The Alphabet Soup of Designations – Are They Worth It?

Posted by: Ryan Ward on October 8th, 2010

The freely available information on the internet has done wonders for me and my business.

Online forums, social networks and blogs have allowed me to learn, grow my sphere of influence and grow my business in ways that simply weren’t available 10 years ago.  If not for the internet, I would have been out of this business years ago when my wife had cancer and I had to take care of our first child. Free information led to leads and leads led to clients.

In many ways, the internet has helped new agents to level the playing field against entrenched agents and bigger brokerages because so much information is available to learn and leads available for anyone willing who is to put forth the time and effort with little to no capital investment. Such is the power of the internet.

With all of this information seemingly at our fingertips, we often forget that even the best  and brightest of us can benefit from specific courses taught by other real estate professionals and trainers. I think it is how we can take our business to the next level.

The alphabet soup of designations available to us as agents continues to grow, but a common conversation across the resolves itself around whether or not to even earn some of these designations. Opinions vary on this and I’m not sure how. I just don’t understand the logic that some people have that makes them think that these courses are not worth it.

Some agents think that becoming an Accredited Buyer Representative (ABR), Certified Distressed Property Expert (CDPE) or earning some other designation isn’t of much value or that consumers don’t actually know what those letters mean so they aren’t really helpful anyway. Besides, many agents naively think they can just learn it for free on the internet. I like free and choose it whenever reasonably possible. But sometimes, you simply need courses taught by more experienced or more well trained agents to learn specializations.

I’m of the opinion that these designations do make a difference and very frequently separate the good from the great. You simply don’t know what you don’t know. According the NAR, agents earning their GRI (Graduate Realtor Institute) make on average of $42,000/year more than agents without the designation. Besides increased income, who do you think gets the listing or works with the buyer if two equal agents are competing for the same client? The one with the designations, of course!

You see, earning designations tells consumers that you have taken your time, effort and money to learn more than it is to just be an agent. It will help earn respect from other agents who see that you have additional training and it will build your confidence because you will actually know more than most other agents in your new area of expertise.

It can also help you get your foot in the door to a niche of interest to you.

If you want to get into listing short sales, the CDPE designation would be helpful to you because it would provide you a foundational education you will need to help become successful and build your credibility with potential clients. Not to mention all of the bounty of forms and resources that would be overwhelmingly difficult to obtain on your own.

I have a strong desire to be successful in the high end market in Atlanta. Therefore I have placed a lot of emphasis on Atlanta luxury homes on my website.

This, however, is not a market that you can simply walk into and get listings just because you have a nice website and rank well on Google. You have to demonstrate a level of expertise much higher than the average agent. New and trying to break in to this market, I would stand little chance on a listing presentation if I couldn’t say that I am educated in the market.

On the other hand, if I told you that I was a member of the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing, a Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist, a member of the Atlanta Homes of Distinction as well as a member of the Keller Williams Luxury Homes Division and then I went on to tell you how each one of these designations offers me more opportunities to provide a higher level of exposure and networking for your home than I could otherwise provide, it would make a huge difference in whether or not I could get the listing.

For these reasons, I believe that it is short sighted for real estate agents to think that they can win in a more and more competitive real estate market while others around them continue to improve through education because they either think that you can learn on your own or that the coursework isn’t worth your time or your money.

Niche marketing and specializations are critical to success. Designations help get you there. However, if you disagree, feel free to come work in my market. You can be one less person I need to worry about competing against. And I’ll serve my alphabet soup to a growing number of clients.



3 Comments on “The Alphabet Soup of Designations – Are They Worth It?”

Brian Kinkade

Nice article Ryan, I completely agree, designations reflect dedication and commitment to ones career. Without doubt, my pursuit of education has made me a better agent. With that knowledge in hand, I can deliver better service to my clients. Now, after earning a number of major designations, I continue to delve deeper into my niches and network. PS, consider FIABCI to further enhance your pursuit of the luxury market.

Ryan Ward

Hi Brian and thank you,

I have to play around in FIABCI – it’s offered through ILHM. Along with designations, I try to read at least 2 books/month on marketing, business, etc…

The more we know, the more we can help others…

Alex Cortez

Although buyers generally don’t know what the acronyms mean, they realize that it’s something of value. Personally, professional development/growth are HUGE, as the more knowledgeable I am about the industry (and everything that affects it), the better I can serve my clients. Good post, Ryan.

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