Secondary Membership

REALTORS® and REALTOR® association staff frequently have questions about secondary membership. Similarly, it is not uncommon for MLS administrators to question whether they can require secondary membership as a prerequisite to granting someone MLS access. This guide helps explain secondary membership, its roots in policy, and the application of the policy to common scenarios that associations and MLSs encounter. 

Definition of Secondary Membership

Secondary membership describes REALTORS® who hold membership in an association other than their primary association. The only distinction between primary membership and secondary membership is that the dues collected in the member’s primary association include the NAR portion of dues.

Source of Secondary Membership Policies - Board of Choice 

Secondary membership, adopted in 1996, derives from NAR’s Board of Choice Policy and is sourced to several paragraphs in NAR’s Statements of Membership Policy Related to Implementation of Board of Choice.

In a nutshell, "Board of Choice" allows REALTORS® to choose the board to which they want to belong on the basis of factors they decide are most important rather than being limited by office location or jurisdictional boundaries. At the same time, services of other boards are available without the necessity of holding membership in those boards. 

The following excerpt from one of those Statements clarifies that the terms, conditions and privileges to be afforded those holding secondary membership are to be the same as those holding primary membership.

Membership shall be available in a secondary board on terms and conditions no more stringent than the requirements established in the board's Bylaws for REALTOR® and (REALTOR-ASSOCIATE® where applicable) membership. The privileges of membership shall be the same including the right to vote and hold office. Membership will be granted to individuals who hold REALTOR® or REALTOR-ASSOCIATE® membership in their primary board without any requirement that the designated REALTOR® they are licensed or affiliated with hold membership in the secondary board. However, MLS services will only be available if the designated REALTOR® participates in the MLS. Board dues shall not include a national allocation since NAR dues have been paid through the member's primary board. A state allocation may only be included if the member's primary board is located in a different state.

There are differences, however, in the application of this policy for primary membership depending upon whether the person is a principal of the firm or not.

  • When it comes to choosing an association, Board of Choice allows principals of a firm to choose any association in the state or a state contiguous to join as their primary association. Principal is defined in the Membership Policy Statements.
  • Non-principals affiliated with the firm can choose any association as primary where one of the firm’s principals holds membership (either primary or secondary).

Each local association will have in their bylaws the following provision that derives from the above quoted Board of Choice policy.

Primary and Secondary REALTOR® Members.
An individual is a primary member if the association pays state and National dues based on such member.  An individual is a secondary member if state and National dues are remitted through another association.  One of the principals in a real estate firm must be a designated REALTOR® member of the association in order for licensees affiliated with the firm to select the association as their "primary" association.

Application of secondary membership after primary membership has been established:

  • Secondary membership may be held in a local association in another state (provided the applicant meets all of the qualifications for membership) without holding membership in that state association, or alternatively, secondary membership may be held directly in the state association without holding membership in a local association in that state. (See Membership Policy Statements)
  • An MLS may not require REALTORS® to join their local association as a secondary member as a prerequisite to gaining access to their MLS.
  • When a Designated REALTOR® joins an association as a secondary member, licensees affiliated with that DR may not be compelled to also join as a secondary member.
  • Licensees that already have a primary association may join any other association as a secondary member without the Designated REALTOR® having to hold membership.
  • Licensees may choose to make their primary association in any association where a principal in the firm holds REALTOR® membership. For example, if the principal of a firm holds primary membership in association A and secondary membership in association B - the licensees can choose primary membership in association A OR association B.
  • When a member has joined a primary association and paid local, state, and national dues, secondary membership may be held in a local association in another state (provided the applicant meets all of the qualifications for membership) without holding membership in nor paying dues to that state association.
    • NOTE: "Secondary membership" refers to a 'second' or additional membership that stems from an individual's first real estate license hung with the first firm. If an individual holds two licenses hung with two different firms, state association dues would be owed with respect to the second license/firm as well.


Additional Resources

Membership Qualification Criteria

These Membership Qualification Criteria are the most rigorous qualifications that an association of REALTORS® may require of ...