How to Become a REALTOR®

Though the terms are often used interchangeably, a REALTOR® is a real estate agent (or property manager, appraiser or other real estate professional), but a real estate agent is not necessarily a REALTOR®. “REALTOR®” is a professional designation from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), the largest real estate association with over 1 million members. A REALTOR® belongs to a local association, is licensed in his or her state and adheres to the NAR Code of Ethics. Membership in a local association automatically extends to state and national associations.

What is the National Association of REALTORS®?

The largest trade association in the U.S., the National Association of REALTORS® represents residential and commercial real estate professionals. There are 54 state and territory associations and 1,200 local boards/associations. NAR provides resources for real estate research, education and professional development, promoting a number of conferences, trade expos, community programs and leadership initiatives.

Why Should You Join NAR?

There is great deal of prestige that comes with being a REALTOR®. Using the “REALTOR®” name in your advertising signals to customers and potential clients that you are an ethical, qualified professional who can be trusted to manage transactions involving a variety of factors and properties and hundreds of thousands of dollars. NAR offers its members tons of benefits, tools, data and resources that may not be available to non-members.

For example, they have a benefits program with discounts and special offers on things like insurance, technology, travel and education. Other REALTOR® perks include:

  • NAR’s real estate library is the largest in the world and includes digital books, audiobooks, videos, journals, and books.
  • Online marketing tools to post your listings and build your brand.
  • Property database with info on every property in the country will help you gather data to determine listing prices and buyer offers.
  • Research resources collect data, conduct analysis and publish reports, presentations, and blogs about the housing market.

There are also many NAR sponsored designations that are earned by completing courses and passing exams. Common designations include Accredited Buyer Representative, Certified Property Manager (CPM), Certified Residential Specialist (CRS), and NAR’s Green Designation.  

How to Join

First, you have to be licensed as a real estate agent in your state. Requirements for licensure vary by state, but most require 60 to 90 hours of prelicense education, passing a licensing exam, submitting an application, and getting an established broker to sponsor and supervise you. To fulfill the education requirement and prepare for the licensing exam, you can complete real estate prelicense courses in classrooms or online. provides online prelicense courses and packages for many states; you can learn at your own pace anytime, anywhere you have internet. Next, find and contact your local REALTOR® association. The principals (i.e., partners, corporate officers, designated broker, branch managers) in your brokerage firm have to be members before you can join.

You will likely find membership applications on the local association web sites. Print out, complete and submit the application, pay the fees and membership dues. You will also have to attend an orientation within 60 days of submitting the application. You must agree to follow the rules, bylaws, and polices of the association. The annual dues are $120 for the national association plus the local association dues. New members must take an ethics course and pass an exam, and then take refresher ethics courses every four years. Only NAR members can call themselves REALTORS®.

NAR Code of Ethics

All NAR members must agree to adhere to the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice. It is the Code of Ethics that sets members apart from non-members. Customers and clients can file complaints with NAR if they believe a member violated the Articles of the Code of Ethics. Penalties may include fines, mandatory ethics education, and membership suspension or termination. The NAR Code of Ethics contains 17 articles addressing REALTORS®’ duties to clients and customers, to the public, and to REALTORS®.   

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