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2024 IREM President Libby Ekre, CPM®, shares what IREM has meant to her and discusses her vision for this year and beyond

By Journal of Property Management
Libby Ekre, CPM®
Libby Ekre, CPM®

JPM spoke with 2024 IREM President Libby Ekre, CPM®, about her real estate management career, progress toward the objectives in IREM’s strategic plan, and how IREM will continue to meet the needs of real estate managers.

How did you get into real estate management, and how did you first get involved in IREM?

I happened to be looking for a job while taking a break from college and found myself as a leasing consultant on a brand new property. I absolutely loved my job, and it came with an apartment. That was the best thing ever at that age.

When my partners and I started our management company, MEB Management Services, AMO®, almost 25 years ago, we knew that if we wanted to compete with the larger companies, it would be critical to have our IREM CPM designations. Once those were secured, we had the confidence to grow our business because of the knowledge we gained in helping to create value for our clients.

Was there one person who particularly influenced your career?

My father taught me to show up, work hard, and do your best. He taught me to always do the right thing, even when it’s hard. He taught me to be respectful of others’ opinions and to listen. He was an educator and a grade school principal who never missed a day of school.

Why did you choose to follow a leadership path, both in your career and with IREM?

Leadership is part of the job and makes real estate management a rewarding and exciting career. You can learn and grow fairly quickly with the right training and determination. Overseeing the operations of multimillion-dollar properties, while enhancing the tenants’ and residents’ experiences of where they work and live, matters. You can change the value of the asset and make a difference in people’s lives, including for your clients and their bottom lines.

What have you learned so far while being an IREM leader about what real estate managers need and how IREM can fill that gap?

I’ve learned many things as an IREM leader. Anyone who steps into any leadership role should know that you’re there to listen to members’ needs—to always listen, understand, and ask a lot of questions. You’re also there to represent the members. We get so much insight from members sharing their experiences, and that insight is invaluable to executing the IREM strategic plan with the Board of Directors, which helps advance our collective knowledge and careers. That being said, each IREM President has faced some type of challenge in their year, and each has great and tough stories to tell. I’m hoping this year will be filled with great stories to tell.

Being an IREM leader has confirmed for me that real estate managers need information and ongoing education. Keeping our properties competitive requires this. IREM helps real estate managers gain the knowledge and confidence they need by taking the courses we offer. Access to these resources has been invaluable to me.

We offer our certification courses, webinars, and IREM Skill Badges. We have a catalog of over 300 Skills On-demand courses on the latest trends and best practices. We also have tools and resources like Income/Expense IQ, JPM, publications, as well as events like the IREM Global Summit, Property Management 360, and Advocacy Impact Day + ESG Summit. All these offerings help us keep current and stay on top of changes in our profession.

IREM members actively advance their careers by earning their CPM, which shows their personal and professional dedication to their careers. Members can get involved in advocacy by visiting legislators or attending relevant legislative sessions.

I hope that IREM members will fill out applications and join me in leadership for this incredible organization and receive the many gifts that we have been given: education, certifications, advocacy opportunities, networking, and most of all, friendships for life.

Can you talk about IREM’s strategic plan? Where is IREM excelling in meeting our goals, and where should the Institute focus our efforts to make greater strides?

We want to broaden the awareness of IREM so that real estate management is known as a career of choice, not chance. Where IREM is globally recognized for delivering critical value to the profession. Where IREM is relevant and recognized by each stakeholder on their own terms. Where IREM knowledge solutions are recognized as essential, and IREM is recognized as a leader in the real estate management community worldwide in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). We want to empower the next generation of IREM real estate managers to impact the future success of the profession.

And we need to keep moving forward and adapt as conditions change, as they always do. We’ll continue to focus and advance each of these strategic goals. Our IREM HQ team, the Board of Directors, and all our Committee and Advisory Council chairs and vice chairs are all in. We’re working to advance these goals, and each area has had significant achievements.

