Suffering from acronym overload

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Don KottickBy Don Kottick

The real estate industry is being inundated by organizations, groups and individuals promoting or announcing new certifications, accreditations or designations. Do these acronyms at the end of your name accomplish or mean anything?  Does the consumer really care if you are ABR, SRES or e-PRO? Are these acronyms helping us or hurting our credibility in the big picture?

In Ontario, the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) recently eliminated our continuing education credits (CEU) delivered by third parties. The move disrupted many entrepreneurs’ businesses, causing them to get creative and look for new revenue sources.

The recent trend towards marketing acronyms has generated titles for going “green”; for servicing the senior market segment (SRES); for focusing on buyers (ABR); for being a resort and second home property specialist (RSPS); for being tech savvy (e-Pro); and the list goes on.  We are being bombarded with acronyms and it is difficult to keep up with the volume.  In some cases you can get accredited by auditing a short three-hour course, which speaks to the credibility of the initiative.  Increased training and knowledge accumulation is always a good thing, but all these acronyms are creating consumer confusion and hurting our credibility.

In the real estate industry in Ontario, we have the legislated three levels of registration: the salesperson, the broker and the broker of record. It is a safe assumption that the public understands that a broker is an elevated title over a salesperson.  If you want to differentiate yourself from other brokers, but are not interested in becoming a broker of record, what are your options?  You can always add more acronyms to the end of your name, but the best route is to find that one designation that serves as a differentiator.

In my last article, Distinguishing yourself in the marketplace, I wrote that the Fellow of the Real Estate Institute (FRI), administered by the Real Estate Institute of Canada (REIC), is a designation that has been relatively quiet since its inception in 1995, but it is now the “Phoenix rising from the ashes”.  The FRI is focused purely on delivering professionalism, ethics and exceptional service; while being monitored and governed by the REIC.  In order to attain your FRI designation, you must submit your resume for review by REIC, be interviewed personally by the local chapter president, have three recommendation letters from industry peers and have been active in the real estate business for five years minimum.

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You must also complete the required course curriculum, which entails completing courses about Legal Issues in Real Estate (two days); Ethics and Business Practice (three days); Consumer Behaviour & Negotiating (three days); and three university or college level electives. And you must uphold the REIC Code of Professional Standards at all times.

As an industry, if we focus and deliver on professionalism, ethics and service quality, we will attain consumer acceptance as a true “profession”.  The good news is that the number of prominent and successful salespeople who have received their FRI designation is increasing. REIC is currently undertaking initiatives to increase public awareness, while also increasing their industry profile.

To be successful in real estate, training and continuing education are paramount as legislation, regulations and local nuances change on a regular basis.  Without education, either stagnation sets in or an individual’s competence starts to erode.  This current phenomenon of linking education to abbreviated accreditation titles creates acronym confusion for a consumer. We have been struggling for years to be recognized as a profession and earn credibility with the consumer. What is a consumer to think when they see a salesperson’s name followed with a string of acronyms that they don’t understand?

If you want to differentiate yourself by exhibiting a higher level of professional and ethics, the first step is attaining your FRI.

Let’s all work together to improve the consumer perception of this industry, which has suffered by some negative media attention and unfortunately, a few bad apples.   The real estate industry is one of the key economic drivers in Canada. We need to all work together to improve the level of ethics and professionalism across this country and for our profession.

Don Kottick, FRI, is the president and broker of record of Right At Home Realty, with six office locations and more than 2,600 salespeople and brokers. He is also a director at large for the Toronto Real Estate Board, vice-chair of the TREB Government Relations Committee and chair of TREB’s Condominium Committee.  

4 COMMENTS

  1. Shallow, pointless and insulting article.
    I was really surprised to see an article like this written by someone that hold positions at TREB, manages a company with hundreds of agents that did take important courses and proudly hold certificates of their expertise. On the other end, thank you REM for being neutral in this issue and letting veryone voice their opinion.

    The article said:

    “In Ontario, the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) recently eliminated our continuing education credits (CEU) delivered by third parties. The move disrupted many entrepreneurs’ businesses, causing them to get creative and look for new revenue sources.”

    Mr. Kottick !, to become a RECO approved course provider one
    has to go through vigorous scrutiny and checks. RECO checks each word in course material and allows or disallows the use of it. The people that submitted those course proposals put a lot of thought and work into these courses. I spoke to some of them, the money most of them made as a result of these courses could be equal to a commission in transaction or two in a year. To you words like
    “causing them to get creative to look for new revenue sources is an insult to your peers (They should have taught you that in the FRI course).

