New technology, more complex transactions and the increasing sophistication of buyers and sellers place growing demands on real estate practitioners.

To provide a strong educational foundation for the professional services agents provide, the National Association of Realtors offers advanced training through its Graduate Realtor Institute.

Several Cape May County Realtors recognized the need for such continuing education and earned the GRI designation last year after completing the required intensive 90-hour course.

"It's something I did for my business, something I would do for my clients. It tells them I care," said Realtor Stacey Smith of Avalon-based Dillion & Fisher.

GRI is a nationally recognized designation that can be achieved by members of the National Association of Realtors. The course focuses on ethics, technology, business development, financing, fair housing and legal issues.

Smith, who has been in the business since 1995, said much of the coursework was a refresher, but it did offer important information on several areas that help today's Realtors.

"They seem to be getting better with keeping up with the times. Today's Realtors aren't sitting in the office. They are on the Web. They're on Facebook. They're on Twitter," Smith said.

Smith said another highlight was a focus on ethics on the part of both Realtors and their clients, an area she said deserves serious attention..

Smith comes from a real estate family. Her mother, Arden Smith, is a broker at Dillion & Fisher and her late father also worked in the business.

"It's a family thing," she said of her decision to enter the real estate business in 1995.

The GRI was also something Wildwood Realtor John Davis decided to pursue.

Davis, who retired as a Wildwood police officer in 2008, earned his real estate license 10 years ago.

"It's a rather lengthy, in-depth course," Davis said. "It enlightens you about the underlying aspects of the real estate business."

While he has been a Realtor for many years, Davis said, the course helped him to regroup.

"It helped me enhance my ability to understand buyers and sellers and to re-educate myself about the business," he said.

The first New Jersey group earned its Graduate Realtor Institute designation in 1972.

The National Association of Realtors says the GRI designation means an agent has:

•Completed a course of study that represents the minimum common body of knowledge for progressive real estate professionals;

•Developed a solid foundation of knowledge and skills to navigate the current real estate climate - no matter what its condition;

•Acquired a nationally recognized skill designation;

•Committed to acting with professionalism and serving clients and customers with the highest ethical standards.

The New Jersey Association of Realtors honored nine brokers and 24 Realtors and Realtor-Associates who earned the GRI designation at a ceremony last month at the Triple Play Realtor Convention and Trade Expo in Atlantic City.

In addition to Smith and Davis, the Cape May County Realtors recognized were Mary Grace Curran, Joseph Fisher and Felice Fletcher.

Contact Trudi Gilfillian:

609-463-6716