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Real Estate Agents

The National Association of Realtors (NAR), whose members are known as Realtors, is North America’s largest trade association representing over 1.2 million members (as reported February 2008), including NAR’s institutes, societies, and councils, involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries. NAR also functions as a Self Regulatory Organization for real estate brokerage. In the United Kingdom, the equivalent is the NAEA. The President of NAR for 2008 is Richard F. (Dick) Gaylord.

The National Association of Realtors was founded on May 12, 1908 as the National Association of Real Estate Exchanges, the founding group being located in Chicago, Illinois. In 1916, the National Association of Real Estate Exchanges changed its name to The National Association of Real Estate Boards. The current name was adopted in 1974. NAR celebrates its centennial in 2008.

NAR’s membership is composed of residential and commercial real estate brokers, real estate salespeople, immovable property managers, appraisers, counselors, and others engaged in all aspects of the real estate (immovable property) industry, where a state license to practice is required. Members belong to one or more of some 1,600 local Associations of Realtors and Boards of Realtors in the 54 state and territory Associations of Realtors. They are pledged to a code of ethics and Standards of Practice, which includes duties to clients, the public, and other Realtors.

Local Associations are required to enforce the Code of Ethics through a Professional Standards Council or Committee. Trained members of the Association form hearing panels charged with the responsibility of hearing testimony and evaluating evidence from complaints filed by the public or other members against Association members for alleged violations of the Articles of the Code of Ethics. If the panel finds the member in violation of an Article, disciplines recommended may be one or more of the following: a letter of warning or reprimand, educational courses, suspension or expulsion of membership, fines up to $5,000 and probation. All recommended disciplines by Professional Standards hearing panels are subject to the ratification by the Association Board of Directors before the discipline takes effect.

The National Association of Realtors is also a member of The Real Estate Roundtable, a policy group in Washington, D.C.
Trademark status

Realtor is a frequently-used word in many countries to describe any person or company involved in the real estate trade, regardless of their NAR status or American residence. However, in the United States the National Association of Realtors in 1949 obtained preregistrations for the words REALTOR and REALTORS (which the NAR prefers rendered in all caps) as collective trade marks. As long as the trademarks are maintained, the words cannot be used in commerce by other parties in a way that is likely to cause confusion as to the origin, sponsorship, or approval of goods, services, or commercial activities in the domain of real estate. The NAR only authorizes usage by National Association of Realtors members or licensees.

The word “realtor” was added to the Webster’s Dictionary after a request by New Jersey Realtor Rachel Storchheim Silverman in the 1960s.

In 2003, Jacob Joseph Zimmerman, a real estate agent who was not a member of NAR, petitioned the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to cancel the trademarks, on the ground that “realtor” and “realtors” were generic terms rather than a trademark. On March 31, 2004, the USPTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board denied the petition, holding that the words continued to function as collective service marks and have not become generic terms.

NAR and Multiple Listing Service (MLS) systems

The NAR governs the hundreds of local Multiple Listing Services (MLSs) which are the information exchanges used across the nation by real estate brokers. (However, there are many MLSs that are independent of NAR, although membership is typically limited to licensed brokers and their agents; MLSPIN is an example of one of the larger independent MLSs in North America).

Through a complicated arrangement, NAR sets the policies for most of the Multiple Listings Services and, in the late 1990s with the growth of the Internet, NAR evolved regulations allowing Information Data Exchanges ((IDX)) whereby brokers would allow a portion of their data to be seen on the Internet via brokers’ or agents’ websites and Virtual Office Websites (VOW) which required potential buyers to register to obtain information.

These policies allowed “Participants” (whether they were individual one-person brokers or large regional companies) to limit access to some or all of the MLS data by individual brokers (whether they were brokers operating solely on the Internet or local competitors). In 2005, this prompted the Department of Justice to file an antitrust lawsuit against NAR alleging its MLS rules in regard to these types of limitations on the display of data were the product of a conspiracy to restrain trade by excluding brokers who used the Internet to operate differently from traditional “brick and mortar” brokers. For a description of the DOJ action, see Antitrust Case filings for US v. National Association of Realtors. Action is pending. Meanwhile various real estate trends such as expanded consumer access and the Internet are consolidating existing local MLS organizations into larger and more statewide or regional MLS systems, such as in California and Virginia/Maryland/Washington DC’s Metropolitan Regional Information Systems.

