What Are the Best Real Estate Agent Certifications and Designations?
If you're looking to set yourself apart from other professionals in the real estate industry, consider taking relevant real estate designations and certifications. This industry is awash with many niches to command your space, and earning a specific designation shows your peers and clients that you are truly among the counselors of real estate. From residential properties to luxury mansions to becoming the go-to short sales and foreclosure resource, you're spoiled for choice.
Many real estate designations require prerequisites like individual councils' membership, membership fees, several years of experience, and minimum sales volume or transactions.
Given the wealth of real estate agent designations available, you might feel hesitant about choosing the best course for your career. But don't worry - this guide will walk with you through these in-demand certifications:
- Certified Residential Specialist - CRS
- Accredited Buyer's Representative - ABR
- Certified Commercial Investment Member - CCIM
- Certified Property Manager - CPM
- Accredited Land Consultant - ALC
- Certified Real Estate Team Specialist - C-RETS
- Certified International Property Specialist - CIPS
- NAR's Green Designation
- Seniors Real Estate Specialist - SRES
- At Home With Diversity - AHWD
- Resort and Second-Home Property Specialist - RSPS
- Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager
- CRBCertified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist - CLHMS Design
The CRS designation gives you a foundation in education and experience from the Residential Real Estate Council (RRC). Whether you're a newbie in real estate or a seasoned agent with high productivity, this certification provides a plan to boost your market profile, experience, and personal learning preference.
- The one-time application fee is $99.
- The annual membership dues are $195.
After becoming a member of the RRC, there are two paths to qualifying for your CRS:
- 60/30/30 Program: You must have completed 60 transactions OR $30M in sales volume over the last five years AND have taken 30 RRC education hours to qualify with the 60/30/30 program.
- The Pro Program: If you’ve been a registered real estate agent for 10+ years, completed a total of 100 transactions (OR average $1M annually with 40 transactions or more), and have completed 16 RRC education hours, you’ll qualify for your CRS with the Pro program.
Many of these certifications require an agent to be a REALTOR® - a real estate professional who has a membership with the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). Being a member provides an opportunity to cement your expertise and come across as an ethical expert in your community, so it's worth registering with the association and earning some REALTOR® designations. To become a REALTOR®, you must have a valid real estate license, have no record of civil judgments for the past seven years, not be named as a debtor within the last three years, and complete NAR’s orientation course. In terms of the cost to join, the application fee is $395, the certification fee is $205, and the annual fee is $95 - but given the plethora of opportunities such a membership unlocks, it is well worth the investment.
The ABR designation empowers buyer's agents who deal directly with buyer-clients. Holding this certification conveys your dedication to buyers, establishes you as a real estate negotiation expert, and promises top-quality support for your buyers during the search and selection process.
- To qualify for your ABR, you’ll need to join the Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Council (REBAC). Membership dues are $110.
- Become a member of NAR and REBAC.
- Complete the two-day ABR course and pass the exam with at least 80%.
- Take an ABR elective course and score at least 80% on the final exam.
- You must close five total transactions in which you were the buyer's representative (no dual agency permitted).
Earning your Certified Commercial Investment Member designation is a huge boost for anyone looking to make commercial real estate the bulk of their real estate business. Designees indicate that they're proficient in every aspect of commercial real estate (CRE) transactions and that they aren't shy around purchase sale agreements (PSAs). What's more, applicants must prove their prowess via a portfolio of qualifying experience, making the CCIM certification a true differentiator in the field.
To qualify for your CCIM, you’ll need a CCIM Institute Membership. Membership dues are $650 per year.
- Complete the education component and pass the final exam (coursework includes three different classes).
- Provide a portfolio of qualifying experience (except for Fast Track students. Please see the CCIM site for more details).
Becoming a Certified Property Manager (CPM) is one of those real estate certifications that tells investors that you understand the ins and outs of managing rental properties — or perhaps that you want to start your own portfolio of rental properties. The Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM®) CPM® site claims that designees who complete their education program earn two times the average property manager salary in the United States.
- Costs can vary slightly, but an associate member generally pays $225 per year.
Unlike working with traditional homebuyers, clients looking for farmland, ranch land, or development land might require a little extra guidance. From connecting with the right appraiser to explaining the difference between farmland and ranch land, becoming an Accredited Land Consultant (the only land designation endorsed by the National Association of REALTORS®) tells your clients that you truly know what you're doing. However, becoming an ALC isn't necessarily a walk in the park. The ALC designation takes a few years to earn, but it's worth the wait. This designation tells clients that you're a trusted, experienced, and competent expert in real estate transactions dealing with land.
- Costs are prorated and vary by month when you join the REALTORS® Land Institute (RLI).
- Complete the required Continuing Education and pass the ALC exam.
- Maintain active membership with REALTORS® Land Institute.
If you're an agent working with office REALTORS®, you’ll greatly benefit from a C-RETS designation. Through this process, you’ll build an in-depth foundation of training, skill development, and resources to create, guide, and manage your team. You're free to choose courses depending on your learning needs. With the C-RETS certification, you also get a chance to fast-track your Certified Real Estate Brokerage (CRB) Designation.
- You’ll need to pay a one-time credentialing fee of $159.
- Complete at least three out of the four available C-RETS courses.
- Maintain active membership with NAR.
CIPS is a certification for agents working with Americans looking to invest overseas and foreigners eager to invest in the U.S. It equips you with the knowledge, tools, and network you need to cater to these global audiences.
- To qualify for your CIPS, you’ll need to pay a $75 one-time application fee.
- Your CIPS annual membership dues and new trainees' dues are pro-rated quarterly depending on when you applied. The full cost is $220.
1. Complete one of the following core courses:
- Global Real Estate: Local Markets
- Global Real Estate: Transaction Tools
2. Take and complete three of the following elective options OR you can substitute ONE of the below for ONE of the above:
- Europe & International Real Estate
- Asia/Pacific & International Real Estate
- The Americas & International Real Estate
OR you can substitute ONE of the below for ONE of the above:
- NAR's At Home With Diversity (one-day course)
- CCIM - Residential Real Estate Financial Analysis
3. Upon completion of the courses, fill out and submit the U.S. CIPS application. You will need to accumulate 100 points on the application form to indicate that you have the experience necessary to hold this certification. The application includes several categories to measure your international competency. Each option is given a specific number of points. While you are not required to complete each section, the responses you provide must total 100 points.
4. Maintain active membership in NAR.
If you're an agent interested in energy sustainability and efficiency in real estate, this designation could take your passion to the next level. You gain benefits, like members-only marketing tools, knowledge about marketing homes with green features, information regarding how to communicate with clients interested in various facets of living green, and improved visibility as a professional who cares about our planet - among other perks, such as being listed in the online Green directory.
- While it’s free to apply and maintain your first year of membership, you’ll need to pay $98.50 in annual fees for subsequent years.
- Complete two courses: Green Day 1 and Green Day 2, available online or in the classroom.
- For online courses, you must pass the final exam with at least an 80% or above.
- You must submit an application form after completing the required courses and passing the final exams.
- You must be a member in good standing with NAR and an active member of NAR's Green Resource Council.
The Senior Real Estate Specialist or SRES® designation is among the National Association of REALTORS® affiliate designations (including the performance management network (PMN), REALTOR® institute, or military relocation professional (MRP)) that help set you apart from the rest of the crowd. By earning your SRES® designation, you're telling seniors that you're in tune with their real estate needs. Whether they're downsizing, living on a fixed income, or just want to be closer to family, you've got the knowledge to take care of these clients.
- Online course ($295) and annual dues ($99 after the first year)
- Complete the two-day course.
- Pass the final exam (with a score of 80% or higher).
- You must be a NAR member in good standing with both NAR and the SRES® council.
The At Home With Diversity (AHWD) program is a NAR designation that presents a picture of the dynamic real estate landscape. You get to understand the importance of fair housing, learn how to win the confidence of potential sellers and buyers from diverse cultural, racial, and other backgrounds, and build a business plan that mitigates risk and successfully services all clients equally.
- To apply for your AHWD designation, you’ll need to pay a $75 application fee.
- The required course can either be taken online or in a classroom. The online course costs $99; the classroom course fee varies depending on the provider.
- Complete the AHWD course either online or in a classroom.
- If you’re taking the course online, you’ll need to score good marks on the final exam.
- Maintain active NAR membership.
If you specialize in buying, selling, or managing properties for development, investment, or retirement, this is an agent certification that you won’t want to miss. An RSPS certificate helps you understand how to buy and sell second homes in a unique real estate market consisting of property primarily in desirable vacation destinations. With it, you gain access to resources like marketing tools that will help you reach an international audience and unique networking opportunities.
- The required course price varies.
- You’ll need to pay a one-time application fee of $194.50.
- You must successfully complete the RSPS certification course, either in a classroom or online.
- If you take the course online, you must score at least 80% on the RSPS exam.
- Maintain active membership in good standing with NAR.
Experienced Brokers, managers, owners, and supervisors can pursue this certificate to boost their professionalism through special attention to maintaining high standards, strengthening individual and office performance, and sharpening their expertise in brokerage management. It’s important to note that you don’t need a Broker License to earn this certification.
- You’ll be charged $150 for the one-time designation fee.
- While your first year of membership is free, you’ll owe $210 for each subsequent year.
- You’ll need at least one year of verifiable management experience to qualify for this certification and complete a management resume.
- You must successfully complete any three CRB courses in a classroom or online.
- Take and complete two experience electives.
- Maintain your standing as an active member of NAR.
If you're selling, buying, or managing luxury homes, you'll need this certification to gain a competitive edge. Afterward, sellers and buyers will rest assured that you have the necessary experience, knowledge, and confidence to handle their affluence. Additionally, the training provided through this certification will help you close more transactions at an increased price point.
- You’ll need to complete one of three training options, which start at $395.
- Complete either the Luxury Livestream, Luxury Online, or Advanced Online training options, which will also grant you membership to the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing.
- Close three separate residential transactions within ANY two years that are at or above the Luxury Threshold in each transaction’s Market Area.
No matter if you're an experienced agent or you're just starting out in the industry, certifications and designations allow you to hone in on your professional interests. Boost your career by earning one or more of these distinguishing designations.