by Paige Tepping
No matter the industry, separating yourself from the competition is a critical component that can’t be overlooked. But for the 1.1 million members of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) vying for the attention of buyers and sellers on a day-by-day basis, standing out is about more than simply staying up-to-date with the latest tools, trends and technology.
As the industry continues to evolve and change, today’s real estate professionals need more than just motivation and initiative to succeed. They need a solid foundation, as well as in-depth training in legal and regulatory issues, technology, professional standards and the sales process. Thanks to the Graduate, REALTOR® Institute (GRI) designation—awarded by NAR—real estate professionals have access to all of this.
Laying a Solid Foundation
For Margaret Hartman, a licensed associate real estate broker with Realty USA in Buffalo, N.Y., and the 2015 vice chair of the Professional Development Committee, earning the GRI was the first step toward laying the foundation for her future in the industry. “The GRI was the first segment of courses I took that provided the necessary foundation to understand the real estate business,” says Hartman, who explains that the designation taught her everything she needs to know in order to successfully change with the ever-evolving market.
With no signs of slowing down, it’s more important than ever for real estate professionals to arm themselves with the necessary education to take them to the next level. “The real estate market is always changing,” says Matthew Rathbun, executive vice president of Coldwell Banker Elite in Fredericksburg, Va., “and a lot of agents know what they know—and they may know it well— but higher level classes open up and expose agents to the things they don’t necessarily know about.”
Rathbun, who earned his GRI in 2004, goes on to say that the materials he received during his training serve as a resource that he can review and reflect back on to this day. Because of the nature of the classes, he’s gained referral business from outside his office and region. “But the stronger element is that I feel more confident going into listing presentations because I took the time early on in my career to gain a higher level of training.”
While timing is everything in today’s ultra-competitive market, Evan Fuchs—designated broker with Bullhead Laughlin Realty—a true self-starter, quickly willed his way into being fairly successful. A few short years later, Fuchs realized just how important a solid foundation was to his business. “I’m fortunate that I chose the GRI because it provided the introduction I needed for quality professional development,” says Fuchs. “I felt like I was earning experience every time I took a class.”
Taught by instructors who have taken the time to develop the materials and resources to provide agents with the things they don’t necessarily know they need, sessions focus on a singular topic and are full of a variety of people, offering real estate professionals a level of exposure they can’t get elsewhere. The course’s national- and state-specific content is yet another beneficial aspect.
Connecting with Clients
From expanding their business to helping real estate professionals prepare for challenging transactions, the benefits associated with earning the GRI designation are numerous. Not only does the designee get a leg up on those without a designation, taking the time to earn the GRI goes a long way toward showing just how committed you are to yourself, your clients and the industry.
“One of the greatest debates in this industry centers around designations and their value, so it’s important to take the time to fully explain to your clients what the letters mean and what’s in it for them,” says Fuchs, who has incorporated the value of the GRI designation into all of his marketing materials. “A lot of clients connect with it. Not only can I see it in their eyes and hear it in their words, it also shows when they choose to hire me.”
For Hartman, one of the biggest factors that went into her decision to earn the GRI designation was the ultimate need to understand what she could bring to the equation in terms of what she could offer her clients. “Not only has the GRI given me a level of confidence knowing that I’m bringing something to the real estate transaction, it’s also been beneficial in facilitating transactions when unusual situations arise.”
As prospective buyers continue to turn to the Internet to aid in their real estate search, Rathbun points to his GRI designation as a key piece of the puzzle in getting clients’ questions answered quickly. “Clients don’t want to hear that you’ll check on something and get back to them, and thanks to the GRI, I’m able to answer any questions my clients have—or at least know where to get the answer.”
A Revamped, Refreshed Designation
With an underlying goal of providing real estate professionals the skill training that will take them into—and through—various situations with all kinds of clients, over the last year-and-a- half, the GRI was refreshed and updated to more accurately cover the topics that are most prevalent in the industry today.
Now that most states require a certain amount of hours of continuing education for real estate professionals to keep their licensing, Hartman notes that the restructured GRI goes hand-in-hand with this objective since many of the courses are approved for continuing education credits in numerous states. “This is a huge benefit for agents because they now have the opportunity to take GRI courses—over a period of five years—and commit the mandatory credits to continuing education, so they’re getting a little extra bang for their buck.”
In addition to covering various topics such as ethics, the handling/protection of personal information, successfully creating business plans and how to tap into different markets today, the GRI requires a minimum of 60 classroom hours, in addition to incorporating fair housing into the mix. “The fair housing segment is so timely, and it’s more important than ever that real estate professionals do the right thing because people are always watching,” says Hartman.
When it comes to continuing education, the GRI designation is a great place for real estate professionals to start. Not only is it instrumental in getting agents up and running, it also provides the tools and education agents need to keep their finger on the pulse of a market that is constantly changing.
Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.