    B.T.W. One of those prominent course providers and an award winning author is a Realtor in your company, I wonder what he thinks of your article.

    The article also said:

    “The recent trend towards marketing acronyms has generated titles for going “green”; for servicing the senior market segment (SRES); for focusing on buyers (ABR); for being a resort and second home property specialist (RSPS); for being tech savvy (e-Pro); and the list goes on. We are being bombarded with acronyms”.

    Are you saying these are not valuable courses? Are you saying specializing in the “baby boom” generation that are now becoming seniors and obtaining a senior specialist designation is worthless?

    Article said:

    “You can always add more acronyms to the end of your name, but the best route is to find that one designation that serves as a differentiator”.

    Are you saying (not related to R.E.) that for someone to put P.Eng., MBA beside their name is worthless? Are you saying for someone to say FRI, and state “Green agent” is wrong ?

    Article said:

    “…but it(the FRI designation) is now the “Phoenix rising from the ashes”. The FRI is focused purely on delivering professionalism, ethics”.

    As important as the FRI designation is, less than 1000 agents IN ALL OF CANADA have acquired this designation. Many more have acquired other courses of interest and designations, the fact that you and one of your managers have just recently received this designation and that your company is being used as “poster child”
    in FRI ads in REM, Does not make it a “Phoenix” yet. The most that it does, is suggests an “agenda” on your part to say drop everything, FRI is enough.

    A string of designations does not make one a better salesperson . An FRI designation does not make a person more ethical, and a non-FRI salesperson is not necessarily un-ethical.

    Your article concludes:

    “If you want to
    differentiate yourself by exhibiting a higher level of professional and ethics, the first step is attaining your FRI”.

    Wow, I can’t believe you said that, but I have my suspicions as to why you did.

    The biggest irony of all: Here are the 2 “signatures” of the
    person who wrote this articleand a branch manager at that company. The first one found at the bottom of this article and the other two found on his company website under “management”.

    Do they not teach at the FRI course “Practice what you preach” ?

    “Don Kottick, FRI, is the PRESIDENT and broker of record of Right At Home Realty, with six office locations and more than 2,600 salespeople and brokers. He is also a DIRECTOR at large for the Toronto Real Estate Board, VICE-CHAIR of the TREB Government Relations Committee and CHAIR of TREB’s Condominium
    Committee”

    “Don is a DIRECTOR-AT-LARGE on the Toronto Real Estate Board for 2013/14. Don holds his FRI designation – Fellow of the Real Estate Institute of Canada (REIC) along with his CRES
    and ABR”.

    “Gareth holds his FRI designation –
    Fellow of the Real Estate Institute of Canada (REIC) along with his CRES Designation
    and is also a CRB -Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager through the
    National Association of Realtors (NAR).:

  2. I have my e-PRO®, SRS and ABR® and tell all my clients what they stand for. I’m currently working on my Certified Residential Specialist (CRS). They welcome me getting these course as everyone understands & appreciates extra education. It makes me “Above the Crowd” compared to my peers including within my own RE/MAX brokerage. We REALTORS® should be jumping on board what NAR offers as their designations rock. Want to be called a professional, why not get extra training to show how professional you really are. Mike’s 2 pennies

    RE/MAX Real Estate
    Edmonton, AB
    http://MikeMuranetz.com

  3. Good Discussion from Ontario’s #1 Brokerage in 2014 (based on transactions completed).

    TRUTH as an acronym for the consumers way to judge the professional real estate practioner.

    T- Trust
    R- REALTORS
    U- Using
    T-Transactional
    H- History

    Also, remember your use of any designation is governed by RECO. There are many, many out their right now that are clear violations of provincial advertising standards requirements, if used without a full and clear disclosure on any materials the acronym is displayed.
    http://www.RossKay.com

  4. (FRI) Great education, should be part of the course right up front when entering the profession, then eventually everyone will have it.
    However, in your first paragraph, second sentence. “Do these acronyms at the end of your name accomplish or mean anything?”
    Very few in the real estate industry know what (FRI) stands for. So I would think in the public place ALMOST NIL.
    Good idea to have the extra knowledge.
    But ….in the end, the public will have “NO” clue to it’s meaning.
    So this would be redundant like all the rest.
    Enforce the course….keep it off the card!

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