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Nearly 30,000 members make up the Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Council (REBAC)—25,000 of which hold the Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®) designation. On an annual basis, REBAC recognizes a select group of individuals who have displayed exemplary acts of buyer representation and who have played a significant role as experts and leaders in the industry. These ABR® designees are chosen for the REBAC Hall of Fame by an independent panel.

This year’s Hall of Fame inductees include John Ralph of Team North Star of the Wells Group in Durango, Colo; Lyla Stark of RE/MAX Jefferson City in Missouri; and Michael Straley of the Go Straley Group at eXp Realty. The inductees were showcased during the ABR®, SRES® & GREEN Networking and Awards Reception at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Boston, Mass., on Nov. 3, 2018.

But what does it mean to be a Hall of Famer?

According to Straley, who is the supervising broker of Stafford Market Center at eXp Realty, the recognition comes with a sense of responsibility for elevating the real estate industry and the value of homeownership.

Michael Strale

“I hope to raise awareness for what I believe is foundational for our country: the ownership of real property and the laws surrounding it,” says Straley. “When you own something, as opposed to renting it, you treat it differently and you feel like the rule of law protects you. It’s a lifelong dream, and when people achieve it, they go through a transformation that’s exciting to watch. I hope my Hall of Fame achievement helps to promote that.”

Stark, associate at RE/MAX Jefferson City who never dreamed she’d be so successful in real estate and has found her calling, has always followed the philosophy of working toward truly helping people instead of being a salesperson, which aligns with the REBAC mission of buyer representation—to bring that goal of homeownership to clients with a service-oriented attitude.

Ralph, licensed associate real estate broker of Team North Star at the Wells Group, believes Hall of Famers have an obligation to show dedication to their career and clients.

John Ralph

“This includes continued education that helps enhance service to those buyers you can help throughout the years. It also means participation in your real estate boards and community activities, whether it’s on a local, state or even national level,” says Ralph. “Helping promote the REALTOR® brand and image so that those you work with understand the benefits—and realize they can trust you to do the best job on their behalf—is a major contributing factor.”

Community involvement is another common thread that binds Hall of Famer recipients together.

Playing a significant role in local groups and real estate associations can help REALTORS® establish themselves as experts, which goes a long way toward helping to advance REBAC’s mission—commitment to buyer representation and its practice.

For Ralph, a recurring involvement in local and state boards is very rewarding and one of the resources he uses to stay well-informed of changing technological and industry trends, as well as local and national real estate market shifts.

Lyla Stark

“While participating on various committees over a 15-year period, I served as president of my board twice and as one of the six district vice presidents on our state board,” says Ralph. “Knowing that I can make a difference helping to shape the future of our profession as we deal with so much new technology and how it affects our role in real estate is exceptionally gratifying.”

Additionally, volunteering his time and resources to charity has made Ralph realize that he gets back so much more than what he gives—a sense of accomplishment and being able to help others. Ralph’s brokerage sets aside a percentage of each closing commission to put toward community causes, such as for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and Project Merry Christmas for disadvantaged families.

Straley agrees on the benefits of community involvement, having been involved with multiple organizations over the years, both with industry groups and also with non-real estate-related associations.

“I volunteered at the Thurman Brisben Center, a homeless shelter, for about five years and helped run a job-assistance program there twice a month. In addition, I was also the Women’s Council of REALTORS® president in 2016 for the Fredericksburg Network and received the Virginia Women’s Council of REALTORS® Member of the Year award in 2015.”

In addition, Straley has been involved with local church groups, as has Stark.

“I’m a very strong member of my church and make donations,” says Stark, who has also worked with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to raise donations for cancer research, in addition to working with Habitat for Humanity alongside her son to help build residential homes for families in need.

Most important, however, is a shared goal toward self-improvement, specifically regarding client care.

What does education do for real estate professionals?

“One of the most important things it does is give you new insight into how buyers should be treated and how they should be given special guidance. Counsel them and you open up a whole new world,” says Stark.

According to Straley, continuing education and designations take agents and brokers to another level.

“Being a real estate professional and running your company means that your education, in so many aspects, needs to continually incline. When you see people in the industry educate themselves, they go through these transformations of understanding, and watching them elevate their company…it’s like these light switches go off.”

“One of the most important highs for a REALTOR® is to take the time to learn about buyer representation and get the ABR® designation,” says Stark, who shares that the confidence learned from these courses shows buyers that you’re looking out for their best interest, especially in today’s buyer-beware environment.

Ralph, who has benefited highly from his ABR® designation, doesn’t understand why there aren’t more industry professionals in his area who take advantage of continuing education.

“I can proudly advertise being an expert at helping buyers,” says Ralph. “When I put this together with CRS, RSPS, e-PRO® and CIPS, it gives me a point of differentiation so that I can explain to people that only a small percentage of REALTORS® around the country are committed enough to this profession to do what it takes to earn these designations.”

In the end? These Hall of Famers understand that ABR® and other designations show clients how passionate an agent or broker is about their career and helping clients reach their homeownership dreams.

“The ABR® designation is very recognizable. Most people wouldn’t climb a mountain without being outfitted properly, and I believe this designation is the proper ‘equipment’ for industry professionals,” says Straley. “The ABR® designation lets you learn from the success of others, instead of by making mistakes, and is the highest level of professional acumen out there. Leverage all of the designations—there’s so much to learn.” 

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Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark