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.
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®:
- Institute of Real Estate Management (founded 1933)
- Women’s Council of REALTORS® (founded 1938)
- Society of Industrial and Office REALTORS® (founded 1941)
- REALTORS® Land Institute (founded 1944)
- Counselors of Real Estate (founded 1953)
- Real Estate Business Institute (founded 1968)
- CCIM Institute (founded 1969)
- Residential Real Estate Council (founded 1976)
- Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Council (1996)
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:
- For new state and local REALTOR® association executives, this history and introduction video is a helpful introduction to NAR’s history.
- View NAR’s centennial celebration video, “100 Years in Celebration of the American Dream.”
- Learn more about the early origins of the Code of Ethics.
- Learn more about the evolution of the REALTOR® trademark.
- See the biographies and portraits of NAR’s Past Presidents.
- And read about NAR’s history in 100 Years in Celebration of the American Dream, A Nation of REALTORS®, and Real Estate in American History. All are available to REALTOR® members via from the NAR Library.
- To find out more about the history of the National Association of REALTORS®, its affiliated Institutes, Societies, and Councils, and the state and local associations of REALTORS®, contact the NAR Archives.