Using Education to Better Serve Consumers

By Liz Dominguez
Reprinted from

Real estate professionals ‘own it’ with the Graduate, REALTOR® Institute (GRI) designation

The spring season is just around the corner, and with it, the busiest time of year for real estate professionals across the country. 2018 President of the National Association of REALTORS® Elizabeth Mendenhall has set a significant goal for fellow members to ‘Own It’ by seeking out education and getting more involved in the industry.

The Graduate, REALTOR® Institute (GRI) designation offered by the National Association of REALTORS® helps real estate professionals stand apart from the competition by educating themselves on the fundamentals of real estate, in addition to providing detailed courses on technical subjects. The GRI program is state-run, and while courses may differ, each program contains courses on these core competencies: market knowledge, business skills, systems and tools, and avoiding setbacks, fines and lawsuits.

Here, three REALTORS® who are GRI designees, as well as members of the Professional Development Committee, share their unique insights on how the designation provides the added educational value necessary for helping consumers navigate a busy spring market.

“The education I received from the GRI courses has truly moved my career to a whole new level,” says Jill Kjorstad, a broker associate with RE/MAX Bakken Realty. “Within the small market that I work in, knowledge, skills and an understanding of the real estate industry put you ahead of those that have not spent the time to invest in their knowledge for their career,” adds Kjorstad, who obtained her GRI designation in 2016.

“When I talk with prospective clients (buyers and sellers), I explain to them that continuing education is important to me,” notes Melissa Hailey, broker and founder of North Texas Top Team, REALTORS®, Inc. “I talk about not only the GRI, but other designations and certifications that I’ve earned, and I let prospective clients know that I have the education and experience necessary to assist them in the process of their move. I want to build trust with my clients, and by being the real estate expert, I find that I can earn their respect and trust.”

Having earned his GRI designation in 2015, Keith Hefner, REALTOR® team leader at Colleen Frost REALTORS®, concurs with the sentiments shared by both Kjorstad and Hailey.

“The designation separates me from the vast majority of REALTORS® and helps me show clients where I’m different,” says Hefner.

While these real estate professionals put their GRI designation to use in different ways, one element remains the same: consumers always benefit.

“My education benefits my buyers and sellers by giving me the extra knowledge and resources to market, and the ability to price their property right to get it sold fast and for top dollar,” says Hefner.

Hailey believes the GRI designation is necessary for providing excellent service to homebuyers and sellers. “From understanding contracts better, to knowing how to best market a listing, Graduate, REALTOR® Institute designees are better equipped to assist the public with their real estate needs.”

Designees also find value in different portions of their GRI program. For Kjorstad, the negotiation-based courses have been most useful in her career.

“I’ve referred back to many topics, hints and ideas I received from those courses many times. In fact, I was recently speaking with another agent, telling them to earn their GRI just because of the negotiation classes,” says Kjorstad.

Meanwhile, Hefner says other courses have played a larger role in his real estate business, stating, “The technology and marketing portions of the designation series have been incredible resources, and the marketing resources you get when you finish your designation will help you grow your business.”

For Hailey, she enjoyed the GRI designation program overall; however, one portion always stands in the forefront of her mind.

“The marketing course is my favorite because I love learning new ideas on how to market our clients’ listings. In addition, you also learn to market yourself as an agent in order to obtain more clients,” says Hailey, who attributes her success to her dedication to continuing education.
Kjorstad believes the marketing portion also helps consumers during the buying and selling process.
“The courses on marketing and understanding the different forms of social media have helped me in deciding what direction to focus my advertising on. But they’ve also helped with recognizing what the consumer is looking for when they start navigating the search for a home or the process of selling their home,” says Kjorstad.

The GRI designation program also plays a critical role in providing technology education that consumers find useful in a busy real estate market.

“There are so many apps and services that I learned about in my GRI classes that I still use today, many of which are free,” adds Hefner. “Advancing your tech knowledge brings you into the future of real estate.”

However, marketing and tech are not the be-all and end-all of a successful transaction. The legalities of real estate can be confusing for consumers, especially first-time buyers. GRI designees can provide added support by educating their clients with information they learned in their regulatory courses.

“The regulatory and legal aspects of GRI come into play in my business every single day and keep me out of hot water when TREC comes calling,” says Hefner. “How could you navigate the choppy regulatory waters without every piece of information available to you? And GRI brings that right to your feet.”

Consumers feel more comfortable when working with agents who are knowledgeable about all aspects of real estate, regardless of whether other vendors take care of services, such as lending.
Kjorstad, Hailey and Hefner recommend the GRI designation to agents across the industry as a great resource for gaining an edge in their business and for helping consumers understand the real estate process.

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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