If You Want to Get Ahead in the Real Estate Business, Keep Your Skillset Sharp and Never Stop Learning.
Any successful Realtor® will tell you getting ahead and staying ahead in the highly competitive world of real estate takes hard work, dedication, and yes, even a bit of luck. More than that, though, the top agents are those who remain committed to their craft, never stop learning, and are always seeking out ways to sharpen their real estate skills.
If you're new to the business and just earned your real estate license, more education might not be the first thing on your mind—but it should be.
Consider that in the U.S. alone, there are roughly 2 million active real estate licensees. Of the nearly 1.4 million of those who are members of the National Association of Realtors®, the median gross income in 2019 was just under $50,000. If you’re hoping to exceed that number, you'll face a crowded market of like-minded individuals looking to do the same.
Along those same lines, even seasoned professionals who are ready to take their career to the next level would be wise to seek ways to hone their talents, raise their profiles, and become part of the 10% of agents who earn more than $110,000 per year.
Newcomer or seasoned professional, there's always room for growth to become a better agent. So, let's explore some of the top methods and best resources to sharpen your real estate skills.
Maintaining Your License and Continuing Education
It's both a significant achievement and a huge relief to earn your real estate license, considering the hours of study that went into acquiring it. But learning doesn’t stop after passing that initial test. To maintain your real estate license, every state has some form of continuing education requirement.
For example, in Texas, you must renew your license every two years and complete 18 hours of approved continuing education courses. In California, the renewal period is every four years and requires 45 hours of continuing education.
To stay ahead of the renewal process and maintain a close eye on the changing landscape of industry norms, research your state's specific continuing education requirements and complete these courses at your earliest convenience. Not only will it help you maintain your agent knowledge base, but it also ensures a smoother renewal process.
Beyond the core requirements for your license, resources such as Inman offer year-round educational opportunities, including on-demand webinars, meetings, and conferences.
You could even branch out and get involved in different ways of conducting real estate deals, such as through high-end property auctions. Luxury auctions require unique marketing strategies and are a great way to buy and sell unparalleled, state-of-the-art properties. If you’re interested in learning more about this route, reach out to us at Concierge Auctions, one of the leading luxury real estate auction companies in the world.
Consider Becoming a Real Estate Broker
Understandably, becoming a real estate broker may not be on your radar. For one thing, it takes time. In most states, you must be an agent for a set number of years—usually between two to four—and take additional credit-hour coursework. In some instances, it can be a lot. New York only requires an extra 45 hours of coursework while California requires roughly 360 hours of total real estate licensing education to be a broker.
However, that education can significantly expand your real estate acumen and give you a distinct advantage over agents that opt not to follow the broker path. Achieving broker status also translates into a far more lucrative career, monetarily speaking. This is true even if you choose not to fulfill the traditional broker role and instead continue to maintain a healthy roster of clients.
An additional benefit to earning and maintaining a broker license early in your career is setting yourself up for later success if you want to grow and expand your business.
Professional Designations and Certifications
One of the most significant steps you can take to establish a foundation of continual improvement is joining the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). As a member, you have access to a bevy of tools and resources, including those that will help you sharpen your skills set, expand your expertise, or narrow your focus to certain specializations.
Membership also allows you to build a peer network with other agents and brokers to serve you throughout your professional career.
One of the NAR’s best functions is the professional designations and certifications it oversees or provides through its affiliates. These credentialed designations are widely respected throughout the real estate industry. Each one ensures that you, as an agent, increase your knowledge base and advance your career.
In all, there are 27 different designations and certifications. Below we’ve outlined a selection of the most beneficial for both residential and commercial agents and brokers.
NAR's designations are effectively ongoing educational opportunities, with a curriculum that is continually being tweaked and improved upon. In addition to continued NAR membership, they require annual dues to maintain. Twelve of the most widely recognized designations include:
- An Accredited Buyer's Representative (ABR®) designation is for agents who work directly with homebuyers. The coursework will improve your working relationship and skills with clients as you help navigate them through the homebuying process.
- The Accredited Land Consultants (ALCs) designation is for agents who specialize in land sales or brokerage or have at least three years of experience in auction, brokerage management, consulting development, farm management, or leasing or related services in land management.
- The Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) designation is designed for commercial real estate agents. It is earned after 200 classroom hours. The CCIM network includes 13,000 members and is highly regarded in the commercial real estate sector.
- If you are interested in international real estate, the Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) designation gives you access to a network of 3,500 professionals who can help build your international referrals.
- The Institute of Real Estate Management's (IREM) Certified Property Manager® (CPM®) designation is widely recognized both in and outside the real estate industry. It reflects a mastery and deep understanding of the principles of real estate management and is a critical distinction if you want to branch out beyond your core real estate skill set.
- For brokers, the Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager (CRB) designation helps expand the business acumen of those who want to improve the operations, business strategies, and technology integration of their real estate firms.
- The Certified Residential Specialist (CRS), from the Residential Real Estate Council, opens up a wealth of opportunity and benefits to designees. It comes with the distinction of helping agents, brokers, and managers earn three times as much as non-designees.
- Some designations give you the opportunities to not only shape your real estate skills but stand out as a specialist in a specific area of real estate. Such is the case with the NAR's Green Designation, which provides agents both resources and ongoing education to capitalize on and market green properties.
- Along these same specialization lines, the Graduate, REALTOR® Institute provides agents additional training and expertise in legal and regulatory issues, professional standards, the sales process, and technology. Both the Graduate and Green designations—and others like them—allow you to market yourself to buyers and sellers who value singular expertise over general knowledge.
- Presented by the Women's Council of REALTORS®, the Performance Management Network (PMN) designation is for those aiming to improve their negotiating skills, networking, and referral building capabilities, enhance their business planning, and overall improve both their personal performance and team leadership skills.
- Similar to the ARB®, Green, and Graduate designations, the Seller Representative Specialist (SRS) and the Seniors Real Estate Specialist® (SRES®) let you sharpen your overall real estate skill set while gaining insight into specific client segments.
* The SRS flips the script from the ARB® designation. It focuses on sellers instead of buyers, including how to serve and advocate for those selling property.
* The SRES® gears itself to broadening an agent's understanding of how to ethically (and profitably) serve the needs of clients who are over the age of 50—the industry's fastest-growing segment.
Certifications work similarly to the designations listed above in that they are also specialized credentials for REALTORS®. Maintaining your certifications requires only an application fee and continued membership in NAR, but no annual dues. Nine of the most helpful certifications include:
- At Home With Diversity® (AHWD) offers tools and resources to help navigate and excel in a diverse real estate climate, including how to be sensitive to clients of all backgrounds to best serve their needs.
- The Military Relocation Professional (MRP) certification offers similar insight into current and former military personnel and their families' specific needs, including advising them on how to take advantage of benefits afforded to them.
- The Certified Real Estate Team Specialist (C-RETS) certification is a program that builds your team environment skills. Ideal for brokers or agents heading into a team setting, the certification provides you with the confidence to thrive in a group environment with a focus on leadership and enhanced management and financial performance.
- The certifications for Digital Marketing: Social Media and e-PRO® both possess a similar aim—helping agents become experts in the ever-expanding digital marketing field. The former focuses on increasing your expertise on how to market and communicate on social media platforms. The latter provides insight into advanced marketing in the digital age, including engaging, communicating, and creating trust with clients over digital channels.
- The Pricing Strategy Advisor (PSA) certification offers instruction on guiding clients through the often misunderstood and highly sensitive aspects of home values and pricing.
- If you want to distinguish yourself through a better understanding of specific property types, the NAR offers three additional certifications in three rapidly growing segments of real estate property. They include Resort & Second Home Property Specialist (RSPS), Short Sales & Foreclosure Resource (SFR®), and the Smart Home Certification.
Growing your real estate skills and knowledge will help set your clients up for success—and, in turn, set you apart from other agents. By investing in yourself and your business, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll be able to reap the rewards.