How to Become a REALTOR®

Becoming a member starts at your local association of REALTORS®.

If you've done the legwork to get your real estate license, you may be on your way to building a portfolio of clients and working toward your first sale. It may also be the right time to consider taking your career one step further to become a REALTOR® by joining the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). Joining NAR unlocks access to many benefits, including increased industry recognition and credibility, access to NAR benefits and perks, and access to essential real estate market data.

Becoming a REALTOR® is a straightforward process, and it's open to many real estate professionals, including appraisers, brokers, and agents. In this article, we'll cover the key differences between real estate agents and REALTORS® and how you can become a REALTOR® in three easy steps.

What's the Difference Between a Real Estate Agent and a REALTOR®?

Real estate agents and REALTORS® both help people buy and sell properties. The main difference is that REALTORS® have taken the necessary steps to become part of National Association of REALTORS® (NAR).

NAR members agree to abide by NAR's Code of Ethics. NAR's Code of Ethics outlines the rules that REALTORS® must follow when dealing with other REALTORS®, the public, and their current or future clients. Its purpose is to make sure that REALTORS® place the interests of their clients above their own. Real estate agents aren't obligated to adhere to the same ethical standards as REALTORS®, which is why many buyers and sellers desire to work with a REALTOR®.

3 Simple Steps to Become a REALTOR®

To become a REALTOR®, you'll need to become a licensed real estate agent, join a local REALTOR® association, and pay applicable dues. In this section, we'll dive into each.

1. Become a Licensed Real Estate Agent or Licensed / Certified Real Estate Appraiser

The first step before becoming a REALTOR® is to become a licensed real estate agent or licensed / certified real estate appraiser.

For example, to become a real estate agent in most states, there's an age requirement, background check, and a set number of hours of classroom education. This is in addition to the written examination you must pass in some states.

2. Join Your Local REALTOR® Association

The second step in becoming a REALTOR® involves joining a local NAR association, which will provide you with membership to state and national associations. NAR provides a list of state and local real estate boards, making it easy to reach out to the association closest to you. Once you select the state you live in, you'll be given a list of the local NAR associations and their websites and phone numbers.

3. Pay Membership Dues

NAR requires members to pay national membership dues of $150 annually in 2023 and $156 annually in 2024. Keep in mind that these dues can change from year to year. Members will also pay a special assessment of $45 in 2023 and 2024 which is meant to cover the cost of NAR's consumer advertising campaign.

International REALTOR® Membership

Members of NAR cooperating associations throughout the world can join NAR and take advantage of the power of a million-plus member organization. In an industry where relationships are key to business success, this membership helps you stand out among other professionals.

Learn more about becoming an International REALTOR® Member.

Additional National Association of REALTORS® Membership Information

  • The principals of a real estate firm must first join a REALTOR® association before any non-principal can join. Principals are defined as: sole proprietors; partners in a partnership; corporate officers or majority shareholders of a corporation; or branch office managers acting on behalf of the principal. 
  • Once the principal(s) decide to join the REALTOR® association, then all agents, brokers and appraisers that are licensed or affiliated with him or her have the option of also joining as members of the association. 
  • Each REALTOR® firm appoints one of its principals as a "designated REALTOR®" for the firm. If any agents, brokers, or appraisers affiliated with the firm choose not to be REALTORS®, then the "designated REALTOR®" would be assessed a non-member assessment by the association for each non-member. 
  • If any principal who otherwise qualifies for REALTOR® membership decides not to join the REALTOR® association, then none of the individuals affiliated with the firm can be REALTOR® members of the association. 
  • The principal(s) have what is called "board of choice," which means he or she can decide which REALTOR® association(s) in the state where the office is located (or contiguous to that state) to join.     
  • Licensees affiliated with a REALTOR® firm may choose as their primary association any association in the state (or a state contiguous to that state) where the firm maintains a "designated REALTOR®." 
  • If you are going to work for a REALTOR®, please do not hesitate to contact NAR for additional information. NAR can look up your broker's name and office and see if he or she is a member of the REALTOR® association. If your broker is a member, we can refer you to the local REALTOR® association he/she belongs to. 

What Changes When You Become a REALTOR®?

Once you move from being a real estate agent to a REALTOR®, you can use the REALTOR® branding following your name, which gives you added credibility throughout the real estate industry, state and local membership, and networking access. While you'll still be representing buyers and sellers during real estate transactions or assisting clients as a broker or appraiser, you will also need to adhere to the Code of Ethics and participate in the association, which gives you access to valuable member resources and benefits including discounts, and exclusive access to data and pricing. If you're ready to take the next step as a real estate professional, find your local REALTOR® Association to join.