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edge_out_competitionAs a real estate agent, it’s important to excel in your field. But with a market that fluctuates with every passing season, shining in a specialized area will not only help you stand out, it will also allow you to eclipse the competition.

One niche market that’s outshining others is the resort and second-home (RSH) market. In 2014, vacation-home sales were the highest they’ve been since NAR began tracking them in 2003, increasing 57 percent from the previous year, according to NAR’s 2015 Investment & Vacation Home Buyers Survey.

Investment-home sales decreased 7.4 percent in 2014, whereas owner-occupied purchases fell 12.8 percent. Vacation homes, however, catapulted to an estimated 1.13 million last year.

Agents specializing in RSH sales are also catapulting across their markets. With vacation-home sales accounting for 21 percent of all transactions in 2014, NAR’s Resort and Second-Home Property Specialist (RSPS) Certification is helping agents break into—and cash out on—this special arena.

“Vacation-home sales were up over 57 percent from last year,” says Andy Meyers, 2015 Chair of the Resort and Second Home Real Estate Committee and an executive broker specializing in the RSH market in Hot Springs, Ark. “We noted a substantial increase in second-home sales in our market, and it’s the same notion shared across the country.”

An official NAR Certification, RSPS allows REALTORS® to specialize in buying, selling or managing properties for investment, development, retirement, or second homes in a resort or vacation destination.

The RSPS course, available in a classroom or online, grants its students an abundance of knowledge, insights and tools that will help them stay on top of their market long after they’ve been certified.

Deb Howard, an RSPS professional and broker/owner in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., believes the certification offers an abundance of information about the RSH market that imparts wisdom and acts as a reinforcement for what agents will learn in the field.

The resort and second-home market is different from the traditional real estate model in a variety of ways. One critical difference, according to Howard, is of course location, location, location.

“Our clients don’t live in our backyard, but rather, in our virtual backyard,” notes Howard, who received her RSPS certification in the early 2000s. “How you communicate with this clientele is far different than in general real estate.”

“Buyer demographics and understanding where buyers are coming from is always important; it helps you tailor your marketing,” says Meyers, who notes that this is even more important for RSH agents. “In the resort and second-home market, buyers are typically coming from a 200-mile radius. Knowing this helps agents understand where to target their listings and buyer solicitations.”

Howard notes that RSH REALTORS® not only represent a client during the sale, they often act as the eyes and ears of the absentee owner.

“We have a fairly serious obligation to disclose and communicate what’s happening in the marketplace that can affect private property rights or impact values and our client’s quality of life,” says Howard.

The RSPS Certification offers agents a big picture look into the issues that are impacting their market, such as MID for second homes, 1031 tax deferred exchanges, vacation rental ordinances and national flood insurance.

Once certified, RSPS professionals have access to an abundance of critical data about a variety of markets. According to Howard, access to this information prepares agents for the “next big thing” in the RSH marketplace.

How else can the RSPS Certification rocket you to the top of your competition? Howard states that the country-wide RSPS referral system is a must-have, with a Facebook Group made just for RSPS agents looking to exchange information, network, and grant referrals.

“The RSPS Certification has been a great ROI as the referrals have been a steady source of new buyers and seller referrals,” says Howard. “My RSPS buddies are all over the world and the networking and relationships are long-lasting.”

“While each of the second-home markets are unique to themselves, the RSPS certification—with the tools and network it provides—gives you an edge,” says Meyers. “It enables you to better focus your efforts on your chosen niche market. It helps bolster your professionalism and gives you a point of differentiation when buyers and sellers are looking for an agent.”

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