Letters designate realty training

Abbreviations: The public may be confused about those letters after a Realtor's name, but the pros know the study needed to acquire them.

January 21, 2001|By Mary E. Medland | Mary E. Medland,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

There's the M.D., the D.D.S., the CPA. Doctor. Dentist. Accountant.

Now, what about the ABR. The CRS? How about the GRI?

To the average homebuyer, making sense of the plethora of letters after a real estate professional's name can be confounding. What are they, and what does this alphabet soup of letters mean?

The letters are abbreviations for professional designations given to Realtors who have taken additional educational real estate courses. The more letters after a name, the more classes and programs the agent has attended.

Some of the designations have been around for decades. New ones such as the "e-PRO" certification have come about in light of how technology is changing the way the industry does business.

Dan Schmitz, manager of online services for the National Association of Realtors, agrees that although most homebuyers aren't particularly aware of the value of such designations, Realtors are.

"The consumer right now is most likely not that familiar with the designations," Schmitz said. "Much of the value of having them really comes when dealing with professional colleagues."

According to a recent NAR membership study, 45 percent of members have a professional designation and 13 percent of Realtors belong to at least one of the NAR's societies, councils or institutes.

Schmitz said the study also indicated certifications do, in fact, increase the number of closings and, therefore, the bottom line. "Furthermore, designations help real estate people build up an individual network for referrals - and there is the overall value of staying in touch with current changes in the industry, as well as what is upcoming."

Schmitz said the NAR is working to increase homebuyers' awareness of the meaning and significance of certifications. "And Realtors are happy to give consumers more in-depth information about what the designations really mean and how important is the value of continuing one's professional education," he said.

Here's a quick guide for the lay person to help sort out what those designations mean.

e-PRO

The newest of the NAR designations is e-PRO, which was first introduced last summer.

"e-PRO is the only online training course for Internet professionals recognized by the NAR," said Barbara Novitsky, a real estate agent with the Columbia office of O'Conor, Piper & Flynn ERA and one of 26 Realtors in Maryland who hold e-PRO certification.

Nationally, about 1,500 Realtors have qualified for the certification; the training program, created by NAR and administered by Las Vegas-based Esphere, is aimed, Novitsky said, at "IECs," better known as Internet Empowered Consumers.

According to Novitsky, much of the focus is on high-tech marketing, which saves time, as well as money.

"It used to be that much of the way we sold properties was on the phone," she said. "But today, the new way to sell is known as `Permission Marketing' - a Realtor receives an e-mail from a potential customer who gives permission for you to respond to his questions.

"The thrust of the class was to complete an entire marketing program on one's computer."

All the course work for this certification is done online.

The academics consist of six units, including: Introduction to the Internet; Your On-line Real Estate Marketing Plan; E-mail and Tools; Internet Tools and Risk Management; Plan, Build and Launch Your Web Site; and Positioning Yourself for the Future.

Upon completion of the units, candidates take a final exam, which consists of 65 multiple- choice and true-or-false questions.

CRS

The largest affiliate organization - with just fewer than 40,000 members - of the NAR is the Council of Residential Specialists, said Sara Martin, CRS' director of marketing and communications.

"Our Certified Residential Specialist designation has been around 30 years," she said. "While all of our members must belong to the NAR, for this designation we tend to get people who are already quite experienced."

Eight courses are available to qualify for this designation, but only three are required. "And many people take more than the minimum requirements," she said.

One course that is always required is Business Development for the Residential Specialist, which, Martin says, is quite simply a plan for building a successful career in real estate.

Other courses include Listing Strategies; Sales Strategies for the Residential Specialist; and Personal Life Management, which offers advice on time and stress management, setting goals, delegating duties, and career planning; New Home Sales and Marketing for the Residential Specialist; Financial and Tax Applications for the Residential Specialists, which homes in on alternative financing and how taxes affect homeowners.

"There's also Creating Wealth Through Residential Real Estate, which is more about the personal side and identifying money-making opportunities," Martin said. "But ... the most popular course is Using Today's Technology to Capture Your Market."

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