Despite the global pandemic, young leaders from around the globe are seeking to learn the best international practices in real estate management. One such young leader is Masashi “Masa” Kawakami, CPM, CCIM. Coming from Hokkaido, Japan, he recently moved to Dallas, Texas, to immerse himself in a new market and learn about American property management practices through first-hand experience. With his impressive work ethic and an already remarkable project history, he has a bright future ahead of him.
About Masashi Kawakami
Immediately after earning a Bachelor of Science from Hokkai Gakuen University’s Faculty of Engineering and Architecture in 2014, Kawakami began his career with Mitsui Home Hokkaido Co. Ltd. Over the course of just three years, his sales totaled 720 million yen (approximately $6.3 million.) In 2015, he was awarded third place for sales companywide.
In 2016 he transitioned to his current employer, Massive Sapporo Co., Ltd, as a real estate division manager where he planned and managed the implementation of an unmanned hotel in Hokkaido, the first of its kind in the area. His projects cover not only Sapporo in Hokkaido, but also Yokohama in Kanagawa, and Beppu in Kyushu. Kawakami’s output with Massive Sapporo has consistently increased every year he’s worked with the company.
In addition to his duties as division manager, since 2019 he also has served as a board member for Kawakami Giken Co., Ltd. in Tomakomai, Hokkaido. In 2018, he earned his CPM, and that same year he was recognized as a member of IREM’s 30 Under 30. He’s an active member of the Hokkaido IREM chapter, having presented a seminar at the IREM Japan Chapter’s annual conference in 2018. In 2019, he complemented his IREM credentials by earning his CCIM.
A unique perspective
JPM recently spoke with Kawakami about his inspiration, his goals, and how he has been handling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Why did you initially want to become a property manager?
Masashi Kawakami: My father was the biggest influence on my decision to enter the real estate business. He runs a construction and real estate company. As I grew up watching my father, it was a natural choice to study real estate at the university level.
Who inspired you in Japan to become a CPM?
MK: I attended a gathering of managers when I first met a person who held the CPM designation. He recommended that I attend a seminar, so I followed his advice. When I first learned about the concept of the CPM, I was really surprised; I had never encountered such a systematic approach to real estate management knowledge before. I am one of those people whose life has changed a lot after discovering IREM and the CPM designation. I have been able to meet many successful people in the real estate industry, and I have gained friends who share the same values and know what to focus on. This was a big change for me to undergo in my twenties because I now understand what kind of life I should lead. My mentor is Yasuto Ute, former president of IREM Japan. He showed me very clearly what a property manager should be like and what I needed to learn, and he actually showed me all of this in the field. He demonstrated to me that I had to value ethics above all else in order to be successful in the industry for the long run. I am still grateful to him for that.
What are some differences that you’ve seen between property management in Japan and the U.S.?
MK: I came to the U.S. to study for a year in order to understand these differences, but so far the differences I have seen between real estate management in Japan and the U.S. are very subtle. The one thing that I do understand now is just how much advanced technology is used in the U.S. There are IT applications that make property management more efficient. I feel that there are numerous perspectives that Japanese property management companies should learn from. The influence of COVID-19 will greatly change our business style. I would like to take advantage of this opportunity to learn from the best aspects of the industry in the U.S. and apply them in Japan.
What’s something that excites you about being a property manager as you return to Japan?
MK: I am excited to share what I have learned in the U.S. in Japan. Learning about IT is an absolute must, and I would like to try to highlight the problems that technology can solve in Japan. For example, in the U.S., there is seasonality factored into rents, but this is not common in Japan. This is just one example, but I think it is one of the things we can do to increase income and maximize real estate value. I believe that this is another problem that can be solved with technology.
What advice would you give someone starting their career in property management?
MK: When I was a student, there was a phrase that made me want to work in the real estate industry: “The job of real estate management is to create a city.” I like this phrase, and it still resonates in my mind. If the number of buildings managed by good real estate managers increases, the value of the city will also increase. I believe that property managers will always be needed even if technology continues to advance throughout the world, and this is a career where people can work with pride for a long time.
Kawakami is a proven leader, being a licensed Inheritance Advisor and Representative of Condominium Management. Under Japan’s professional licensing systems, he is a 2nd grade Qualified Architect as well as a 2nd grade Certified Skilled Professional of Financial Planning. He hopes to become increasingly active in the IREM Japan Chapter and eventually move into a leadership role. With myriad accolades and achievements, he will no doubt continue to be an influential leader not only within the IREM Japan chapter, but throughout IREM’s international presence.