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.”
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.”
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.
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.
“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?
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