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Are professional real estate designations worth it?

Do real estate designations make practitioners successful or are they a waste of money? Is that even the right way to look at designations?




Over the past 25 years, the number of designations in the real estate space has increased from a single handful to an armful. According to, there are 17 NAR Family Designations and 6 NAR Family Certifications. Yes, the industry has become more specialized over the years, but do we really need 23 different courses to cover the marketplace needs?

Actually, maybe we do. Think about it, where would you draw the line? If you were appointed the boss of all real estate decisions, which of these courses do you think we should eliminate?

The answer to the question depends who you ask. If you ask an appraisers if the SRS (Seller Representative Specialist) designation should be expired, they might say yes. If you ask a residential agents if it’s okay to terminate the RAA (Residential Accredited Appraiser) designation, they might agree. But, switch these two questions and you’d likely get a resounding no.

A wise person once told me, if you ask turkeys what they think about Thanksgiving, don’t be surprised by the answer.

It’s not about winners or losers

The intention of this article is not to pick the winners and losers in the range war of designations… that will either be determined naturally or by NAR design. The real intent of this article is to explore the value of designations to YOU.

So are designations worth it? This is the questions agents ask when they debate the value of designations. But, this is the wrong question. All of the NAR designations have great value and they are all worth it, at least to some people. They are all solid educational experiences and some have great side benefits like active referral networks.

Instead of asking if a designation is worth it, ask will it make me smarter, better, more productive, and/or less dangerous in my area of the marketplace? If the answer is yes, take the training. If the answer is no, don’t.

Sometimes we expect too much from education. Education will not, by itself, make you successful. But, sometimes it seems we look at a designation course and analyze its value based on the number of leads it will generate. It is the application of knowledge that makes you successful, not the mere fact that you took a course.

Designation courses are what you make of them. It starts with selecting the right course for you and your business. For instance, if you work in a historic section of a city, your benefit in taking the Green designation is probably more limited than if you work in a suburban area with a lot of new construction. Sure, you might learn some helpful stuff, but the bang for the buck might be better to take the SRES (Senior Real Estate Specialist), or other designation.

What about all of those letters?

There is nothing wrong with letters after your name. They actually give you some self-satisfaction, pride, confidence, and a host of other warm and fuzzy feelings that are important. More typically, the question is “will my clients and customers understand these designations and perceive me as a better professional?”

Again, wrong question.

The better question is, “am I willing to put this education into action to be more professional?” Letters after your name are irrelevant if you do not put into action the ideas, systems, and tools you learn in a designation course. If you do that, then your clients will recognize you as a professional.

If you have selected the right designation course AND apply the new knowledge to your business, there is great value to a designation course. If, on the other hand, you expect your business to improve simply because you re-print your business cards with a couple new letters after your name, designations are worthless.

How do I pick the right designations?

If you are just starting in the business, or have decided to get serious about your career, you might want to start with the GRI (Graduate, Realtor Institute). The GRI differs from state to state, but typically it is a good general course for agents in their first five years in the business.

Unfortunately, the GRI program has been in flux for the past few years. NAR and state education experts have been working to reformat and update the course and in some states the GRI program has been temporarily suspended until the revisions are completed. Hopefully the “new” GRI program will be ready for nationwide delivery soon.

Other than the general programming of the GRI, other designations are typically more niche specific. It is probably better to pick your niche and then look for a designation course that corresponds, but sometimes a designation course can give you enough exposure to a market segment to help you decide that you want to work that niche, or not. For instance, maybe you think the commercial market might be interesting, but you are not sure. You could invest in a CCIM class (Certified Commercial Investment Member) to help you decide if it is for you, or not.

If real estate is your profession, it is up to YOU to invest in your education. Yes, your firm offers education and your state licensing agency requires you to do education, but these are not the same as the Realtor family designation courses. You can be successful without designations, or you can have several designations and still be unsuccessful. If you combine hard work and dedication with the knowledge from designations, statistics indicate you are going to be more successful.

Ready, set, learn! You’re worth it.

Dave is a 20+ year veteran in Realtor® association management and leadership and is currently the CEO of the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors®. He is a writer, speaker, strategic planner, and life-long learner with a passion for creative thinking. Dave has published his first novel For Reasons Unknown and will be publishing his second by the end of the year.


To-do list tips & tricks to maximize productivity and lower stress levels

(EDITORIAL) Even if you have a to-do list, the weight of your tasks might be overwhelming. Here’s advice on how to fix the overwhelm.



To-do list in a journal with gold rings.

If you ask me, there’s no better way to unwind and ease everyday stress by making a to-do list. Like they said in the movie, Clueless, “It gives [you] a sense of control in a world full of chaos.”

While that quote was specific to a makeover, it certainly applies here. When you have too many things on your plate, making a to-do list is a quick way to get yourself in order. Typically, this does the trick for organizing your upcoming tasks.

It’s important to determine what method of listmaking works for you. I personally like to use sticky notes around my computer monitor to keep me in check for what’s needed to be done work-wise or by use of my computer. Other personal task items will either be kept in a list on my phone, or in my paper planner.

For work, I have a roster of clients I work with everyday. They each have their own list containing tasks I have to complete for them. I also use Google Calendar to keep these tasks in order if they have a specific deadline.

For personal use, I create a to-do list at the start of each week to determine what needs to be accomplished over the next seven days. I also have a monthly overview for big-picture items that need to be tackled (like an oil change).

