Three Designations That Will Launch Your Real Estate Career

By MNR News posted 11-21-2023 10:40 AM

Earning professional credentials builds knowledge, boosts confidence, and expands your earning power
When Deb Greene got into the real estate business in 1986, there was no Internet and computers were only just starting to infiltrate offices. Orderly rows of filing cabinets were indispensable “databases, and telephones, the lifelines of the business, were clunky boxes anchored to desks or walls. Faxes and copy machines were about as high tech as it got. Despite the myriad changes that have swept the industry since then, two things have never changed, according to Greene Realtors® still need to learn and network.

“If you quit learning you die,” said Greene, a Realtor® and educator with Coldwell Banker whose credentials include eight designations: ABR, CIPS, CRS, GREEN, GRI, MCNE, MRP, and RSPS. I teach, but I also attend classes because I need to know all the new things. It never ends.” While most Realtors® recognize that designations are important professional qualifications, many are uncertain which ones to pursue for their own careers. This is especially true for newer Realtors®, Greene observed.

“It all depends on your professional goals, and the nature of your real estate business,” Greene said. And investing the time, effort, and money to earn them is well worth the effort, she adds. “Surveys have shown that by obtaining just one designation, you more than double the income you would have earned without one.”

And while it’s difficult to place too high a value on learning, Greene stresses that obtaining designations offers another intangible benefit: networking and building relationships that advance your career.

“The sense of comradery you get while sitting in a class with Realtors® is invaluable,” Greene said. “Everyone in that room is committed to advancing professionally and creating a better real estate industry. It really shows when someone has had that kind of training. They serve their customers better, and they are more actively engaged members of the real estate community.

In fact, Greene is hesitant to make referrals for Realtors® who lack the appropriate designations or certifications.

I dont care how many million you sold, if you dont have the designation, you’re missing something foundational. Designations are the bedrock of professionalism. When you sit side-by-side with someone in a classroom and get to know them later at conferences and events, you build trust. So, you’re much more likely to do business together.”

NAR offers over 20 designations, so choosing one can be overwhelming. Greene advises new Realtors® to focus on earning three designations in the early years of their careers: the Graduate Realtor Institute (GRI); the Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR); and the Certified Residential Specialist (CRS). Collectively, they comprise an advanced studies program that set these Realtors® apart as seasoned, knowledgeable, and results-oriented professionals.

Becoming a real estate expert with a GRI

Covering a wide-ranging course of study, the Graduate Realtor Institute (GRI) is a little like a “bachelor’s degree” for Realtors®.

“These classes cover everything you need to know: legal and regulatory issues, technology, professional standards, marketing, business skills, the sales process, and risk management,” Greene said. “Plus, within the program there’s a lot of latitude to pick specific topics of interest. Want to know how to cut better deals? The GRI offers two negotiation classes. You can tailor the learning to fit your needs.” 

Serving buyers better with an ABR
For those just beginning their careers, the real estate business is a buyer’s game. Greene explains: “When youre a newer agent, you’ll attend open houses and other events where buyers gather. In fact, you’ll probably meet far more buyers than sellers. So, it makes sense to focus on them. Getting an Accredited Buyer’s Representative designation helps you hone skills for serving them. You’ll learn about your agency relationship to your clients, and your fiduciary obligations. You’ll understand the law and the Code of Ethics.”

Greene adds that an awareness of legal issues is especially important in the midst of two class-action lawsuits that charge the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) with violating antitrust laws by inflating fees so listing agents can compensate buyers’ agents. (Learn more by reading: NAR: Real Estate Compensation Lawsuits Far from Over) 

“Lawsuits like this make it even more crucial that Realtors® fine tune how they approach the process,” Greene said. “Earning an ABR arms you with the knowledge to keep your business legally compliant and thriving.” 

Mastering the game with a CRS
For Realtors® who are racking up sales and hitting their stride, the Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) is a Holy Grail well worth chasing. The highest credential awarded to residential sales agents, the CRS offers professional cache and an elite circle of connections.

Earning the CRS is like having a masters degree in real estate,” noted Greene. “But you have to have a certain degree of success before you can enter this course of training.

NAR’s requirements for joining the CRS program are high. Applicants must have made 60 transactions or $30 million in sales volume over the last five years. Plus, they need 10 or more years as a licensed real estate agent and have a rich crop of transactions to show for it—at least 150 or an average of $1 million a year from a minimum of 40 transactions. Obviously, not the shallow end of the pool, but a rewarding achievement for elite swimmers in the real estate game.

Of course, the number of designations and certifications Realtors® can pursue is limited only by their business focus and aspirations. Beyond the Big 3, Greene’s top picks include: 

Real Estate Negotiation Expert (RENE)
“Negotiating isn’t just a part of real estate, it’s a part of life,” Greene said. “We're negotiating all the time, with spouses, kids—anyone we have a common interest with. The better you are at negotiating, the more likely you are to succeed in business and everything you do.” 

NAR’s GREEN Designation
“Many of today’s buyers are concerned about their home’s impact on the environment,” Greene observed. “They’re also looking for ways to save money over the long term by investing in clean energy like solar and other technologies. This designation arms you with the tools and resources to help your clients find their green dream home or transform the one they’re purchasing.” 

Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS)
As a Realtor® in a booming metropolitan area, Greene noticed an increasing number of her clients were international. Apart from language barriers, she observed cultural differences that influence both business and personal relationships.  

“When working with people from other countries, you need to be aware of different modes of communication. Ways of interacting that are perfectly acceptable to native Minnesotans might be confusing or even insulting to someone from another culture,” Greene said. “Earning a Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) designation really heightened my awareness about the customs and mores of people from around the world. Because I’m more sensitive to their needs and sensibilities, I’m able to serve them better.” 

Learn more about NAR’s Designations and Certifications 

Both NAR and its partners provide training for Realtors® to earn designations in 24 different areas of skills and knowledge. You can learn more about each of these certifications by visiting the Designations & Certifications page at NAR’s website.