Look for the Letters: How Real Estate Designations Help Homebuyers

Buying a home is vastly different from other purchases. Most people don’t do it very often. It’s likely the most significant financial transaction you’ll undertake—and the most complex.

Smart buyers gain an edge by selecting an agent *before* they start shopping for homes. That way, you’ll have a skilled professional at your side, helping you navigate the process.

But how do you find the right agent? First, it’s helpful to understand several critical differences between real estate professionals.

For example, not every real estate agent is a REALTOR®, which is a trademarked term that means the agent is a member of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and adheres to its strict Code of Ethics.

Among NAR’s members, some agents decide to pursue additional training to sharpen their skills within various segments of the market. NAR supports them with numerous designation and certification programs, as well as other types of continuing education.

Agents who earn these credentials may display them on their business cards, their website, and their online profiles. It’s a helpful way for consumers to identify agents who have specialized knowledge and skills.

If you’re buying a home, here are four designations that may be especially important to you.


Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®)

The benchmark of excellence in buyer representation, the ABR® designation means that an agent has significant training and proven experience in representing a buyer’s interest in a real estate transaction. 

They’re certified and qualified professionals who will go the extra mile to understand your preferences, search for suitable properties, help you arrange financing, educate you on market conditions, and guide you through the entire buying process. 

When you work with an ABR® designee, you’ll be served, not sold. Use the Find a Buyer’s Rep directory to locate an ABR® in your area.

In addition to the ABR® designation, you may be interested in an agent who specializes in other aspects of the real estate market. 


NAR's Green Designation logoGreen Designation (GREEN)

Many people are increasingly interested in owning greener homes, including properties that cost less to operate or offer a healthier living environment. 

An agent who has earned NAR’s Green Designation is uniquely knowledgable about green products and technologies.

They can help you find properties that include features like Energy Star-rated windows and appliances, higher levels of insulation, smart home technology, and efficient lighting, heating, and cooling. 

They also have access to dozens of resources that can help you make a home more energy-efficient and achieve other environmental goals.

Use this directory to find a GREEN designee in your area. 

CIPS designation logo

Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS)

Agents often say that “all real estate is local.” It’s a statement that applies to specific properties and local markets. 

Buyers, however, travel across the world. For example, a local buyer may be a visa worker from another country or a member of an immigrant community.

When real estate transactions include a global component, it can be beneficial to work with an agent who understands cross-border tax, currency, visa, and financing considerations. A Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) has training in these areas, and more.

CIPS designees share a strong affinity for cross-cultural experiences and enjoy working with buyers from different countries. Many CIPS designees are fluent in more than one language or can provide other types of foreign language assistance.

If you’re a buyer who can benefit from global expertise, look for a Certified International Property Specialist

Seniors Real Estate Specialist® (SRES®)

Homebuyers and sellers over 50 years old often face circumstances and preferences that are quite different from younger buyers and sellers. An SRES® designee has completed specialized training to assist in their real estate transactions.

For example, an SRES® designee understands the full range of senior housing options, from active adult communities to aging in place or assisted living facilities—and everything in between. 

SRES® designees can also help senior buyers and sellers find local assistance with downsizing, right-sizing, and managing a move. 

Additionally, SRES® designees understand how pensions, 401(k) accounts, and IRAs play a pivotal role in senior real estate transactions and can recommend qualified professionals to provide expert financial and tax guidance.  

If you or a family member have senior-centric real estate needs, search for an SRES® designee.