What is a Realtor?
What exactly is a REALTOR®?
A REALTOR® is a real estate professional who is an active member of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), a national organization that fosters and promotes best practices in the real estate industry.
While all Realtors are required to hold their real estate license as either an agent or a broker, it is possible for someone to hold a real estate license and not be an active member of the NAR.
As of February 2020, the NAR reported total membership of 1,374,774. A full table of historical membership statistics can be seen on the NAR’s historic membership report.
Why do some real estate professionals want to become Realtors?
Perhaps the most notable reason why some real estate professionals choose to become Realtors is to gain access to their local Multiple Listing Service, or MLS database.
The only way to gain exclusive access to an MLS database is by being licensed as an active member of the National Association of REALTORS®.
In residential real estate, real estate professionals are dependent on access to their regional MLS systems in order to conduct business successfully. Without access to the MLS, a real estate professional has limited access to what inventory is available on the market, the ability to schedule showings and general information about an area or subject property.
This may not be the case for other aspects of the real estate industry. For example, instead of joining NAR for access to the MLS, some residential and commercial real estate agents and brokers may prefer using listing services and databases provided by real estate companies like CoStar (which owns several other well-known real estate listing sites, such as Loopnet, Apartments.com, BizBuySell.com and LandWatch) or Zillow (which owns platforms like Trulia, HotPads and others).
How the National Association of Realtors is Organized
The NAR breaks up its organization into several regional chapters within each state. Each regional chapter has its own MLS database, and real estate agents must belong to the regional chapter and pay annual membership fees.
Each REALTOR® must agree to uphold a Code of Ethics determined by the National Association of REALTORS® in order to hold an active membership and remain in good standing. If a member violates the code, they may be subject to fines, compulsory training, or if severe enough, suspension of membership and more.
- Caruthers, Chrystal. “What Exactly Is a REALTOR®?” Realtor.com, Realtor.com, 4 Aug. 2014, www.realtor.com/advice/buy/what-is-a-realtor/. Accessed 30 Mar. 2020.
- Chen, James. “Realtor.” Investopedia, Investopedia, 1 Aug. 2019, www.investopedia.com/terms/r/realtor.asp. Accessed 30 Mar. 2020.
- “Historic Report.” National Association of Realtors, National Association of Realtors, www.nar.realtor/membership/historic-report. Accessed 30 Mar. 2020.
- Bortz, Daniel. “Real Estate Agent, Broker, Realtor: What’s the Difference?” Realtor.com, Realtor.com, 20 Oct. 2019, www.realtor.com/advice/buy/whats-difference-real-estate-salesperson-broker. Accessed 30 Mar. 2020.