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Association Name-change Trend Continues

More often lately, REALTOR® associations are dropping the “association of” from their names. From Louisiana REALTORS® to Chicago REALTORS®, these new brand names are part of a repositioning trend. The idea is to move associations away from being perceived as a governing body that provides services to REALTORS® and toward recognition as a group of professionals that represents the interests of REALTORS® and home owners in the community.

“We felt that ‘Georgia Association of REALTORS®’ was a ‘thing’ and that ‘Georgia REALTORS®’ are people,” explains Brandie Miner, the association’s communications director. “It’s just a different direction in how we wanted to present ourselves.”

The Columbus Association of REALTORS®, Ohio, rebranded itself a few years ago as Columbus REALTORS®, which is also the name of its redesigned publication and website. “We know our members and the public will shorten Columbus Board of REALTORS® and we didn’t want to brand an acronym,” says Marque Bressler, the association’s communications director. “Many already refer to us as Columbus REALTORS®.”

Ever since the Hawaii Island Board of REALTORS® changed to Hawaii Island REALTORS®, consumers call thinking it’s a real estate office, says association Executive Officer Kehaulani Costa. “We have to expressly say ‘we are the board,’ or ‘we are the association of.’ ”

Regardless of the reason for the name change, “it’s important that each association get the affirmative permission and license from NAR prior to making such name change,” says NAR General Counsel Katie Johnson. “Some are not aware of that obligation.”

Any REALTOR® association can change its name or establish a DBA (“doing business as”) if approved by the National Association of REALTORS® and properly registered with its secretary of state office, according to the renaming guidelines.

Removing “association of” or “board of” aren’t the only rebranding options. Associations can use any DBA as long as it includes the term REALTOR® or ­REALTORS®, uses the trademark, and does not reflect adversely on the ­REALTOR® organization, such as a name implying that membership is somehow restricted by race or religious beliefs. If an association chooses to use a geographical name, it must describe the current actual service area of the association with a reasonable degree of accuracy and must not be too similar to any other association’s name.

Association names, including nongeographic names, also must convey the idea of an organization of members who have joined together to promote the professionalism of real estate practitioners in the community.

In May 2015, the hearing panels of the Membership Policy and Board Jurisdiction Committee rejected a few proposed association names because they were misleading, says Katie Hunter, NAR’s manager of membership and association jurisdiction.

For answers to your name change questions, contact Hunter at

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