Question: I’ve seen real estate schools online advertise they are “accredited” by the California Department of Real Estate (DRE). Does the DRE actually accredit schools?

Answer: No. The DRE does not “accredit” schools. The DRE approves courses submitted by course providers.

All words are not created equal

The California Department of Real Estate (DRE) is a California state agency that promotes and safeguards public interests in real estate matters through licensure, regulation, education and enforcement.

As part of fulfilling the licensure category, the DRE approves real estate education courses submitted by course providers for real estate agents and brokers to take to either obtain a license or complete their continuing education (CE) requirements.

To offer the required courses to real estate licensees, course providers first submit their course material to the DRE for approval. Each course is issued a unique Course Approval Number, and the course provider is issued a Course Provider Number which is to appear on all advertisements and marketing materials published by the provider, as well as certificates of completion issued by the provider. [DRE Regulations §§3007 et. seq.]

Editor’s note — Licensees need to look for this Course Provider Number on advertisements for courses and provider websites. The absence of the Course Provider Number is an indication the course provider is not compliant with DRE regulations and likely not authorized to provide courses for credit. [DRE Regs. §3007.6(a)(3)]

Want to ensure a course is approved by the DRE before signing up? The DRE provides real estate licensees and aspiring agents a reliable way to search for approved licensing and continuing education courses on their website.

The DRE’s approval of courses offered by a real estate course provider applies just to that: the course itself.

In no way does the DRE accredit, endorse or otherwise bestow any further privilege upon the provider, school or operation — rather, they only “approve” individual courses. [DRE Regs. §3006]

A statement from a real estate school claiming to be accredited by the DRE is patently false advertising.

Other state agencies, such as the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, may accredit a college or university offering real estate courses. Here, when a separate accrediting institution is involved beyond simply the DRE, the provider may describe itself as being an accredited institution.

The DRE commissioner also has the power to determine whether the quality of a real estate curriculum is equivalent to those offered by accredited institutions. But neither of those cases makes the school “accredited by the DRE,” a false claim. [Calif. Business and Professions Code §10153.5]

A school who claims the DRE accredits them is more than mincing words. What they need to say in their advertising is their courses are “approved” by the DRE or they are the provider of a DRE-approved course. If the Western Association of Schools and Colleges also accredits them, they may say so.

Words matter

As all practicing agents and brokers know, the real estate industry frequently uses jargon which relates to terms and proceedings commonly found within the course of dealing with buyers, sellers, lenders, escrow officers, third-party inspectors and appraisers and the local Association of Realtors (AOR) trade unions.

Industry jargon is found in the legal scheme — terms like “principal” and “agent” have a distinct meaning in the real estate business. Thus, it’s critical that everyone entering the industry have a firm grasp on terminology and language.

Just ask someone studying for the DRE State Exam whether terminology plays a unique role in their studying.

Industry participants are steeped in the jargon and terminology which has evolved for centuries and governs their trade. However, they might not notice the deceptive nature of some terms they are regularly exposed to.

For example, trade unions such as the California Association of Realtors (CAR®) publish real estate forms, bundled through membership. CAR refers to these forms as the “gold standard” — as if their forms are the only ones legally acceptable to use, all else being silver or bronze so to speak.

CAR thrives off this muddied misconception. Despite the harm it may cause to sellers by implicitly encouraging agents to place preferential treatment to offers written on CAR forms, CAR continues to label their forms as the “standard” for real estate professionals.

In reality, agents are required to present all legitimate offers to the seller, regardless of which form the offer was written on — even a cocktail napkin or an oral offer.

A broker or agent may not independently exercise personal discretion to make determinations on the seller’s behalf. The failure to present all offers when received is comparable to lying to the seller about its existence, a type of fraud on the seller called deceit. [See DRE Real Estate Bulletin, Fall 2001, Page 12]

Not only are these forms advertised as the “standard” form used for all real estate transactions in California, but they are also disingenuously pitched as “free.”

Considering membership dues for new Realtors® cost an annual fee of anywhere from $700 to $900 or more, depending upon the local association, labeling the forms as “free” is more than just a little deceptive — it’s a lie.

Editor’s Note — Unlike the forms improperly monopolizing the industry today, RPI forms are deliberately engineered to be simple and are actually free to use.

Related article:

Airing CAR’s laundry – dirty forms

Real estate professionals are trained to be highly tuned to language and terminology. However, real estate professionals will also need to use this training for an unintended purpose: to be on guard for deceitful language used throughout the real estate industry.

Related article:

CAR’s sleight of hand – the stealth meaning of “free”

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