The National Association of Realtors (NAR) grants its members, real estate agents, the title of a realtor. Agents and brokers who decline membership in the NAR are simply real estate agents, not realtors. People outside of the real estate industry use the terms real estate agent and realtor interchangeably, but those in the industry understand there is a world of difference between realtor vs real estate agent.
Knowledgeable real estate customers and investors prefer to do business with realtors because membership in the NAR demonstrates professionalism, knowledge, and industry connections. Realtors are in the NAR loop, which means they have access to NAR market information that provides competitive advantages. They also network with other NAR members, which allows them to find the best deals for their clients. In addition, NAR members sign a code of conduct that requires them to always work in their clients’ best interests.
The NAR provides realtors with networking opportunities, builds a positive public image of realtors, and provides business resources to its members. It also runs a political action committee (PAC) that has powerful lobbyists in Washington, D.C., and at state and local levels. The NAR uses its influence to advocate for policy issues that benefit the real estate economy and real estate practitioners. According to its website, NAR’s current political advocacy agenda includes the following:
Extension of tax relief for canceled mortgage debt
After the 2008 mortgage crisis, the government provided upside down homeowners with assistance by suspending the practice of charging taxes on forgiven mortgage debt.
After a foreclosure, banks often forgive any remaining balance because they know the borrower has no means to pay and, if the amount is large, would likely declare bankruptcy, leaving the bank with useless legal bills. The bank would issue a 1099, and the IRS would consider the forgiven amount as taxable income. In 2017, Congress declined to renew the provision, which hurt homeowners and the real estate industry. NAR advocates for reinstatement of the provision.
20% deduction on qualified income should apply to more real estate professionals
The Tax Cut and Jobs Act (TCJA) provided a 20% tax deduction for many business owners, including the owners of real estate agencies. It does not, however, apply to realtors who work for those agencies, despite their status as self-employed individuals. The NAR seeks to expand the deduction to include all real estate agents and owners or rental properties.
Index mortgage interest deduction to inflation
The NAR believes that the $750,000 cap on the mortgage interest deduction should be indexed to inflation, which will help homeowners afford more expensive real estate in the future.
The Realtor Party
The Realtor Party advocates for the real estate industry on the state and local levels. NAR members join the Realtor Party and vote in solidarity in state and local elections. This powerful political organization wields tremendous influence in communities. Local and state government agendas always involve real estate development because it is the lifeblood of communities, economic development, and a major source of tax revenue.
About 42% of dues collected by NAR are devoted to political advocacy.
The Ethics Code
The NAR bases its ethics code on the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do to you. It applies to customer relationships and relationships between NAR members. On the customer side, realtors abide by a philosophy of honest dealing. NAR members have a vested interest in ensuring that other realtors apply ethical sales practices. With public trust in the NAR, they receive far more business.
The ethics code also governs disputes between members. The expectation is for members to settle disputes “in the family” with the NAR acting as mediator. This prevents disputes from being made public and ending up in court.
Rather than centralized governance, the NAR likes to keep management local. Members join their local association, which enforces the ethics code. Violators of the code face penalties, which demonstrates that the ethics code is taken seriously. The code is subject to change as new issues arise in the industry. For example, the NAR has recently added new ethics requirements related to housing discrimination.
As with most associations, members enjoy rewards. These rewards range from access to additional real estate sales opportunities to discounts. Examples include the following:
- Ethics training
- Realtor.com listings
- International listings
- Translation services
- Realtor magazine
- Currency conversion
- Credit union membership
- Research tools and services
- Marketing services
- Advertising services
- Discounts on books, car rentals, travel, and more
The NAR also provides health, dental, and prescription drug coverage, an important benefit for self-employed realtors. These perks create many benefits of being a realtor vs real estate agent.
Any licensed real estate agent currently engaged in the business can join the NAR. Before applying, they must join one of NAR’s local associations. Brokers and real estate investors can also join. Agents must be attached to a member real estate firm. Brokers at member firms are responsible for joining NAR. If a member firm has agents who decline to join, NAR charges the broker a penalty.
How “Realtor” Came About
The NAR started in 1908 under the name National Association of Real Estate Exchanges and later the National Association of Real Estate Boards. Around 1950, Charles N. Chadbourn, vice president of the National Association of Real Estate Boards, proposed the term. He felt that members needed a distinctive title to set them apart from nonmembers. The organization placed a trademark on the name “realtor” in 1950 and changed the name to NAR in 1974.
Charles Chadbourn would be proud of how widespread the title realtor has become these many decades later, though he may be disappointed in the public’s misunderstanding of its meaning.
Being a realtor comes with many advantages and anyone wishing to make real estate a career needs to join. The group’s relentless political advocacy has helped bolster the real estate markets around the country and protected the interests of its members. Its focus on continued education and ethical conduct make it the gold standard for real estate professionals and the thing that makes the difference between realtor and real estate agent.
Many opportunities for commercial real estate development await investors in The Valley of the Sun. To gain access to these opportunities, investors need connections in Phoenix, who can lead them to the best opportunities and put deals together. LCI Realty proudly identifies investments, negotiates, and manages properties on behalf of its clients.