According to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), the word REALTOR® is a registered mark that applies only to members who ascribe to its Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice. Through the national, state and local associations, members receive educational and ethics training which can result in better business practices in serving consumers and communities.
Realtors can also obtain certifications in counseling, property management, and other specialties based on criteria such as years of practice, continuing education and testing.
But is a Realtor any better equipped to sell homes than any other licensed real estate professional? Real estate professionals are educated, trained and licensed by state-approved agencies – not the NAR.
If licensure and state oversight is the standard of practice as a real estate professional, any licensee is as qualified to sell real estate as any Realtor. This fact puts pressure on the NAR and its subsidiaries to deliver value for the hundreds of dollars required of members to stay current.
In recent years, the NAR has been battered by declining membership, a drawn-out battle with the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission, the rise of third-party marketplaces Zillow and Trulia and franchisors that provide competing member such as Keller Williams and Realogy, and testy cabals formed by some of its most influential and dissenting brokers such as The Realty Alliance.
The result is the dilution of the power and effectiveness of the world’s largest trade organization. No longer does a licensee require membership to the NAR in order to have access to the valuable local multiple listing service, a ground rules cooperative that allows licensees to share and sell each other’s property listings. Practitioners can advertise their listings to consumers on third-party online services besides those sanctioned by association or broker-allied websites, which often have less traffic and name recognition at the local consumer level.
The word Realtor has become part of the lexicon and does little to distinguish licensees to consumers. And NAR’s carefully-crafted-to-say-nothing-memorable television ads fail to empower Realtors or clarify why consumers should prefer them over other licensees.
Is it important for an agent to be a REALTOR®? The answer depends on how the NAR handles these challenges moving forward.