About 50 senior real estate professionals from across the United States and Canada spent the week in Winnipeg. But they weren’t scouting potential properties, they were hunkered down in the classroom.
They were here to take the prestigious Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) course, which typically is conducted every two years in Chicago. It was the first time it was held outside the U.S.
The Manitoba Real Estate Association (MREA), with the support of the provincial department of Growth Enterprise and Trade, spent about a year putting the program together. David Salvatore, CEO of the MREA, said the idea was to support economic development and trade efforts in the province.
"We felt that through the state and provincial real estate associations, we can help show why business should choose Manitoba when they invest," he said. "That is the essence of what we are doing.
"We want to support economic development and trade in the province," he said. "This will help create jobs and that strengthens our economy and the housing market and provides resources to better our communities."
It was a by-invitation-only event with delegates from Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Texas, Virginia, Alberta, B.C., Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
The CIPS designation is available in 35 countries and administered by the National Association of Realtors, the American organization that has about 1.2 million members.
Chris Pennycook, a veteran Winnipeg realtor and the president of the MREA, said efforts were made to invite real estate professionals from states where Manitoba does the most trade.
"We’re already talking about doing a two-way trade mission to Minnesota next year, and not just with real estate professionals but with the larger business community as well," he said.
The participants, many of whom are senior members of their state and provincial associations with large practices, met local business leaders and were shown the sites during the week.
Andrew Barbar, the operating principal of Keller Williams, a 300-agent firm in Boca Raton, Fla., said his first-ever exposure to the Winnipeg market was a good one.
"It has been thoroughly entertaining and a great learning experience," he said. "I’ve learned about the cultural and business community here. But like with every city, the great treasure is the people. They have been wonderful and welcoming."
Carmela Ma, a realtor from Beverly Hills, Calif., and former dean for the National Association of Realtors’ for the CIPS program, provided the instruction for the course. It was also her first trip to Winnipeg but she’s had plenty of contact in the past with the city’s realtors such as Sandy Shindleman and Harry Deleeuw. She said the designation is prestigious enough that there are only 3,000 members worldwide.
"We educate about cross-border transactions, about how to transact international deals and about the various transactional tools used to figure out how a property performs when you’re doing business in Europe or Asia or the Americas," she said.
Barbar said his firm is engaged in international business whether it wants to be or not.
"Our area attracts folks from all over the world — from Canada, all over Europe and there is a large influx of Brazilians and Colombians," he said. "This course enables us to be more effective as we communicate and relate and to be able to service their needs effectively."
He said the experience in Winnipeg has opened up a whole new area of possibilities for him.
"We have many Canadian customers who own homes and properties in Florida," he said. "And on the commercial side, many of them operate manufacturing facilities. Florida is not always the best place for manufacturing and they have operations across the country. So rather than just think of the east coast of Canada, this has now opened my eyes to the opportunities in the Winnipeg market."