The Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) designation, one of the valuable National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) designations, goes a long way toward extending your ability to conduct international transactions. With Houston’s enormous international reach, it makes sense to seek this designation to better position yourself to do real estate business in the global arena. It can help you expand your knowledge globally.

The coursework offers you hands-on experience with international real estate transactions, as well as five full days of study focusing on the critical aspects of transnational transactions. Items such as currency and exchange rates, cross-cultural relationships, regional market conditions, investment performance and tax issues will all be covered during the Institute.

HAR’s volunteer International Advisory Group (IAG) is made up of 25 REALTOR® members and most have already possess or are in the process of earning the CIPS designation.

Here are the steps you will need to take to earn your CIPS designation:

Step 1: Education
You must successfully pass the prerequisite course, Global Real Estate, and then complete the other two core courses and three of the elective options by passing the multiple-choice exam given at the end of each course. To pass each exam, you must earn at least a score of 70.
It’s important to note that all of the required education must be completed within two years of passing the first completed course.

Core Courses:
1. Global Real Estate: Local Markets (one day) – required prerequisite before the CIPS Institute and can be taken online
2. The Business of U.S. Real Estate (one day)
3. Global Real Estate Transaction Tools (one day)

Elective Options:
1. Europe & International Real Estate (one day)
2. Asia / Pacific & International Real Estate (one day)
3. The Americas & International Real Estate (one day)
4. At Home with Diversity (one day)
5. One Real Estate Advanced Practices (REAP) module from the Council of Residential Specialists (CRS)

Step 2: Designation Application
After completing five CIPS Institute courses, you must submit a CIPS designation application demonstrating your experience in international real estate. This application requires that you earn at least 100 points of elective credit. Elective credits may be earned by speaking other languages, possessing additional NAR designations, attending international conferences and education sessions and international transactions for which you will be asked to answer specific questions regarding each sale. International transactions involve other cultures or countries and will most likely include your sales right here in the Houston market.

Applications may be submitted throughout the year, but they are due by October 1 to be recognized and pinned at The REALTORS® annual Conference & Expo in November. A one-time only processing fee of $75 is required when you submit your designation application. Once approved, you must pay annual dues to continue using the CIPS designation.

If an agent resides in a country where NAR has cooperating association status, they must be a member of that association in order to join The CIPS Network and take the coursework required to earn the designation.

If an agent resides in a country where NAR does not have a cooperating association, they must agree to abide by the NAR Code of Ethics and join the cooperating association when developed in the future.

As a CIPS designee, you have more opportunities to be involved with agents all over the world that have the NAR CIPS designation through accessing the NAR CIPS online Directory. Association executives and staff may also earn the CIPS designation.

CIPS courses are taught by instructors who must have the CIPS designation, are qualified, interviewed, selected and approved by NAR and recertified every two years. During the courses, as mentioned above, they will walk you through all processes to international transactions: tools, experiences, cultures, countries, websites, ways to do business with other cultures as well as anti-money-laundering guidelines. You will also learn about FIABCI, the international real estate group founded in Paris – a professional group of which NAR is a principal member.

Please note the CIPS Institute, a five-day endeavor, is offered at HAR only once every two years. The next time is July 22-26, 2013. David Lauster, Senior International Real Estate Specialist with the U.S. State Department – Overseas Buildings, will be the instructor this year. He taught here in 2011 and did an excellent job. You can read the course description and enroll here.

At The NAR Conference & Expo in San Francisco this November, you will be impressed with the international education programs and especially with the CIPS breakfast and International Night Out, a formal occasion where you will meet real estate professionals from around the world with whom you can do business and share referrals. You can also look forward to the FIABCI World Congress in Taichung, Taiwan from May 23 to May 30, 2013, hosted by FIABCI. The Mayor of Taichung will greet FIABCI members at that event.

As a member of the CIPS Network, you can also join other organizations that facilitate doing business globally. You will discover websites like FIABCI’s, World Properties and Proxio to promote your listings and work referrals.

Also, as an HAR member, you can use HAR MLS Area 82 to post your international listings in Mexico and the rest of the world. Remember, the same MLS rules apply to an international listing as a listing here in Houston.

The CIPS designation will enhance your business and hopefully lead to more global transactions for you. I look forward to meeting everyone as you join the CIPS network! For more information please visit

Mai-Lan Trinh, CIPS, HAR International Advisory Group Member, CIPS Course Instructor