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The following information is provided by the Center for REALTOR® Development (CRD).

Throughout the month of November, the Center for REALTOR® Development—along with the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and all of its affiliated Institutes, Societies and Councils—celebrate official NAR credentials with Designation Awareness Month.

If not already explained explicitly, official NAR credentials are called either “designations” or “certifications.” What’s the difference between the two?

For veteran REALTORS®, the answer is probably in their bones, in the fabric of their being—they just “know.” For the newer REALTORS® among us, or those who have not yet had the opportunity to ask, this post is for you.

The essential difference between them is dues. In order to obtain a designation, you need to take the required coursework and/or fulfill the specific requirements and sometimes pay a nominal application fee when you apply (but note that many designations require no application fee).

Once approved, you’ll need to pay dues on a recurring time frame in order to keep the credential active. If you do not continue to pay the dues for your designations, they will lapse and in order to get them back you may need to apply again or pay a reinstatement fee.

Below is the schedule of dues renewal for the specific NAR designations tied to the online designation courses offered at Center for REALTOR® Development:

  • Accredited Buyer’s Representative® (ABR®) – First calendar year free, second year prorated, third year $110 with a 5 percent discount if paid online before end of the year
  • Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) – One-time initial application fee of $75, first year dues are prorated, subsequent years are $220, billed annually in Quarter 4
  • Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) – One-time initial application fee of $75, annual dues $195
  • NAR’s Green Designation (GREEN) – First year free, $98.50 every year thereafter
  • Seniors Real Estate Specialist® (SRES®) – First year free, $99 every year thereafter
  • Seller Representative Specialist (SRS) – First year free, $99 every year thereafter

The reason for the annual dues is because designations offer substantial value-added benefits, which have substantial costs associated with them in order for the program to maintain them on behalf of its members. Some of these benefits include:

  • Free educational webinars
  • Digital resources, forms and toolkits
  • Networking and referral opportunities, private social media groups
  • Consumer videos and promotional items, customizable marketing materials
  • Member newsletters and premium access to industry research and reports
  • Acknowledgement and differentiation at key sites and portals such as and®
  • Educational credit or discounts toward other education and credentials

Like designations, certifications are also specialized credentials for REALTORS®. The benefits they offer hold high value, but are not as extensive as those for designations. For this reason, maintaining a certification requires only an application fee and continued membership in NAR, but no annual dues. This doesn’t mean that the benefits associated with certifications aren’t valuable—they are! It’s just that, in most cases, they are not as extensive or resource-intensive for the association to maintain. The benefits included with certifications are a subset of those listed earlier here for designations and most often include webinars and e-newsletters.

Once you have a certification, the only way you can “lose” it is if you let your NAR membership lapse. Even then, once you reinstate your membership, you should be able to reinstate your certification at the same time. For reference, below are the application fees for the specific NAR certifications tied to the online certification courses offered at Center for REALTOR® Development:

  • At Home With Diversity® (AHWD®) – $75.00
  • Certified Real Estate Team Specialist (C-RETS) – $159.00
  • Military Relocation Professional (MRP) – $195.00
  • NAR’s e-PRO® Certification (e-PRO®) – $110.50
  • Pricing Strategy Advisor Certification (PSA) – $179.00
  • Real Estate Negotiation Expert (RENE)  –  $159.00
  • Resort & Second-Home Property Specialist (RSPS) – $194.50
  • Short Sales & Foreclosure Resource® (SFR®) – $175.00

In the case of both designations and certifications, in order for them to stay active and recognized, you must maintain active NAR membership at all times.

To celebrate Designation Awareness Month, during the month of November, all online designation and certification courses offered in the online format through the Center for REALTOR® Development at its onlinelearning.REALTOR site are 20% off their regular price. For more information about Designation Awareness Month, see NAR’s calendar of special events.

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