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90 years of IREM

Nine decades of ethics, education, and dedicated members to stand the test of time

By Journal of Property Management

IREM turns 90 years old this year, and the occasion needs to be celebrated! How many organizations reach such a milestone? IREM has stood the test of time by keeping a finger on the pulse of property management over the past nine decades. Our collective experiences in the face of known and unknown challenges have made us all stronger, more resilient, and ready to overcome the next obstacle.

A look back to the beginning

The world was very different in 1933, but IREM has always risen to the occasion since its inception. Not only has the Institute endured challenges, but the organization has thrived and is well-positioned to continue doing so into the future.

When IREM was created, the United States was deep in the Great Depression, with nearly 25% of the nation’s workforce unemployed. This was the same year prohibition was repealed and construction began on the Golden Gate Bridge. The chocolate chip cookie was popularized, the first drive-in movie theater opened in New Jersey, and the average cost of a new home was $5,750.

It was also the year that the National Association of Real Estate Boards (NAREB)—known today as the National Association of REALTORS®—recognized the need for greater specialization in the real estate industry and launched IREM to promote ethical practices in real estate management, foster education, and encourage members to share their experiences.

Filling the need

During the early 1900s, industrialization, urbanization, and immigration created enormous demand for housing in American cities. Real estate owners typically acted as property managers themselves, but that usually amounted to collecting rent and making only the most necessary repairs to their properties. With demand far exceeding supply, there was little incentive to make significant property improvements.

American cities experienced a surge in residential construction from around 1900 through the 1920s. This boom greatly expanded the number of apartment buildings across the country and created rental units for middle-income and even wealthy families. But the Great Depression that soon followed ended in a flood of defaults and foreclosures, leaving banks with large portfolios of real estate assets to manage. Since they weren’t equipped to operate these buildings on their own, they needed to find people who could manage tenants and residents, contractors, plumbers, and oil and coal deliveries.

Trained professionals were required to manage the growing complexities of commercial and residential real estate. This was the catalyst for industry professionals to launch an organization that could provide the training needed to produce ethical, efficient, and effective property managers.

And so, in January 1933, 14 individuals, together with 100 real estate management firms, attended a NAREB meeting in Washington, D.C., where they petitioned NAREB to found IREM. This group expressed concerns about financial abuses made by real estate firms with property management responsibilities, as well as a desire to develop real estate management into a professional endeavor rooted in knowledge and best practices.

NAREB approved the launch of IREM on June 12, 1933. On July 10, 1934, the state of Illinois granted the association charter. At the first recorded meeting of the Institute on Oct. 5, 1933, the participants reviewed the new bylaws and established the following organizational goals:

  • The establishment of a code of ethics and standards of practice
  • The identification and registration of responsible and competent managers and management agents of real estate
  • The establishment of coordinated standards and units for scientific recording of the experience in the management of real estate
  • The exchange of management experience, fostering of knowledge, integrity, and efficiency in the management of real estate

Today, IREM is best known for education. However, it’s important to remember that IREM was built on a foundation of establishing and maintaining ethical business practices in the management of real estate. While education may be the heart of the Institute, the IREM Code of Professional Ethics is the backbone. And at every IREM-certified member installation event, newly certified real estate managers must pledge to uphold this code.

IREM 2023

Since that NAREB meeting in January 1933, IREM has evolved into a global powerhouse with nearly 20,000 members across 43 countries, 16 international chapters, and 78 U.S. chapters. Our members manage $2.1 trillion in real estate assets, including 116 million residential units and 12 billion square feet of commercial space. CPM members manage 38% of federally assisted housing in the U.S., 32.4% of conventionally financed apartments, 24% of public housing, and 17.9% of office building space.

These numbers are the result of 90 years of learning and managing through the events that defined history. Defining moments include the Great Depression, World War II and the subsequent boom in construction, the growth of the American suburb, landmark legislation on housing and equality, the rise of the internet, and, most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic.

This short list of momentous occasions puts the magnitude of IREM’s achievements over the past 90 years into perspective. It also begs the question: What’s next?

The next chapter

Recognizing the importance of a solid plan, in 2020, IREM leadership developed a strategic plan to ensure the long-term success of the Institute and to fulfill the mission of advancing the profession of real estate management. And IREM continues to evolve, guided by the strategic plan. From deepening our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) to preparing real estate managers for the rapid advances in technology, we’re continually changing to meet the needs of our members.

“IREM has been evolving as the voice of real estate management for 90 years. Today, we remain a leader in education and knowledge sharing, with an enduring commitment to upholding ethical practices since 1933,” says Renee Savage, CPM®, CCIM, the 2023 IREM President. “It’s an honor to lead the Institute during this milestone year and help continue shaping the future of real estate management.”

As the world continues to surprise us, the IREM vision stays true, and we continue to recognize real estate managers as essential to the success of our communities, the people who live in and rely upon these properties, and to property investors and owners everywhere.

Journal of Property Management

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