To educateBy Toby Welch

Many Realtors have a jumble of letters behind their name – it looks like someone threw a bowl of alphabet soup at them. The letters show others that they are dedicated to the real estate industry, but is it worth the time and money to get real estate designations?

Barry Lebow, ASA, SRES, ABR, FRI, IFAS, Professional Land Economist and the broker of Re/Max Ultimate Realty in Toronto has 14 professional designations. “When I was a partner in a mortgage brokerage firm and my main job was to find crappy houses to renovate, I befriended James Mizzonni, a broker and eventually president of the Toronto Real Estate Board; he was a mentor to me,” says Lebow. “Jim was going to get his FRI. He wanted me to come with him to university and take the courses. I laughed – how could I, without even Grade 10, go to university? He pushed me and gave me the form and told me to fill it in and send it in. Well, they accepted me and I was in shock. I went with Jim, I loved it. I thrived and a monster was created. I became an education junkie.”

Barry Lebow
Barry Lebow

Lebow continues, “That one push by Jim changed my life. Because of that, of him, of my FRI, I became a professional. I perceived myself as a professional. I love real estate. It made me what I am. I respect real estate as it is a true profession for those who chose to be professional. ”

Debra Molzan, associate broker with Re/Max House of Real Estate in the Calgary area, has been awarded the ABR, SRES and CCS designations.

“Education is very important to all professions. You cannot put a price tag on it. It is invaluable,” she says. “The general public may not know what the letters mean but colleagues in real estate do. We can be confident when doing business or referring relocating clients to Realtors who have obtained designations – you know that these Realtors have similar professional standards. The best way to keep up with industry changes is by taking courses/seminars that are available. The newsletter and updates that we receive through the official designations are also a great resource.”

Debra Molzan
Debra Molzan

Laurena Matechuk, a broker with Royal LePage Vallée de l’Outaouais in Gatineau, Que., has university degrees and her ABR. “Do my clients know that I have three university degrees including a masters and specialists degrees and that I have taken every workshop and course available in the field I am now in? No. Clients want to know you are a good agent and that you can get the price they think it is worth. Is upgrading important? Very. Do people ask you what your qualifications are? No, they ask their neighbour which Realtor they should go with. Any courses or upgrading that you take will help you in your life and your real estate decisions as well as dealing with the public. More and more, responsibility in real estate deals is being downloaded on the Realtor. Today’s Realtor must be very knowledgeable.”

Real estate designations vary drastically as to how much time, effort and cost are required to acquire them. Some require intense classroom participation whereas others can be done online.

Laurena Matechuk
Laurena Matechuk

Not everyone is a proponent of acquiring designations. Malcolm Johnston, a sales rep with Century 21 Lanthorn Real Estate in Trenton, Ont., says:  “I think most designations are a complete waste of time, the public doesn’t really care. Agents in my area have to be prepared to sell farms, businesses, condos and family homes. In a smaller board agents generally take the listings they get. I can see that maybe in a large market having a niche specialty with a designation might be a bonus (for example, the condo guy), but I don’t see it as being beneficial at all from my perspective. If anything it will probably just amount to another organization that I will have to pay fees to and be inundated with emails from.”

Shawn Lepp, a sales rep with Keller Williams Energy Real Estate in the Toronto area, does not have designations after his name but was ranked in the top 25 out of 35,000 agents in 2012 by the Toronto Real Estate Board based on volume.

Malcolm Johnston
Malcolm Johnston

“Instead of a long list of designations, I have focused my career on putting the client first,” says Lepp.  “Experience is the best way to handle this, but also studying and educating myself daily and keeping up with the fast-changing environment is extremely important. Knowing the market statistics and the trends so you can be more proactive rather than reactive always helps my clients to make an educated decision. Selling or buying a home is one of the most stressful things people go through; I am prepared to assist them with knowledge, training and expertise I have gained throughout my career.”

Is acquiring a string of acronyms behind your name a waste of time or a wise investment? Only you can say what the right answer is for you.


What do the letters mean?

Shawn Lepp
Shawn Lepp

Here are some common designations you’ll find behind a Realtors’ name, but it’s not a complete list of the real estate related designations available.

AACI – Accredited Appraiser Canadian Institute

ABR – Accredited Buyer Representative

AGA – Accredited Greenagent

AGB – Accredited Greenbroker

AMP – Accredited Mortgage Professional

ASA – Accredited Senior Agent

CCS – Certified Condominium Specialist

CERP – Canadian Employee Relocation Professional

CLHMS – Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist

CRA – Canadian Residential Appraiser

CRES – Certified Real Estate Specialist

CRF – Certified in Real Estate Finance

ePro – electronics (technology) professional

FRI – Fellow of the Real Estate Institute

FRI (A) – Fellow of the Real Estate Institute with a specialty in residential appraisals

GMS – Global Mobility Specialist

RRS – Registered Relocation Specialist

SRES – Seniors Real Estate Specialist


  1. A note from a reader:

    Thank you for your article weighing the value of real estate designations.