This form of organization can be a lot and it can still be overwhelming, even if I have my ducks in a row. And, every once in a while, those tasks can really pile up on those lists and a whole new kind of overwhelm develops.

Fear not, as there are still ways to break it down from here. Let me explain.

First, what I’d recommend is going through all of your tasks and categorizing them (i.e. a work list, a personal list, a family list, etc.) From there, go through each subsequent list and determine priority.

You can do this by setting a deadline for each task, and then put every task in order based on what deadline is coming up first. From there, pieces start to fall into place and tasks begin to be eliminated. I do recognize that this is what works for my brain, and may not be what works for yours.

Leo Babauta of Zen Habits has some interesting insight on the topic and examines the importance of how you relate to your tasks. The concept is, instead of letting the tasks be some sort of scary stress, find ways to make them more relatable. Here are some examples that Babauta shares:

  • I’m fully committed to this task because it’s incredibly important to me, so I’m going to create a sacred space of 30 minutes today to be fully present with it.
  • This task is an opportunity for me to serve someone I care deeply about, with love.
  • These tasks are training ground for me to practice presence, devotion, getting comfortable with uncertainty.
  • These tasks are an adventure! An exploration of new ground, a learning space, a way to grow and discover and create and be curious.
  • This task list is a huge playground, full of ways for me to play today!

Finding the best method of creating your to-do list or your task list and the best method for accomplishing those tasks is all about how you relate and work best. It can be trial and error, but there is certainly a method for everyone. What are your methods?

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How minimizing your clutter will help you with time management

(EDITORIAL) If you’re a clutter queen that tends to wait until your inbox has more than 500 emails in it or your closet can’t shut, read this…please.



Woman carrying boxes representing minimizing clutter.

Rethinking your clutter habits

Are you one of those people who has an endless to-do list of mindless tasks like emptying your inbox, decluttering your entryway, or balancing your checkbook? Think about these tasks for just a minute.

In each case, the longer you put it off, the more time it takes to get it back to a manageable amount. If you’re a procrastinator that tends to wait until your inbox has more than 500 emails in it or your closet can’t shut, maybe it’s time to look at this clutter through a different lens.

Busyness is like a debt

When you have a credit card, it’s recommended to pay off the balance each month to get to zero. You would never let your bill go unpaid month after month. Once you get your credit card balance paid off, you’re probably more cautious about taking on more debt.

Consider your inbox a debt you have to take care of each week. The idea is to get it down to zero.

Delete it or file it, just get it out of your inbox so that it doesn’t get back up to 25, 100, or 500 to reduce the clutter in your life. Same thing with your entryway. The idea is to minimize the clutter. Once you keep this clutter at zero, it’s much less work to manage it.

Minimalism as a lifestyle

You may have to spend some time cleaning up your inbox or tidying up the kitchen to find your zero, but it’s time well spent. Don’t try to tackle every job in one week, but think about some of the things that have gotten out of hand in your life.

Routine work is manageable, but you have to make a commitment to it. If you need more inspiration, check out Zeromalist, a manifesto of living simply and embracing minimalism.

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How to go about delegation to *actually* bring about peak productivity

(OPINION) Delegation is well, a delicate subject, and can end up creating more work for yourself if it isn’t done well. Here’s how to fix that.



Man talking on virtual meeting, using delegation to get more work done.

Delegating work is a logical step in the process of attaining peak efficiency. It’s also a step that, when executed incorrectly, leads to a huge headache and a lot of extra work for whomever is delegating tasks—not to mention frustration on the part of those asked to complete said tasks. Here is how you can assign work with the confidence that it will be done quickly and effectively.

Firstly, realizing that a “one size fits all” approach doesn’t work can be a bit of a blow. It’s certainly easier to assign tasks across the board and wait for them to be completed; however, when you consider how much clean-up work you have to do when those tasks don’t end the way you expect them to, it’s actually simpler to assign tasks according to employees’ strengths and weaknesses, providing appropriate supports along the way.

In education, this process is called “differentiation”, and it’s the same idea: If you assign 30 students the exact same work, you’ll see pretty close to 30 different answers. Assigning that same piece with the accommodations each student needs to succeed—or giving them different parameters according to their strengths—means more consistency overall. You can apply that same concept to your delegation.

Another weak point in many people’s management models revolves around how employees see their superiors. In part, this isn’t your fault; American authority paradigms mandate that employees fear their bosses, bend over backward to impress them, and refrain from communicating concerns. However, it is ultimately your job to make sure that your employees feel both supported and capable.

To wit, assign your employees open-ended questions and thought-provoking problems early on to allow them to foster critical thinking skills. The more you solve their problems for them, the more they will begin to rely on you in a crisis—and the more work you’ll take home despite all of your delegation efforts. Molding employees into problem-solvers can certainly take time, but it’s worth the wait.

Finally, your employees may lack strength in the areas of quality and initiative. That sounds a lot worse than it actually is—basically, employees may not know what you expect, and in the absence of certainty, they will flounder. You can solve this by providing employees with the aforementioned supports; in this case, those look like a list of things to avoid, a bulleted list of priorities for a given project, or even a demo of how to complete their work.

Again, this sounds like a lot of effort upfront for your delegation, but you’ll find your patience rewarded come deadline time.

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