In response, NAR has proposed setting up a single Internet Listing Display system which will not allow Participants to exclude individual brokers (whether of a “bricks and mortar” type or solely internet-based) but require a blanket opting out of display on all other brokers’ sites.

NAR educational requirements and recognized designations

As adherents to NAR’s Code of Ethics, Realtors are required to update their acquaintance with the Code every 4 years by taking a course, available on-line or “live”.

However, Realtors, as members of NAR, also have the option of studying for additional certifications in a variety of specialties, several of which are backed by NAR with offerings of certification and update courses available nationwide.

The most well known NAR sponsored designations are the following:

* Accredited Buyer Representative (ABR). The Real Estate Buyers Agent Council has over 40,000 members and is the largest association of real estate professionals focusing on all aspects of buyer representation. Of the REBAC members, over 30,000 have completed REBAC’s two-day course and provided documentation of buyer agency experience. Linked to the ABR is the ABRM, Accredited Buyer Representative Manager (ABRM) for managers.

* Accredited Land Consultant (ALC). ALC’s are the recognized experts in land brokerage transactions of all kinds of specialized land services including farms and ranches, raw land sales and development.

* Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM). CCIMs are recognized experts in commercial real estate brokerage, leasing, valuation and investment analysis. There are more than 7,500 designees and an equal number of candidates principally in North America, but also in Asia and Europe.

* Certified Property Manager (CPM). Geared to real estate property management specialists, designees handle all forms of management from residential to commercial to industrial.

* Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager (CRB). The designation is awarded to Realtors who have completed the Council’s advanced educational and professional requirements. CRB designees consistently increase their level of industry knowledge, advance their earning and career potential, increase their firm’s profitability and benefit from active involvement in our network of real estate professionals.

* Certified Residential Specialist (CRS). Designees, with 44,000 members – 4% of NAR members – who average 43 transactions per year and earn four times as much as the average Realtor, belong to the Council of Residential Specialists which is the largest affiliate of NAR. They are involved in over 27% of all transactions because the consumer prefers to work with a more knowledgeable and seasoned brokers or agents. Requirements for this designation include a total of at least 25 transactions (or specific $$ volume of sales) over a specific time period, significant experience, as well as complete rigorous educational requirements.

* Certification for Internet Professionalism (e-PRO). An e-PRO is a Realtor who has undergone a new training program presented entirely online in order to be certified as Internet Professionals. NAR is the first major trade group to offer certification for online professionalism which involves all aspects of doing business on the internet.

* Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS). Realtors with the CIPS designation have both hands-on experience in international real estate transactions, Whether traveling abroad to put transactions together, assisting foreign investors, helping local buyers invest abroad, or serving an immigrant niche in local markets. CIPS designees have also successfully completed an intensive program of study focusing on critical aspects of transnational transactions, including currency and exchange rate issues and cross-cultural relationships, regional market conditions, investment performance, tax issues and more. The CIPS network consists of 1,500 real estate professionals from 50 countries who deal in all types of real estate.

* Counselor of Real Estate (CRE). A CRE designee is one of only 1,100 by-invitation-only members of an international group of professionals who provide seasoned, objective advice on real property and land-related matters.

* Graduate of the REALTORs’ Institute (GRI). The GRI designation is held by 19% of Realtors and courses are offered through state Realtor Associations with 90 hours of coursework on marketing and servicing listed properties to real estate law. In a 2003 survey, NAR has determined that GRIs earned over $33,200 more annually than non-designees.

* Real Estate Professional Assistant (REPA). Designed for administrative assistants or employees of Realtors (who may or may not hold a real estate license), a two-day certificate course provides an intensive introduction to the real estate business and to the specific ways support staff can become valuable assets to their employers.