IREM has seen a 19% increase in course enrollments since 2021. Over 9,700 courses were completed in 2023 alone. With our international goals, we held classroom and Zoom courses for students in seven countries last year. IREM Certified Sustainable Property (CSP) applications increased by 53% in 2023 compared to the previous year. The IREM Foundation supported 90 individuals who identify as having a marginalized identity in working toward an IREM certification. Members conducted over 100 meetings with legislative offices at the 2023 Advocacy Impact Day. That event has expanded to a full day this year and includes an ESG Summit in partnership with the IREM Foundation.

IREM is making an impact, no doubt. We need to keep our focus, keep expanding the reach of the programs and resources we have in place, and seize the opportunities that arise, especially when they’ll help us meet our strategic goals.

Let’s talk about technology. With so many advances in technology for leasing, accounting, maintenance, and other operational areas, how can IREM members stay up to date in this fast-moving, digital world?

Technology has advanced the way we’re doing business and the way the customer is interacting with the management team. We’re using mobile entry gates and doors, and we’ve installed fully automated lighting and air conditioning systems. Now, apps powered by AI can schedule leasing tours and answer calls after hours. AI also allows for authentic automated responses to service requests and monthly collection emails or texts. These advancements help with our tenant or resident satisfaction by delivering immediate responses and increasing our team’s ability to interact with in-person traffic. All of this enhances our ability to serve our customers and increases satisfaction ratings.

Personally, I’m looking forward to the day when AI can paint an apartment because very few maintenance people enjoy that! But that’s a huge benefit—when AI sets a leasing appointment, qualifies a prospect, or one day paints an apartment, those staff are then free to complete more critical or customer-centric work.

Our vendor partners have the tools we need. The hard part for real estate managers is to convince our clients of the need and get our team members to actively participate in the trials and implementations. Real estate managers need to have a community we can go to and count on when making the business case for these tools. Through our certifications, IREM has equipped real estate managers to make the business case for good solutions to real estate management problems, when those solutions come along.

In that respect, technology is no different. We just need to understand the impacts. We need timely information that’s relevant and forward-looking. We need access to accurate data and statistics that help us create realistic budgets that reflect the impacts of technology solutions in our properties. We also need enhanced learning that allows us to keep up with technology advancements and be the best in the field. And we need our owners, clients, and employers to see us as confident and reliable experts in real estate. IREM is the answer.

It’s set to be a big year, with elections in the U.S. and other countries, ongoing market concerns, and other issues. How does IREM plan on adapting to the changing needs of its membership resulting from these issues?

IREM stays in front of issues and concerns that involve real estate. That’s why each of our individual relationships with our state and local legislators matters. The voice of our fellow affiliates and NAR is the largest combined real estate advocate in the nation. Every year, it’s our responsibility to build relationships so that we can inform our legislators on the big picture and how the legislation they’re considering will impact real estate owners.

From rent control to energy mandates, insurance issues, and the 1031 exchange, real estate will most assuredly be a top issue in elections this year. We’ll continue to communicate our consistent message to legislators, always stay one step ahead, and speak with one voice.

Big year. Bigger voice.

How would you define the IREM member experience? What gets you excited about the work IREM is doing to enhance the member experience, with the strategic focus and the work the Member Experience Advisory Council is doing?

The goal is for our members to be able to experience IREM in their own unique way. We want them to see IREM as an educational provider for all things real estate and as an advocate for all legislative challenges that involve real estate management. IREM is the place to achieve the highest form of real estate management certifications internationally and is likened to a master’s degree for real estate managers.

Our networking opportunities provide a wealth of information and credibility. Collaborating with a diverse and experienced group of industry professionals elevates us and enhances what we bring to the table, both personally and professionally.

From the international to the chapter level, the IREM member experience is about each member enjoying these benefits on our own terms, bringing our authentic selves to the engagement.

What do you tell new and prospective IREM members you meet in your business and your leadership role with IREM?

Getting my CPM was one of the best decisions I’ve made. No other organization out there is more professional and ethical in practice and community. IREM helped me grow my leadership skills, experience, and network over the years, and I’m a better business owner and partner from engaging with the Institute.

The community you surround yourself with matters, and I choose IREM.

Journal of Property Management

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