But what about a GMS?
Tony Lyerly of RE/MAX Realty Affiliates in Reno recently earned his Global Mobility Specialist (GMS) designation, making him an area expert in global moves.
“With this designation, I am able to help people relocate both nationwide and worldwide,” Lyerly said. “I offer services for people moving to Reno from around the world and can also assist Reno residents in relocating around the globe. I’ve got a database of worldwide properties to help clients find suitable homes.”
With the GMS designation, Lyerly has already sold homes to people relocating to Reno from Beijing, China and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The designation is one of hundreds offered through associations such as the National Association of Realtors, the Reno-Sparks Association of Realtors, the Graduate Realtor Institute, the Residential Sales Council and other third-party certifying agencies.
But what does it mean? And can these certifications help a Realtor be competitive in a down housing market?
“Real estate is one of the only professions where you don’t have to have a degree,” said Kris Layman, president of the Reno-Sparks Association of Realtors. “Once you hold that (real estate) license, your work on being marketable is not done. It is an ongoing process. Obviously, (getting certifications) is going to boost your marketability.”
According to the Reno-Sparks Association of Realtor's Web site, these classes can cost about $400 each.
Lyerly has closed 15 international deals as a result of his certifications and the networking he does with them.
Lyerly holds 17 designations. He only tacks titles from four of those onto his business card name.
"All of those certifications are basically a network of organizations," Lyerly said. "You are on their member list. Fellow members who have the same certification ... if they have a client coming to Reno they will look someone up who is in that area."
For example, if someone wanted to move from Brazil to Reno, the certified real estate agent in Brazil would look up Lyerly as a Reno contact.
"It is increasing my sales every year," he said.
And Lyerly's RE/MAX president agrees.
“I have been a broker for 15 years and agents with designations out perform agents without every time,” said Amy Lessinger, a broker and owner of RE/MAX Realty Affiliates in Reno. “It is just a fact.”
However, on the customer’s side, Layman added that all the certifications in the world cannot be a substitute for a healthy knowledge of the area.
“Obtaining a designation was one step on the road to becoming an expert,” Layman said “I hold a designation with a name that is somewhat misleading. It deems me to be an expert. But it was just the first step to becoming an expert. There is no substitute for local market knowledge and activity. Transacting deals would definitely bolster that title of expert.”
In her experience in the Reno/Sparks market, Layman said that potential customers will want to sit down with an agent and get to know them before transacting business.
“You can find Realtors that hold each and every designation out there,” Layman said. “I am not going to tell you that that is going to make them the best for you. Sit down face to face with those Realtors. As a consumer you owe it to yourself to sit face to face with anyone who you are thinking of working with in this transaction. It is possibly the largest purchase you will ever make.”
In addition to obtaining designations, Layman said that there are many things real estate agents can do to bolster their competitive edge.
“Be a part of our community,” she said. “Be involved … not only in our Realtor association but take opportunities to participate in community boards - Citizens Advisory Boards, PTAs, church and social clubs, as well. To be in front of those (places) means increased potential (for business).”
In a down housing market, standing out may mean the difference between success and failure. However, the slow market means that Realtors are selling fewer houses, translating to decreased competition among Realtors.
“The thing about Realtors is that they are very resilient,” according to Michelle Wardlaw, a spokesperson for the National Association of Realtors. “When times are up there are a lot of agents who come into the market and are not committed. The down market weeds out those who are dabbling in it. Those who have been in the business know that it is cyclical. This is not the first time we have had a lull in the market and it will not be the last.”
Several years of a down housing market have weeded out many local real estate agents. According to the Reno-Sparks Association of Realtors, the numbers registered with the association have dropped by 30 percent in the past three years. The National Association of Realtors has seen a dip in its membership as well, going from 1.3 million registered members in 2008 to 1.2 million now.
On a state-by-state basis, Nevada had the nation's highest foreclosure rate in the first half of the year, with more than 6 percent of all households receiving a filing, according to Associated Press reports on Thursday.
The Associated Press report also says that the number of U.S. households on the verge of losing their homes soared by nearly 15 percent in the first half of the year as more people lost their jobs and were unable to pay their monthly mortgage bills.
While the foreclosure crisis has been a major hit to the real estate business over the last several years, the Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contracts signed in May, increased 0.1 percent since April. The index is also 6.7 percent higher than it was in May 2008. According to the association’s release, the last time there were four consecutive monthly gains was in October 2004.