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Demographic Challenges Facing Property Managers in Asia: The IREM Asia Pacific Meeting

April 16, 2019 | Daniel Morales

Okinawa, Japan, was the backdrop for IREM’s first Asia Pacific Meeting, which took place in early March and brought together six IREM Chapters and nearly 40 IREM Members from across the Asia Pacific region. Over the course of the two-day conference, attendees learned that despite language and cultural differences, they face similar demographic and business changes.

Professor Chihiro Shimizu of Nihon University in Tokyo gave a keynote presentation on “The Future of Real Estate: Aging, Population Decline and the Housing Market.” He first provided a brief history of housing bubbles modern economies have faced—residential bubbles that follow infrastructure investment, commercial bubbles after economic booms and the most recent bubble in global money during the 2000s—before introducing how demographic change will affect Asia in the coming decades.

Shimizu sees growth continuing despite aging and shrinking populations, but that growth will be focused in major urban areas. “Construction companies will boom because they will renovate city housing stock,” Shimizu said. “Rural housing will become obsolete.”

Asset prices are expected to fall as much as 50 percent from 2010 to 2040 in China, Japan and Korea, and while China doesn’t face the same population decline as Japan, which may need as many as 40 million immigrants by 2040 to provide for its labor force, it will face increased old age dependency.

Shimizu does see some solutions in technology, notably in 3D printing, which has the potential to transform the construction of bridges, homes and even cars.

Demographic challenges also open the door to expanded value for IREM certifications in what promises to be a competitive market for real estate property and asset managers—managers who are able to extract value for their owners in difficult economic circumstances will be in demand.

During the chapter activity reports after the keynote, IREM Kyushu Chapter President Toshiyuki Okabe, CPM, asked the question, “What does getting the CPM certification in a rural area add?” He then provided an answer: “It’s a way to differentiate themselves. All these people have some knowledge, but the CPM education really helped them do much better.”

IREM Chapters in Japan, China and Korea have worked hard to build out the brand in their countries. While members in Japan used to pay $200 to $300 to travel to Tokyo for courses, now CPM credentialing courses are offered in six cities across the country, giving the chapters a greater reach into more rural areas.

China is beginning to experience similar geographic expansion. Previously, courses were only offered in Shanghai, but now Beijing, Shenzhen and Chengdu will also see IREM education offered in their classrooms.

Membership growth has brought a renewed focus on providing value to those members.

“How many times can you hear about how to kill bed bugs?” said Michelle Wong, president of the IREM Hawaii Chapter, as she discussed how the chapter developed its annual events. “We quickly learned we need to have new ideas, otherwise we will lose our members.”

Regional conferences like the IREM Asia Pacific Meeting have given members access to new ideas through the exchange of information on chapter activities, case studies and economic conditions. The IREM Chapters participating in this year’s conference are planning to make it a rotating event, hosted by a different country each year.

Wong effectively summarized the potential of the conference: “This meeting is an ideal place for leaders of your chapters to come together and share ideas, discuss issues with their chapters, and gain new ideas to bring back to your chapters.”

About the Author
Daniel Morales is international programs liaison at IREM Headquarters in Chicago.

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