We now live in a world of information overload, which means we often make the mistake of believing all the information we need is available to us. While this could be true in many situations, the real struggle is finding someone with the wisdom and experience to interpret the information we find. Never is it more important than when purchasing your largest investment—your home. When making such a big decision, cutting corners to save a few dollars could cost you more in the end. As a real estate professional, I have seen many cases where people were penny-wise and pound-foolish.
Purchasing real estate can be a daunting task, and there are so many steps to the process that the average individual just doesn’t know. Sure, there are a multitude of resources on the Internet, and plenty of friends and families have already been through it. Remember that real estate values, laws, financing regulations and requirements, inspection requirements, and neighborhoods frequently change. We always recommend that you get a competent real estate professional to guide you through the ever-changing world of real estate, and this document will give you the certifications and education you should expect your Realtor to have.
What makes a real estate professional?
Most people don’t ask this question enough. Everyone understands that, in order to be a real estate professional, one must go through a series of classes and pass a real estate exam. What you may not know is that, in order to maintain their license, real estate agents must take a certain number of continuing education hours to ensure that they understand the changes affecting their industry. While some of these courses are elective, there is usually one core class that is required by every type of real estate agent.
Many are unaware of the difference between a real estate agent and a real estate broker. An agent has taken the required licensing to get into real estate business. The broker has taken additional training and carries additional liability by being responsible for agents. In some states, North Carolina included, all agents must become brokers within a given time period. In North Carolina, that time limit is 3 years.
Most people also don’t realize the difference between a real estate professional (agent or broker) and a Realtor. The terms are used interchangeably so often, many think they have the same meaning. Realtors are real estate professionals that agree to adhere to a code of ethics that hold them to a higher standard than other real estate professionals. As a Realtor, there are also mandatory annual fees that are required to be paid at the National, State and local level. These fees are rather costly, but a Realtor it is a financial commitment they are willing to make to ensure accountability for the service they provide. The National Association of Realtors, an association dedicated to promoting home ownership and ensuring that our legislators understand the importance of home ownership for everyone in America, also works to support members through additional education. Additionally, real estate agents can get a myriad of certifications for areas in which they specialize. Here are a few and what they mean:
ABR – Accredited Buyer’s Representative. These Realtors focus on representing the Buyer in a real estate transaction. They know the needs of a buyer and what it takes to give their buyers a competitive advantage.
ALC – Accredited Land Consultant. This accreditation is reserved for the best land professionals, and is geared toward those involved in the brokerage of agricultural land, ranches, hunting, timberland and the like.
CCIM – Certified Commercial Investment Member. These Realtors focus on brokerage, leasing valuation, and investment analysis of commercial real estate.
CIPS – Certified International Property Specialist. These Realtors service the international market in their local community with focus on culture, investment trends, and legal issues.
CPM – Certified Property Manager. These Realtors focus specifically in the managing of real estate for property owners and investors
CRS – Certified Residential Specialist. This group of Realtors focuses specifically on the residential side of real estate and have an invaluable network of other CRS-certified Realtors across the country.
GRI – Graduate, Realtor Institute. This group of Realtors has completed extensive in-depth training in legal, technology, standards, sales process, and regulatory issues.
e-pro – These Realtors are committed to staying up to date and will ensure you have the technology necessary to give you an advantage in all phases of your real estate transactions.
While your Realtor or real estate professional may have some combination of the above certifications, you must remember the certifications are only one piece to the puzzle.
Experience is another piece. It helps when your real estate agent has been in the foxhole and knows what it’s like to battle the way through adversity. A Realtor that has been through numerous closings has seen what can go wrong and can be your guide to reassure you that there is always a way through the process. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use a young Realtor. Age is not always associated with experience, and new real estate agents often have more time, which means you get more attention.
Another piece of the puzzle is the depth of a team. A good agent knows all the people that can help you through the process, including everything from financial help, to appraisers, to closing attorneys, to stagers.
Good Realtors help you save money in the long run. They are your guides through a myriad of challenges. Take your time in picking the right Realtor, and it will pay dividends in the long run. You’ll likely never make a larger purchase than your home, so get a professional to be your Sherpa.
A big thanks to Pat Ownings with Inbound Marketing Agents and his contribution to this blog.
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