”There is a difference between working hard and working smart,” says Eileen Spinola, REBNY Senior Vice President of Brokerage Services and Education.  “Those who are successful in our industry do both.  The caliber of broker graduates from our new NYRS Designation Course confirms that advanced education is indeed working smart.  But the NYRS course,” she continues, “is not for the casual student.  It is demanding not only of a broker’s time, but the curriculum is rigorous, mentally challenging, and there’s a required final project.“ 


I thoroughly enjoyed the 30 class hours, and I highly recommend the course to those who qualify, as does my associate Linda Reiner who was in class with me.  We signed up separately, but as it turned out for very similar reasons.  A Senior Vice President and partner at Warburg Realty, Linda is a veteran broker with 20 years of experience.  “It sounded interesting,” she said.  “When you’re in the business for a long time, sometimes a course like this is an opportunity for refreshment.  There are so many things you just don’t think about on a daily basis, and this course makes you think about them again.  The classes were very varied, and the students were at similar levels of success,” she added.


Most brokers in our class of 33 top residential agents, in fact, had more than 15 years of experience, so we no longer needed the classroom hours for state licensing continuing ed requirements.  We were there to get our creative juices stirred up, to gain some new perspectives, and to make some new contacts.  


First offered in the Fall of 2007, the program is open to associate brokers who have worked in New York City for a minimum of five years and have completed at least 50 deals totaling a minimum of $50 million in sales or $17 million in rentals.  After successful completion, each graduate gains the new credential of


New York Residential Specialist, or its acronym NYRS.  


The 30 hour course is taught by recognized industry leaders including Frederick Peters, Clark Halstead, Elizabeth Stribling and Hall Wilkie and by experts in related fields such as appraisals, economics, zoning, taxation and development.  Subjects cover psychology, negotiation, ethics, information management and leadership.  Conforming to Albany’s educational model of 3 hour instructional blocks, 18 of the 30 hours have been approved by the state to satisfy continuing requirements for broker license renewal.    


Class size is kept small to encourage lively class participation.  All sessions that I attended were thoughtful and informative; some were even entertaining and motivational.  A few remembered highlights:  Developers, admitting that their business was ego driven, talked about facing new challenges and risks.  Brokerage owners spoke candidly about their beginnings:  Clark Halstead’s “Aha moment” when he entered the business of “selling used apartments” and his current assessment that our field is too crowded.  Elizabeth Stribling, revealed that for her, “fear was a great motivator,” and she urged the group to “take risks and vacations.”  I’d welcome a follow-up class with Fred Peters on ethical dilemmas in our profession.  And while the class on zoning was chock full of facts that I immediately forgot, I know which professional to call when I need specific guidance.  


Since the initial class of September 2007, two NYRS classes have graduated.  A 3rd semester which begins September 2008 is fully booked, and spaces are filling quickly for the 4th semester of Spring 2009.  An inaugural Annual Alumni NYRS Gala is being planned for next September and will be sponsored by Swig Equities.  


Raising The Bar 


“We set the bar high,” says Alan Pfeifer, “hoping to attract the cream of the lot, and that’s in fact what happened.”  A former co-Chair of The Residential Sales Council and a Halstead Senior Vice President, Alan led the Council’s NYRS Credentials Subcommittee.  “The program’s primary purpose,” he explained, “is to recognize the business and educational achievements of committed professionals and at the same time allow buyers and sellers to easily identify those who have reached these credential levels.”  Much like CPA, or PHD on a business card, Alan is hoping to raise awareness for the new NYRS acronym and at the same time, raise the bar for our industry.  


After each class, students are asked to complete a Feedback Form, so there is a mechanism in place for the program to improve as it evolves.  “The goal,” says Alan Pfeifer, “is for each session to be better than the last one.” 


The course is attracting those who are highly motivated who are looking for fresh areas of growth.  While the program is still in its infancy, Frederick Peters, President of Warburg Realty Partnership, predicts, “I think the NYRS designation will grow in importance as the course continues, and I strongly urge those who are eligible to sign up.”


For the industry, the new credential seeks to raise the level of professionalism, ethics and leadership.  For brokers who gain the new title, a certain competitive edge can be earned.  NYRS professionals will comprise the industry’s leaders—experienced and successful professionals who stand above the crowd.