7 Key Real Estate Designations that Give Your Agent a Leg Up

Curious about the string of letters behind your real estate agent’s name? Looking for an agent with special training to meet your needs?

Known as real estate designations, these fancy labels show off an agent’s certifications in niche categories of the business—whether it be downsizing, divorce, or vacation properties—and must be earned with additional studies and training beyond the standard real estate license.

After interviewing top agents from our nationwide network and brushing up on the lingo, we have a list for you of the 7 real estate designations that should interest you as a seller, along with an explanation on what type of training they involve and why they matter.

Read on to start decrypting those acronyms like a pro and hire the agent who has the lucky set of letters that you need most.

1. Graduate Realtor Institute (GRI)

This is the mothership of real estate designations in terms of months in the classroom. Offered through state Realtor associations, agents with the GRI designation have taken a minimum 60 hours of coursework training and multiple exams in the areas of real estate sales fundamentals, regulatory and legal issues, professional standards and technology.

Why it matters:
If you see these three little letters behind an agent’s name, it means they’re in good standing with all of the official real estate organizations from a national to a local level, come with great connections, and have taken the time to become experts in their field.

Say you’re working with a newer agent (less than 5 years in the business), and you’ve built a great rapport with them but question their level of experience. If the agent’s earned the GRI designation, you can likely trust that they know the ins and outs of the business and have put in the extra work to catch up to their agent peers.

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2. Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES)

As the name implies, agents who earn the SRES certification are trained to work with buyers and sellers ages 55 and over.

The two-day intensive training and subsequent membership into the SRES council helps agents stay informed on the best practices for assisting senior clients looking to sell, buy, relocate or refinance their properties.

SRES-certified agents are trained to understand the real estate opportunities available to homeowners in the 50+ age demographic, to explain the ins and outs of options like reverse mortgages and retirement real estate investing, and they are also educated on federal regulations, like the Housing for Older Persons Act (HOPA), and the impact real estate transactions have on retirement finances, such as Social Security benefits.

Why it matters:
Senior homeowners have different needs, different financial means, and different options available to them than traditional homeowners. So working with an agent who has specific training in meeting these needs can be beneficial.

SRES-certified agent Mike Robinson, who ranks in the top 3% of 2,068 agents in the south Atlanta market, explains how the needs of senior homeowners differ from traditional clients:

“Typically, a senior is not making a job change, or moving with kids. Typically, a senior will pay all cash on their purchase or make a significant down payment. And typically, their needs for their new location are a little different. For instance, they may be concerned with medical facilities being close by.”

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3. Seller Representative Specialist (SRS)

Coming in at an impressive 12+ hours of training, this course helps agents best serve sellers in their market and capture the most value for their listings.

According to NAR, Seller Representative Specialists learn how to “understand and apply methods, tools, and techniques to provide the support and services that sellers want and need.”

The training also involves a big focus on the ethics and compliance with state licensing laws.

Why it matters:
This certification is a great one to see behind your real estate agent’s name if you’re looking for a professional with special training on the home sale side of the transaction.

4. Resort and Second-Home Property Specialist (RSPS)

Ready to sell your beach house for nice chunk of change? An agent with the RSPS designation might be right for you.

They’ve taken a 9-hour course to learn the ins and outs of the niche second-home/vacation home market including the buying, selling, investing and management of these types of properties.

Why it matters:
The course gives agents access to an exclusive network of other agents working deals on homes with ocean views or easy access to the slopes.

If you’re a second-home buyer, an RSPS agent should be on the inside track of the latest properties of interest, before they even hit the market. As a seller, your agent’s special resort home connections should make it even easier to find your target buyer.

5. Short Sales & Foreclosure Resource (SFR)

Designed by the NAR for agents working with distressed properties, this 9-hour course teaches agents everything they need to know to support sellers in a financial bind, qualify them for a short sale and connect them with the right finance and legal professionals. It also educates agents on how to protect buyers looking to invest in these properties.

Why it matters:
An agent with this certification helps you manage risk, work successfully with lenders, and develop the special types of sales packages and processes required of these properties.

6. Certified Real Estate Divorce Specialist (CREDS)

Offered online by the Real Estate Divorce Specialists, this course prepares agents to help clients buying and selling properties after a divorce. The four-hour course and exam teach agents all the legal ins and outs of divorce, including expertise on tax matters.

Why it matters:
For divorce clients, having someone that knows all the rules is a big help in making the process smoother. These agents are trained as legal experts to help clients fairly divide property and provide clarity and support during the process.

7. NAR’s Green Designation (GREEN)

Intuitively named, the National Association of Realtors created this designation to help agents learn over a two-day course how to market and work with homes that have “green” property features. This can include anything from solar energy to skylights and other less-common home features that relate to green home architecture and property.

Why it matters:
If living green has been part of your lifestyle, it pays to hire an agent who understands those values. Trained to market homes with green features, these agents have a better shot than most at maximizing your home value in the eyes of potential buyers.

Designations are the icing on the cake—but your agent’s experience, local expertise and performance history matter most

Real estate designations give you an easy way as a seller to identify agents with niche business expertise in an area that’s valuable to you and can serve your needs more effectively.

These designations can also signify a certain level of professionalism, experience, and an agent’s network connections.

But ultimately, field experience and performance history counts for more than an agent’s special certifications. Top selling agent Steve Bacardi of southwest Florida explains:

“What matters most is an agent’s success and longevity. You can see everything online today— their transactions and sales.”

In addition to having a solid track record of sales, Steve recommends getting an agent with marketing know-how.

For top selling agent Jami Harich of Maryland, she cites designations as a way to better understand her clients, and ultimately, a way to prove an agent’s commitment to the field. “It shows that we’re up on the industry,” she says, “and trying to further our skill set.”

Still not sure how to choose the best real estate agent for your needs?

Make sure they check off all your boxes here—then connect with a HomeLight concierge to get matched with 3 top real estate agents in your area.

Ask your concierge to set you up with an agent who’s got the certification you’re looking for, and be on your way to a successful home sale.

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