What Is the National Association of Realtors (NAR)?

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) is a national organization of real estate brokers, known as realtors, created to promote the real estate profession and foster professional behavior in its members. The association has its own code of ethics to which it requires its members to adhere.

As of 2020, the NAR has over 1.38 million members worldwide, including 600,000 members in the United States. It has 54 state associations (including D.C., Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico) as well as more than 1,400 national and international affiliate organizations.

Key Takeaways

  • The National Association of Realtors (NAR) is the professional organization for real estate agents and other industry professionals in the U.S. and abroad.
  • Members, known as realtors, have access to a variety of benefits and tools designed to enhance their real estate businesses.
  • The organization also works to protect private property rights, promote home ownership, and lobbies to maintain reasonable credit and other standards at the federal level.

Understanding the National Association of Realtors

The NAR's membership increased to just under 1.4 million as of year end 2019. It claims to be the largest trade association, comprising real estate brokers, salespeople, property managers, appraisers, counselors as well as others in the real estate industry. Members belong to one or more of the 1,300 local associations/boards and 54 state and territory associations of Realtors or to one of 87 cooperating associations in 66 countries.

The NAR was founded as the National Association of Real Estate Exchanges in May 1908, with 120 members, 19 Boards (local associations) and one state association. Its objective was to standardize real estate practices and to “unite the real estate men of America for the purpose of effectively exerting a combined influence upon matters affecting real estate interests.” The NAR Code of Ethics was adopted in 1913.

Over the years, the association’s name changed several times until, in 1972, it became the National Association of Realtors. Today, its mission is “to help its members become more profitable and successful,” by "influencing and shaping the real estate industry"; advocating for "the right to own, use and transfer real property"; and "developing standards for efficient and ethical real estate business practices."

Who Can Join

The principal of a real estate firm must join a realtor association before any non-principal in the firm can join (principals can be sole proprietors, partners in a partnership, corporate officers or branch-office managers acting on behalf of a principal). After the principal has joined a realtor association, all agents, brokers and appraisers who are licensed or affiliated with the principal have the option of joining as members of the association. (If the principal does not join a realtor association, none of the individuals affiliated with the principal can become realtor members of the association.) Members of local associations are automatically given membership in the state and national associations. For a list of local and state associations of realtors, see the NAR website.

Annual NAR membership dues ($120 per member for 2014 and 2015, with a $35 assessment for the NAR's Consumer Advertising Campaign) are billed through the members’ local associations and are pro-rated monthly for new members. In accordance with the Tax Reform Act of 1993, any portion of dues attributable to lobbying and political activities at the State and Federal levels is considered nondeductible for income tax purposes – this portion is disclosed annually to members. 

NAR members receive a variety of benefits, business tools, real estate market data, research and statistics, educational opportunities and discount programs geared towards helping real estate professionals succeed in business. For example, only realtors have access to the Realtors Property Resource (RPR), a national database of information on every property in the U.S., built from public-record and assessment data. It includes facts on zoning, permits, mortgage and lien data, schools and a large database of foreclosures.

The use of the realtor trademark by agents is heavily regulated by the NAR which issues strict rules and guidelines.

NAR Research Division

There is a research division that collects and disseminates real estate data and conducts economic analysis. Delivery of this information takes place via press releases, reports, presentations, and daily blog posts about the overall economy and housing market.

Well-known national and regional housing statistics include existing home sales, pending home sales index and the housing affordability index. The organization releases existing home sales monthly, providing national and regional price and volume statistics. The data is for the past 12 months along with annual totals going back three years. It is broken down into existing single-family homes, condos and co-ops. The first week of each month, the NAR releases the pending home sales index, considered a leading indicator for housing activity. The index measures signed real estate contracts for existing single-family homes, condos and co-ops. The housing affordability index measures whether a typical family earns enough income to qualify for a mortgage loan on an average home based on recent monthly price and income data.

The NAR also provides a host of research reports, including a monthly report on foot traffic, which attempts to predict future sales trends. Others are local market reports, which analyze a host of data, and a confidence index.

Strategic Plan and Benefits

The NAR annually updates its strategic plan to reflect the challenges and opportunities that the association and the real estate industry expect to confront during the next three to five years.

A member of the National Association of Realtors has access to certain benefits, business tools, real estate market data, educational opportunities and discount programs. The National Association of Realtors also has an educational program, including an online ethics course.