The National Association of REALTORS® was founded as the National Association of Real Estate Exchanges on May 12, 1908 in Chicago. With 120 founding members, 19 Boards, and one state association, the National Association of Real Estate Exchanges' objective was "to unite the real estate men of America for the purpose of effectively exerting a combined influence upon matters affecting real estate interests."

The Association's founding boards included the Baltimore; Bellingham, Wash.; Chicago; Cincinnati; Cleveland; Detroit; Duluth, Minn.; Gary, Ind.; Kansas City, Mo.; Los Angeles; Milwaukee; Minneapolis; Omaha, Neb.; Philadelphia; St. Louis; St. Paul, Minn.; Seattle; Sioux City, Iowa; and Tacoma, Wash., boards and the California State Realty Federation (now the California Association of REALTORS®).

Since 1908, the Association has held its annual conference in numerous U.S cities. View historic convention booklet cover images from each one.

The Code of Ethics was adopted in 1913 with the Golden Rule as its theme.

In 1916, the National Association of Real Estate Exchange's name was changed to The National Association of Real Estate Boards (NAREB). That same year, the term “REALTOR,” identifying real estate professionals who are members of the National Association and subscribers to its strict Code of Ethics, was devised by Charles N. Chadbourn, a past president of the Minneapolis Real Estate Board.

REALTOR Logo From 1919

The collective marks REALTORS® and REALTOR® were registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office on Sept. 13, 1949, and Jan. 10, 1950, respectively, under Registration Numbers 515,200 and 519,789. Since then, the association has maintained a vigilant defense of the trademarks, prevailing in numerous cases. Most recently, in Zimmerman v. NAR (2004), the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board denied a request to cancel the trademarks.

In 1972, the name of the National Association of Real Estate Boards was changed to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). The block "R" logo was adopted by the Association in 1973.

In 1989, the Association adopted "The Voice for Real Estate" as its theme and as part of its official logo. Along with this theme, the Association encouraged its members to include the REALTOR® emblem on their business cards and stationery.

In 1991, NAR formalized its international programming with the creation of the International Section to administer the Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) designation and other programs for international specialists. Today there are more than 3,500 CIPS REALTORS® and NAR continues to support International REALTORS® with dynamic global programming and partnerships.

In 1998, a national Public Advocacy Campaign was launched to educate consumers about the vital role REALTORS® play in the real estate transaction. Today the That’s Who We R campaign has had more than 2.85 billion impressions on consumers, instilling trust in REALTORS® and making them 89% more likely to use a REALTOR® in their real estate transaction. 

In 2008, NAR celebrated its centennial anniversary as the preeminent organization for the nation’s real estate professionals.

Early in its history, the Association recognized the need for specialization in the real estate industry, and had created seven specialty divisions by 1923. Over the years, many of these divisions have evolved into the following institutes, societies and councils currently affiliated with the National Association of REALTORS®:

In addition, several other national real estate organizations also began as specialty divisions of the National Association of REALTORS®, including the National Association of Home Builders (originally NAREB's Home Builders Division, established in 1925), Urban Land Institute (1936), and Appraisal Institute (established in 1922 as NAREB's Appraisal Division).

The Association became the largest trade association in the United States in the early 1970s, with over 400,000 members in 1975. Today, the National Association of REALTORS® has over 1.5 million members, 54 state associations (including Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands) and more than 1,000 local associations.

For more information about NAR’s history see these additional resources: