Are Agent Designations Really Worth Anything?

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Agent designations are available from a variety of sources. Agents can take a course to become a Certified Negotiation Expert or a Senior Real Estate Specialist. But are these certifications worth the paper they are printed on? Let’s take a look at how you can decide if it is worth earning a designation or if you should trust an agent because of a certification.

Agent Designations: Why worry about legitimacy?

While many agents are upstanding, trustworthy, and aim to provide amazing service to every single client, there are some agents who are just looking to make a quick buck and don’t care much for integrity and ethics. These are the agents you have to worry about.

A couple of years ago we wrote a series of articles on the various designations available at the time. One such article is about a program called Certified Probate Real Estate Specialist, or CPRES. One astute reader named Moureen recently left us a comment on that article:

The “Certification” is made up and holds no real value. It is not recognize by NAR and is simply a designation that Realtors pay money for. The logo they use is simply the owners family crest. I have worked for this company and they are a fraud ripping agents off. In fact the majority of “agents” in their list of certified agents are fake and were added in to make their company look larger and more respected than it is.

That got us thinking about which designations are worthwhile and which you might want to avoid. Here are some criteria we suggest using to vet the legitimacy and quality of a real estate agent designation.

Agent Designations: Who sponsors the designation?

The first place to look when deciding if a designation is legitimate is the issuing agency. Some designations are designed and administered by well reputed companies. Others are, as Moureen points out, a little less trustworthy.

As an agent, you should look into the issuer before deciding if it is worthwhile to get started and making your first payment. Customers, do a quick Google search to learn what you can about the designation to decide if your prospective agent is a helpful expert or trying to pull a quick one on you.

Agent Designations: What does the National Association of Realtors say?

After you’ve done your own research, check out the designations recognized by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). While the NAR is not the ultimate authority on designations, you can generally trust designations that the NAR supports.

If a designation is not supported by the NAR, that doesn’t instantly mean it is a bad designation. There could be many great real estate agent designations that the NAR does not support but are still legitimate and worthwhile. Their value comes from the content of the course and what agents learn along the way.

Agent Designations: What are the requirements to earn the designation?

The final place to look to decide if a designation is legitimate is the coursework required to earn the designation. If getting a designation is as simple as writing a check, it is essentially worthless. However, if a designation requires agents complete a rigorous course that leads to true expertise in the subject, it is a quality designation.

Designations are not meant to be a badge of honor. They are designed to show that you can trust an agent and work with them knowing they are a true expert in a certain subject area. Designations are about learning and becoming an expert. If the designation leads to that outcome, it doesn’t matter what the NAR says about it.

Agent Designations: Trust your gut

At the end of the day, there is no designation police that you can look to in order to find out which designations are good and which are less trustworthy. Whatever your stake in the real estate game, ensure you do enough research to find out if the designation you are interested in, or being sold on, is legitimate. If you follow these steps, you can safely move forward with the best agent designations.

If you are buying or selling a house and are looking to hire a successful real estate agent to help you through the process, take a look at AgentHarvest's list of top-ranking local Realtors in your area. We found these agents by examining their sales track records, awards, rankings, client testimonials and by conducting personal interviews.