    In your list of designations, you omitted a prominent designation by NAR which requires 5 courses (30CE credits) to complete: CIPS – Certified International Property

    This designation is also recognized by CREA and many national real estate associations, and many
    Canadian Realtors have obtained this accreditation.

    Your publication focuses solely on Canadian content, but real estate is now a global trade, so news involving US and international real estate would be welcome by your readers.

    Harold L. Remark, Broker
    Royal LePage Binder Real Estate. Brokerage

  2. I understand designations and why some realtors value the letters behind their name. However, in my years as a realtor I can not concur these designations have provided me with any significant advantage in the market place. Most realtors understand the designations, but consumers don’t. I am trying to impress the consumer not other realtors. Consumers help me create an income. My competitive realtors do not.

  3. Some designations mean some things to some people, but all designations do not mean all that they are intended to mean to all people. What usually means something worth considering most of the time is what first-person client accounts of what a Realtor’s efforts achieved for his/her interests in a positive vein…designations or no. However, a Realtor with good character who pursues and gains said designations for knowledge’s sake, vs showboating hoopla, should very well benefit personally from the former attitude via positively benefitting the interests of his/her client via proper application of said knowledge.
    First comes good character, then comes a thirst for relevant knowledge, then comes positive altruistic application of said knowledge, then comes a recognized positive outcome for the client, and then, lastly, comes a financial benefit for the said Realtor.
    It’s not rocket science.

  4. The designations I often see in Real Estate come from a 2 or 3 day course and should not be confused with a University Degree. When I see silly designations after Realtors name I assume they have nothing else to offer. My Daughter is a Doctor who is a specialist and she never ever uses all her designations on her business card. I feel as Realtors we are striving and pretending to be somehting we are not by using all the silly weekend earned designations.

  5. Today the CREA acknowledges over 75 designations (Yes 76 to be exact) and will allow members to state those designations along side the members name in the national directory and on alongside their listing.

    Some of these designations can be earned by doing nothing more than signing your name and writing a check (20 years ago) while others require 100’s of hours of study and professional practice standards in the year the designation is being used.

    In some provinces, advertising yourself with some of the designations listed in this article, places you in breach of Provincial Legislation, yet provincial associations and the national body seldom communicate this to their members and in fact in CREA’s case allow you to place yourself in breach on for the whole country to see. The use of the term “Specialist” is something many provincial bodies distinctly state are not allowable. Even further when stating a designation, a clear and concise disclosure of the designation and where obtained must be itemized to ensure the designation is not creating a false or misleading advertisement.

    There is no question the higher sense of expertise and professionalism some of these designations, bring to one’s own self worth (as Barry Lebow states) a true feeling of being more than just a licensed agent, but lumping all designations under the guise of added credibility will never be supported by a consumer seeing 76 designations possible.

    As real estate moves to a College or University level degree program, the use of designations will be able to be promoted and raised in the eyes of the public. Til that day it is the body who authorizes and policies the use of the designation that the public must rely on for validity.

      • RRS stands for “Registered Relocation Specialist” It was a course offered only by Remax and the designation had to be renewed or re-done every couple of years in order to keep it. That’s so you had to keep on paying and paying. I don’t believe its offered anymore.

  6. Acquiring designations to demonstrate credibility assumes the public understands what all those letters after your name means – which they don’t (most agents don’t know either!). One or two may add weight to your business card but I’ve seen some that are downright goofy and can backfire as the average person can be intimidated by someone they think is way too educated to relate to or put off by someone who is trying way too hard to impress.
    Acquiring knowledge so you can provide more competent service is a goal everyone should pursue – designation or not.

  7. A professional gets paid REGARDLESS of outcome… when Realtors get paid whether a property sells or not?… he/she will be a professional.

    These designations mean nothing to the general public and precious few Realtors know (or care) what they are… what they are is a cash cow for the people putting them on.

  8. I’m afraid that those individuals who don’t see the value of “designations” are missing a key point: having a designation demonstrates credibility within the marketplace.

    The Fellow of the Real Estate Institute (FRI) is Real Estate Institute of Canada’s pre-eminent designation awarded to real estate sales professionals and brokers since 1955. With education requirements that exceed licensing requirements and extensive real estate experience, FRI designated members are real estate practitioners with a high degree of expertise and knowledge.

    REIC represents the highest professionalism in real estate consisting of a multi-disciplinary community of trusted committed professionals. We are the only real estate organization whose members cut across all property types and are specialists in sales and management.

    Real Estate professionals with REIC designations are governed by the Institute’s Code of Professional Standards.

    Since experience can vary greatly in terms of quality and quantity, REIC credentials provide a measurable, third-party benchmark for comparison. Those who have earned REIC credentials have met specific requirements for education and experience – including portfolio size and functions performed.

    Ron Fraser, CPM
    President, REIC National Board

  9. ABI – Accredited Business Intermediary
    CBC – Certified Business Counselor
    CBI – Certified Business Intermediary
    CPPA _ Canadian Personal Property Appraiser
    DAC – Designated Appraiser Commercial
    RPA – Registered Public Appraiser

    are some in the Business Brokerage and Commercial Real Estate area.

Leave a Reply