Realtors® upgrade skills to match changing market needs 

Jan Stapleton - 2023 NETAR President

There’s no arguing that technology and a raft of other changes have complicated real estate transactions. Technology and media hype have armed consumers with a lot more information, and the pandemic combined with a decade of under-building, unleased a fiercely competitive housing market. 

2023 NETAR President
Association Spokesperson

Realtors® confronted and continue to arm themselves with enhanced skills to better serve their clients with additional certifications, designations, and other forms of continuing education. The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) has designed a special awareness for designations and certifications for the month of November. The worth of designations, certifications, and continuing education is demonstrated by the success of those who take advantage of specialized skills. 

A couple of years ago, NAR’s membership survey found that the median income of Realtors® with at least one designation was a little better than 45% higher than an agent with no designations. 

According to a NAR survey, a little over 39% of members nationwide hold at least one certification. Besides certifications, 36% have at least one professional designation. The post-pandemic numbers are higher. They’re higher because the ever-evolving real estate industry requires it. It’s becoming more specialized, and members are targeting special skill sets that conform to what’s happening in their home markets and the overall industry.  

For example, the most popular certification was Short Sales and Foreclosures Resource® (SFR) after the Great Recession. That interest was market-driven by the elevated number of distressed homes on the market. Two of the current growing local interests focus on veterans, investing, and commercial real estate.  

Another popular skill set is the e-Pro®. It has become a staple since online marketing and digital services have become dominant. And technology advances are still coming fast.  

Those are just examples of how Realtors® manage their career focus with continuing education.  

A recent Investopedia report listed seven top designations based on the benefits of the designation and potential impact on a career. They included: 

  • Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES®) 
  • Seller Representative Specialist (SRS®) 
  • Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®) 
  • Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager (CRB®) 
  • Certified Resident Specialist (CRS®) 
  • Military Relocation Professional (MRP®) 
  • Short Sales & Foreclosure Resource (SFR®) 

That’s a small subset of the 29 designations available. The most common is Certificated Residential Specialist CRS®. So, there are ample options and opportunities based on local market conditions or where individuals want to focus on their careers. 

The difference between a certification and a designation is that certifications are earned by continuing education and a onetime certification fee. Designations are linked to issuing bodies that Realtors® pay dues to after they’ve met the organizations’ education requirements.  

If you look at the acronyms behind a Realtors’® name on their business card or in their biography on their Web site, you can tell what special skills they have earned and which organizations they are vested with. You’ll probably need a crib sheet to understand what the acronyms mean. That can be found by pointing your Web browser to at the Northeast Tennessee Association of Realtors® (NETAR) website. It’s a useful tool that increasing numbers of savvy buyers and sellers use to ensure they partner with a Realtor® who has special skills in an area that will work best with their clients’ real estate needs and goals.  

There are also seminars and classes that don’t result in a certification or designation but keep Realtors® up to date on the constantly changing laws, practices, forms, and trends. It’s part of Realtors® ongoing effort to stay on the cutting edge of their profession and the rapidly changing real estate industry. 

NETAR is the voice for real estate in Northeast Tennessee. It is the largest trade association in the Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia region, representing over 1,800+ members and 100+ business partners involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries. Weekly market reports and information for both consumers and members are available on the NETAR website at