Drunk on alphabet soup

Agent designations, certifications explained

Like a sea of medals on a general's chest, many real estate agents' business cards are festooned with initials after their names. Agents may boast about such designations or certifications as ABR, SRES, GRI or a host of others intended to be a testament to expertise they bring to a home-sale transaction. However, there are so many of them that they may be alphabet soup to the average consumer. The acronyms usually represent coursework focused on a single aspect of real estate, such as transactions involving raw land, foreclosures or international properties, explained Colleen Ryan, manager of education services for the National Association of Realtors. Or, she said, they may indicate broader specialized coursework in residential transactions (as opposed to commercial real estate, for example) or working specifically with homebuyers (as opposed to sellers). Adding to the potential confusion, within NAR there's a difference between a certification and a designation. "Des...