comes to for an answer. We like to get back to a post within 48
hours.” In the early days of the site, Pountain tried to answer
every posted question; as the site has grown in popularity, however, so has the base of people willing to answer questions.
Owen Ahearn, recently ranked No. 1 in the site leaderboard,
says getting fast, reliable answers, whether from the Community Forums or the Knowledge Center, is at the heart of IREMFIRST’s success. He doesn’t have time to look information up
in a book or go through numerous Web pages to get to the
answers. Like just about every other busy professional, he wants
the best information and doesn’t want to wait for it.
“If you have questions, you are not getting stupid answers
on IREMFIRST — you’re getting industry answers,” he says.
“For me, I value the professional nature of the site, the respect
you’re going to get from the other users. They are right from
the industry area you’re asking about; they are right in the sector. As an end-user, you couldn’t ask for anything more.”
And while IREM as an organization has a Facebook page
and a LinkedIn presence, those who have worked on IREMFIRST from the start say it is not meant to be a social networking tool or replace the value of those sites. Lori Burger, who
is very active on IREMFIRST as well as Facebook, Twitter and
LinkedIn, says she comes to IREMFIRST for very different reasons than the other sites.
“I find that they all have their unique style and feel,” she
says. “On Facebook, while I have 150 people I’m linked to, I’m
not going to go out to that group and ask business questions. I
want to ask those in a very isolated arena to protect myself. I feel
a greater reliability from my very close network of IREM peers.”
ANSWERS IN TOUGH TIMES
When IREMFIRST was initially designed and launched, the real
estate market was a very different place. Business was booming, mortgages were flowing and the profession could barely keep
up with the white-hot pace of progress.
Fast-forward to today, and the picture is vastly different. The
market crash and ensuing recession have made real estate —
and, in turn, property management — a sometimes difficult way
to make a living. Regina T. Mullins, CPM, CCIM, the 2007-08
IREM president, says office building vacancy rates are approaching
20 percent; at the same time, more and more existing tenants
are having trouble making their payments. It can be a recipe for
anxiety and frustration for even the most seasoned professional.
“In the past four to five years, leverage has been king,”
Mullins says. “You could buy a property, keep it for a year and
flip it. Now, the leverage opportunities are totally gone.”
A look at recent IREMFIRST Forum posts echoes Mullins’
• “What should we tell owners/landlords regarding recovery
time of the economy? Most will look to property managers
for this information. How should we address the questions
regarding a recovery time of the economy?”
• “What can landlords/property managers do to help their
tenants get financing?”
• “What are some innovative ways to reduce operating expenses?”
IREMFIRST leaders understand the challenges the market
decline has imposed on their members, but at the same time
they are quick to point out that it is during these times that a
vibrant online community like IREMFIRST can be of the most
benefit. Even if nobody can solve a fellow IREMFIRST member’s problem right away, just knowing other people in the field
are facing the same issues can be a big boost.
“During difficult times, there is more pressure on the property owners and those who manage the property to do a good
job,” Goss says. “Through IREM’s education, example, programming and ethics, we shine.”
Meanwhile, as she weathers the real estate market in Northern California, Lori Burger says difficult times like these make
her appreciate her membership in IREM and participation in
IREMFIRST even more.
“I believe that the real professionals turn to their organizations for the knowledge and support and training and the firsthand information on how to get through these economic times,”
she says. “When things start getting tough, people turn to their
organizations for answers. IREM is providing those answers for
As with anything online, IREMFIRST must keep evolving and
changing to keep up with the needs of its users, particularly as
younger real estate managers join the organization. Hermann
is convening the power users this year, and their recommendations will become the foundation for updates to IREMFIRST in
2010 and beyond.
“It has to be evolving. It cannot be stagnant,” Monroe says.
“We’re looking at the technology to get us to the next level. Many
of us will be retiring in the next 10 years. We need to be ready
for the next generation.”
Jacqui Cook is a freelance writer and editor in Chicago. She may be reached at
THE NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2009 SIGNATURE STORY features the
American Society of Safety Engineers and its “Safety-on-the-Job” Kids’ Poster Contest, which recognizes hundreds of entrants every year for their commitment to occupational safety. Part of North American Occupational Safety and Health Week, the
annual contest generates millions of dollars in donated services and attracts millions
of hours in donated time, allowing ASSE to engage and educate thousands of members, families and communities in its mission to promote safety at work and at home.
Founded in 1911, ASSE has more than 32,000 members and is the world’s oldest
and largest professional safety organization. For more information, visit www.asse.org.