Home Ekonomi 10 real estate designations that help professionals stand out

10 real estate designations that help professionals stand out

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The value of differentiating yourself as a real estate professional should not be underestimated in an industry with so many different career paths. Specializing within the field can help you demonstrate your value to clients and showcase your expertise and skills.

In terms of credentials, designations offer extensive benefits to professionals across real estate disciplines. These benefits—which can include industry referrals, networking opportunities, access to resources and tools, and exclusive discounts, to name a few—tend to evolve and expand over time to align with changing industry trends.

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That is, in part, why maintaining a designation generally requires designees to pay annual dues after fulfilling the initial requirements, which may include a certain amount of work experience, an educational component, an exam, or a combination thereof, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), a trade association for real estate professionals with more than 1.5 million members. They must also be active members of NAR.

“Getting additional, continuing education over and above and beyond what’s required by state law is a good value proposition for the realtor because it demonstrates to their buyer or seller that they’ve taken additional education and they’re serious about their career in that way,” says Nate Johnson, the 2024 NAR Vice President of Advocacy.

10 real estate designations to consider

Whether you’re new or established in the real estate industry, there are a wide variety of designations to choose from, with the ultimate decision largely coming down to your career goals, professional interests, and ability to spend time and money on the credential.

Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®)

What is the ABR® designation? A real estate designation showcasing excellence and expertise in buyer representation. Earning the designation unlocks access to exclusive educational opportunities, industry information and resources, marketing materials, and a network of generated leads and referrals.

Cost: The required designation course available from the Center for Realtor Development (valued at $295) is free for all of 2024. Annual REBAC membership dues of $110 are also required; the first year of membership is free.

Time commitment to earn the designation: Two-day ABR® Designation Course, completed either online or in person, as well as one ABR elective course. 

Best for: Real estate agents who work directly with buyer-clients throughout the process of buying a home. To earn this credential, designees must have finalized five transactions solely as a buyer’s representative.

Who provides the designation? National Association of Realtors

Pros

Applicants can unlock certain benefits immediately after taking the core designation course as they complete the remaining requirements.Designees get exclusive access to publications and websites, marketing tools and resources, and educational opportunities.Elective course options vary widely in subject matter and may count toward other designations.

Cons

The online version of the ABR core designation exam requires a score of 80% or higher to pass.The designation must meet specific sales volume requirements as a buyer’s representative.

Accredited Land Consultant (ALC)

What is the ALC designation? Accredited Land Consultants are experienced and high-performing land real estate experts across the U.S. Designees may be experts in one or more types of properties, including farmand, timberland, ranches, or vacant land for development.

Cost: $100 for the exam fee, initial designation cost of $350, and annual membership dues of $445. Course prices vary but generally cost at least a few hundred dollars each.

Time commitment to earn the designation: The ALC requires 104 hours of coursework through the Realtors Land Institute’s LAND University program. Applicants must also complete a comprehensive online exam.

Best for: Land professionals who have completed at least five closed land transactions totaling $10 million, or alternatively, 25 separate transactions.

Who provides the designation? Realtors Land Institute

Pros

An accelerated Fast Track program to achieve the ALC designation is available for those holding at least one other real estate designation or have a degree related specifically to land.There is no required timeline to complete the educational components and no expiration date for completed coursework.The designation offers a robust and varied list of core, specialty, and elective courses, which is an opportunity to tailor your curriculum to your interests and goals.An RLI membership survey indicated that ALCs on average earned $373,925, roughly $100,000 more than non-designee respondents.

Cons

Applicants must achieve a certain number of land transactions or a specific sales volume to be considered for the designation, and they must submit a portfolio substantiating those achievements.ALC applicants must complete and pass, with a score of at least 70%, a comprehensive online exam.The required coursework comes with a relatively steep price tag, along with annual membership dues of $445.

Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS)

What is the CIPS designation? A designation offering real estate professionals the tools, resources, and network to expand their business globally. Designees learn how to speak the language of international investors and local clients who are planning to invest in overseas properties.

Cost: For both U.S.- and overseas-based realtors, costs include five online courses at $149 each (costs vary for in-person courses), an application fee of $75, and annual dues of $220.

Time commitment to earn the designation: 40 hours of required coursework, though the online version of the required courses are self-paced and can be started and stopped at your convenience. Online students must also pass an exam at the end of each course.

Best for: Realtors from the U.S. and abroad who wish to globalize their real estate business.

Who provides the designation? National Association of Realtors

Pros

The designation provides access to a network of more than 4,000 designees based worldwide, in more than 50 countries.Designees receive invitations to exclusive NAR events and member-only online communities.The designation offers members marketing tools including customizable postcards, web banner ads, and press releases.

Cons

Online courses require applicants to earn a passing grade of 80% or higher on an exam.In addition to the required coursework, applicants must acquire 100 “points” to measure their level of international competency and experience.

Certified Property Manager (CPM)

What is the CPM designation? The CPM is designed for property managers that showcases their expertise in maximizing the value of properties in any asset class—whether it’s offices, mixed-use properties, or multifamily real estate units, for example. Libby Ekre, the 2024 President of the Institute for Real Estate Management (IREM), says there are financial, marketing, and maintenance aspects to the CPM.

