by Mike Sharkey
Attorneys go to school an extra three years in order to get their juris doctorate. Depending on the discipline, doctors can spend upwards of a decade in medical school and residencies. Many school teachers add post-graduate degrees as the years pass and many upper-level administrative positions require doctorates and even Ph.D.s.
Real estate agents may not have to go to college, or even have high school diplomas for that matter, but their education hardly ends the day they get their state-certified licenses in the mail. In fact, real estate agents have a list of continuing education classes they have to take that is only surpassed by the list of classes they may take at any time during their careers.
Leading the way locally may be Phyllis Staines of Re/Max Coastal Realty. After her name, you’ll find the following: ABR, CCREC, CFS, CLHMA, CRS, EPRO, GRI, RECS and SRES. Oh yes, toss in Realtor of the Year for good measure.
“I think I hold the record,” said Staines, joking about the nine certifications and designations she has earned over the years. “I have more than any other agent I know of.”
Staines said her pursuit of continuing education in her field is two-fold. Outside of the fact that some continuing education is required by both the National Association of Realtors and the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors, Staines said she believes education is key regardless of the profession and she firmly believes that having an alphabet soup after her name helps her sell houses.
“I am a big believer in education,” she said. “I look at it as the learning side of the designations makes you go through the process and learn the material. A doctor without an MD after their name is no good. An accountant without CPA after their name is no good. I believe this has really helped me. It gives you all the tools you need to be successful in this industry.”
Staines said real estate continuing education can be an expensive, time consuming process. Both her GRI and CRS certifications took about two years to acquire and demanded certain levels of production as well as a minimum number of transactions.
“They were not just take the class and be done,” said Staines, adding she thinks taking classes on the Internet is more difficult than taking them in the classroom. “On the Internet, you can’t skip ahead. Also, if you take the courses in person you meet other agents. They may be the competition, but I am also a big believer in making the industry better.”
So is NEFAR.
“We put a lot of emphasis on education,” said Melanie Green, communications director for NEFAR. “Each year the Florida Association of Realtors holds an awards presentation for continuing education and we are historically one of the best realtor associations in the state. We won the award (Education Overall Program Achievement Award, Mega Board Category) again two weeks ago and have won it 11 of the past 14 years. We are the education queen of the state.”
Green said there are approximately 5,800 real estate agents registered with NEFAR and 400 of them have at least one National Association of Realtors designation. She said NEFAR pushes continuing education for one reason.
“As in any discipline, the more education our agents have, the better we can serve our clients,” said Green.
Potential home buyers pay attention to real estate certifications, said Green.
“Some high-end buyers will contact us as to who has what,” said Green, adding that every new real estate agent that registers with NEFAR goes through a two-day orientation during which education is covered. “We tell them about what they must take and what’s available in the future. Each year when we send out our annual dues in October, we include a continuing calendar so the agents can start planning.”
In an effort to encourage continuing education, NAR has declared November National Designation Awareness Month.