One of the things that some real estate agents do to differentiate themselves in the marketplace is to take on the moniker of "specialist."

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has sponsored or recognized many certifications over the years that require specific educational standards in a particular specialty. Some designations can only be achieved after performing a certain number of sales in a specific market segment.

There are widely varying degrees of difficulty to achieve a specialist designation in different areas. One of the more rigorous programs involves becoming a Certified Residential Specialist (CRS). To complete this program there are four different paths from which to choose.

Each path requires a minimum number of classroom education hours combined with exceeding a threshold for a certain number of transactions or dollar sales volume.

Lots of other designations abound including categories for luxury homes, resort properties, etc. Here is a quote from the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing which sponsors the certification for a Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist:

"The Certified Luxury Home Marketing SpecialistTM (CLHMS) designation assures affluent buyers and sellers that real estate professionals have the knowledge, experience, and unique skills to meet their needs. Members of The Institute who hold the CLHMS designation have documented performance in the top 10 percent of their residential markets and have successfully demonstrated their expertise in the luxury home and estate market."

Some agents will call themselves a specialist in a particular area without having achieved any certification that falls under the NAR umbrella. This is where things get sticky.

If an agent has sold a lot of properties in a particular condo complex or subdivision they will sometimes call themselves a specialist in that area and rightfully so. They likely have acquired a significant amount of market knowledge specific to that niche and can guide buyers and sellers satisfactorily in that area.

However, as the market gets more competitive we are seeing agents promoting themselves as specialists in one area or another without having the requisite knowledge, expertise or sales experience. In a high-end resort market such as Incline Village we have a lot of luxury homes. So, some agents will call themselves a "luxury property specialist" when they may have never sold a property that falls into the luxury category.

You can't call yourself a "golf course specialist" when you have never sold a property adjacent to a golf course. Yet we have seen agents putting these specialist titles on their business cards and marketing materials in an effort to enhance their image and hustle up business.

Buyers and sellers are often attracted to doing business with someone who portrays themselves as a specialist in the market segment where they plan to conduct business.

While this is great if you have someone with the qualifications and expertise representing you, it can be a nightmare if you find yourself in a transaction with someone who is using the specialist moniker without possessing the requisite skills and knowledge base.

Don Kanare is the founder and Sabrina Belleci is the owner and broker of RE/MAX North Lake in Incline Village. You can follow their blog at