“It’s recognized by owners and investors and employers (as) the highest level of education for property managers,” says Ekre, who is also principal at Bryten Real Estate Partners. “And that’s really because of the depth of analysis.”

Cost: Average total cost is $7,800–$8,500 for all tuition, fees, and dues.

Time commitment to earn the designation: The program requires 12–18 months of CPM certification courses, three days of testing, and 1–2 months to finish the process.

Best for: According to the IREM website, the designation is designed for experienced property managers who manage any asset class and want to learn to speak and learn the language of owners, tenants, residents, and investors.

“It’s a mostly executive or high-level individual in a company that would have the CPM, and it’s because you have to manage a portfolio of properties,” Ekre says.

Who provides the designation? Institute of Real Estate Management

Pros

The CPM typically leads to a salary increase, with the average base salary of a property manager at $48,340 in the U.S., while that figure increases to $118,383 for CPMs, according to IREM.The required coursework covers a wide range of real estate disciplines, including marketing and leasing strategies, accounting, asset analysis, and property financing.Flexible term options.

Cons

Applicants must pass a two-part final assessment, including an intensive review and a four-hour exam.The educational component takes a minimum of 12 months to complete, with additional exam and graduation requirements.

Certified Residential Specialist (CRS)

What is the CRS designation? The CRS is “really is the highest credential awarded to real estate agents because it has the heaviest lift of the requirements,” says Johnson, a St. Louis-based realtor who personally holds a CRS designation, among others. The credential recognizes agents’ level of both education and experience and is held by only about 2% of real estate agents in the U.S., according to the Residential Real Estate Council (RRC).

Cost: $99 application and annual dues of $195.

Time commitment to earn the designation: U.S. real estate agents with $30 million in volume or 60 transactions over the past five years must complete 30 hours of RRC education. Those with at least a decade of experience as a licensed real estate agent and more than 150 transactions total—or $1 million per year with at least 40 transactions—must complete 16 hours of RRC education. Ongoing continuing education to maintain the designation is also required.

Best for: Residential sales agents, managers and brokers.

Who provides the designation? Residential Real Estate Council

Pros

The designation is often perceived as the highest credential awarded to residential real estate agents, managers, and brokers.A CRS designation provides you with professionally branded marketing materials including fact sheets, business cards, and customizable sign riders.No exam is required to earn this designation, though individual courses may have specific exam requirements.

Cons

The designation requires applicants to have achieved a certain sales volume or total number of transactions, which varies depending on years of experience.To maintain the designation, designees must complete two hours of continued education every calendar year.

Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM)

What is the CCIM designation? According to NAR, the CCIM is for designees who are experts in commercial and investment real estate, both in theory and practice. The designation provides access to a network of 13,000 members worldwide, as well as exclusive discounts on CCIM education and benefits.

Cost: $695 for Institute membership costs, $175 for the portfolio submission fee, $1,220 for the Comprehensive Exam and two-day review, and the cost of required courses, which range from $49 to $1,899.

Time commitment to earn the designation: Between eight required courses (six core courses and two electives), a two-day Course Concepts Review, and a six-hour comprehensive exam, it can take as little as one year to earn the designation. A Portfolio of Qualifying Experience is also required.

Best for: Commercial real estate investment specialists who have worked in the industry for at least two years. CCIM designees often hold various professional backgrounds, including brokers, attorneys, bankers, corporate real estate executives, and property managers.

Who provides the designation? The CCIM Institute

Pros

Designees receive exclusive discounts on educational opportunities and benefits, including Institute research, pre-design Excel templates, and tuition discounts.There is some flexibility in how long it takes to complete the designation requirements; some take as little as a year whereas others go slower over several years.The CCIM courses are offered in a variety of formats, including in-classroom, virtual, and online (both instructor-led and self-paced).

Cons

Applicants must complete and pass a six-hour, in-person comprehensive exam, available in select U.S. cities, and submit a Portfolio of Qualifying Experience.Courses can be a hefty financial investment, with some costing more than $8,200 for members and more than $10,000 for non-members.

Counselor of Real Estate (CRE)

What is the CRE designation? The Counselor of Real Estate recognizes real estate professionals’ achievement in real estate counseling, which is the practice of providing ethical, unbiased advice that influences real estate decisions and helps clients overcome challenges. Designees, who are invited by their peers for CRE membership, are prominent and trusted real-estate advisors known for their commitment to integrity in real estate counseling. Those with more than 10 years of experience can self-apply.

The CRE is multidisciplinary in nature, with members coming from more than 60 different real estate disciplines.

“The fact that it involved people from all these different professions meant that it was a unique opportunity for me as a lawyer to be part of an organization where there were people who had achieved a high level of success in their professions,” says Anthony DellaPelle, the 2024 Global Chair of The Counselors of Real Estate who also works as a real estate attorney in New Jersey.

Cost: Annual dues of $2,000 in the U.S. which may vary in other countries. There’s also a one-time) initiation fee of $2,500.

Time commitment to earn the designation: Applicants must complete a Request for Qualifications by a set deadline, obtain letters of recommendation from individuals familiar with your work, complete an interview, and then hopefully receive an invitation from the CRE Invitation Committee.

Best for: Real estate counselors who come from a variety of real estate disciplines, whether they are brokers, appraisers, attorneys, or bankers, to just name a few examples.

Who provides the designation? The Counselors of Real Estate

Pros

The designation offers opportunities to collaborate with experts in real estate counseling who come from a variety of real estate disciplines.CRE members become part of a prestigious real estate professional organization with 1,000 members in 22 countries.Designees are given ample opportunities for professional development and public service and can serve on CRE committees.

Cons

Annual dues and initiation fees are comparably higher than those of other real estate designations.Membership is selective, extended by invitation, and requires 10 years of work experience as well as three or more years of real estate advisory work.

Seller Representative Specialist (SRS)

What is the SRS designation? The SRS designation is the “premier credential in seller representation that elevates professional standards,” according to the Real Estate Business Institute. The designation is awarded to industry professionals with the knowledge and skills required for successful seller advocacy in a variety of contexts and situations. 

Cost: Annual membership dues of $99, which are waived for the first year, as well as the costs of the SRS course and one elective. Education requirement costs vary based on venue and format.

Time commitment to earn the designation: Two-day in-person course or 12-hour online course, plus one elective.

Best for: Real estate practitioners looking to advance their skill set in seller representation, access tools and strategies to provide support for sellers, and improve how they communicate their value as a real estate professional to potential seller clients.

Who provides the designation? Real Estate Business Institute

Pros

Designees get access to members-only educational resources and services, as well as webinars and videos.The educational requirements are relatively light compared with the other designations, with no exam requirement.Annual dues are waived for the first year of membership.

Cons

The designation requires documentation confirming three completed transactions where the applicant acted as a seller representative.The SRS requires payments of annual dues, though they are not as costly as those required for other designations.

Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES)

What is the SRES designation? This designation equips real estate professionals with the expertise and skills needed to guide senior homebuyers and sellers who are over 50 years old through the process, providing them with options and information to help them navigate the life and financial transitions they may face.

Cost: For realtors in the U.S., SRES designation course at $295 for the online version, with the classroom version costs varying by provider. Annual dues are also required, with the first year being free and subsequent years costing $99.

Time commitment to earn the designation: Two-day designation course.

Best for: Realtors who want to work with and meet the unique needs of Americans entering their senior years who are selling, buying, relocating, or refinancing properties.

Who provides the designation? NAR

Pros

Designees gain access to a robust SRES database of 15,000 members, customizable marketing materials, and scripts and concepts to use when contacting senior clients.Earning the designation only requires successful completion of a two-day course, with no application required.

Cons

Completion of the SRES designation course requires members to pass an exam with a score of at least 80%.

Society of Industrial and Office Realtors (SIOR)

What is the SIOR designation? The SIOR designation is a professional credential for commercial real estate practitioners in the industrial and office real estate sectors. SIOR requires designees to specialize as an industrial specialist, office specialist, industrial and office specialist (dual-specialty designation), sales management specialist, or executive management specialist.

Cost: In the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, costs include a $175 application fee, annual dues of $1,345 (U.S. and Canada), and a one-time Chapter Initiation Fee of $725.

Time commitment to earn the designation: Applicants must complete two-day, in-person courses in select cities as well as an online ethics course, and then pass a comprehensive final exam.

Best for: Commercial specialists in the industrial and office sectors with at least five years of brokerage experience.

Who provides the designation? Society of Industrial and Office Realtors

Pros

The designation offers SIOR members professional development and educational opportunities to enhance their career.SIOR’s global referral network expands across 49 countries.Specializations within the designation allow real estate professionals to further differentiate themselves in the industry.

Cons

The cost of annual dues is relatively high compared with other real estate membership organizations.Each specialization has work experience and sales volume requirements needed to earn the designation.For most specializations, maintaining the designation requires a minimum number of transactions or minimum production per year.

Frequently asked questions

What is a real estate designation? 

It’s a specialized real estate credential that enhances a realtor’s value to their clients. Adding a real estate designation after your name can help you differentiate yourself from other realtors by showcasing your level of expertise in a certain industry practice area. Designations typically require payments of annual fees, continued membership in the National Association of Realtors, and the completion of certain educational requirements or a specific level of work experience.

Is it worth getting a real estate designation?

For real estate agents looking to specialize in a certain sector within the industry, yes, experts say—a designation is often worth it. Referral opportunities are a major benefit that come with holding a designation, and a designation can help newer agents especially advance quickly their career. To decide if a designation is worth it, conducting a cost-benefit analysis can be helpful, as can doing basic research on the benefits–networking and otherwise–of becoming a designee in a certain practice area.

What is the difference between a designation and certification?

According to the National Association of Realtors, the primary difference between real estate designations and certifications is that maintaining a designation typically requires annual fees whereas certifications generally require only a one-time fee.

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