serve our communities and board members. And we believe in providing the right training and resources so they can continue to provide exceptional service to our clients.

To learn more about how we prepare our associates to better serve you, contact a member of our team today.
Friday July 28, 2023