Real Estate Designations: Find Your Niche

Ability skill Knowledge

Back in the day, the two main residential designations coveted by REALTORS® were the GRI (Graduate, REALTOR® Institute) and the gold-standard CRS (Certified Residential Specialist). You had to have a ton of real estate experience under your belt to obtain either designation, and they still carry a lot of weight today. You might even consider them the “master’s degree” and “doctorate” of real estate.

To potential clients and the general public, designations demonstrate that you’re serious about your career as a real estate professional and that you have your clients’ best interests in mind during the transaction. The best real estate designation for you will depend on the type of client you want to attract. Many savvy buyers and sellers will specifically search for agents who have taken their real estate career to the next level by obtaining a designation—or perhaps several designations.

Which Designation Should You Pursue?

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) lists 27 featured designations. Investigate the designations that appeal to you and fit into your business plan to improve your knowledge and find your niche. For example, if you specialize in resort properties, you may consider the Resort & Second-Home Property Specialist (RSPS) designation. If you practice real estate in a popular retirement destination, you may consider an SRES® (Seniors Real Estate Specialist®) designation that tells seniors you understand their unique housing requirements and financial issues. 

How do you decide which designation to pursue with so many options? Consider your market, explore your options, and contact the affiliated organizations to learn more. Some designations may require an annual fee to maintain membership.

Besides dressing up your business card and résumé—and making more money—you learn a lot when you earn a designation. Real estate is a complicated business, and the rules and paperwork change regularly, so it’s important to remain up to date in your job knowledge. Your clients may not know what the initials behind your name stand for, but most people are familiar with higher education and medical designations. They know that your designation initials mean you have additional education or expertise illustrating your commitment to going beyond the call of duty in your career.

Earning a designation or certification can certainly help you increase your professional skills and knowledge, which is wonderful in itself, and it may boost your income. Once you’ve explored your options and weighed the pros and cons of obtaining a designation, talk to your broker.  They can provide more information on the value of REALTOR® designations, help you decide which would be the most valuable for your market, and show you how to obtain them.