How to become a REALTOR®

Did you know that there’s a difference between a Realtor and a real estate agent? Many people incorrectly use the terms interchangeably.
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So you’re interested in becoming a Realtor! Whether you’re fulfilling a life dream, making a career change, or just curious, you’ve picked well; it’s one of the more fun, exciting and rewarding jobs out there.

First things first: Did you know that there’s a difference between a Realtor and a real estate agent? Many people use the terms interchangeably, but don’t make this common mistake. Here’s a quick run down before we get started:

Although both REALTORS and real estate agents are licensed to sell real estate, each title refers to a specific type of real estate professional.

Real Estate Agent: A real estate agent is anyone who is licensed to help people buy and sell commercial or residential property. The agent may do so as a sales professional, an associate broker or a broker.

Realtor: A Realtor is a trademarked term that refers to a real estate agent who is an active member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the largest trade association in the United States.

The NAR is headquartered in Chicago and boasts more than 1 million members across the country. Despite what you may think, membership is not restricted to only real estate agents and brokers. Members may also include property managers, appraisers, real estate counselors and other professionals involved in the real estate industry.

Note: All Realtors are real estate agents, but not all real estate agents are Realtors.

How to Become a Real Estate Agent

In order to become a real estate agent, you’ll need a real estate license. To obtain this, you must complete a minimum number of classes and pass a state exam which covers national, state and local real estate laws, standards and practices (this may vary by state). You’ll also need to complete around 180 hours of pre-licensing coursework (again, this will vary by state). Finally, you’ll be required to pay an annual licensing fee and renew your license every 1-2 years with continuing education.

How To Become A Realtor

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Once you’re a practicing real estate agent, you have the option of becoming a Realtor. Follow these steps below to join the NAR and start your journey:

  1. Join one of the NAR’s 1,400-plus local real estate associations. Annual NAR membership fees are $120.
  2. Once the Board of Directors approves your membership, you must pay a one-time application fee and prorated membership dues.

What do I need to be eligible for membership?

  1. Have a valid real estate license.
  2. Be actively engaged in the real estate business.
  3. No record of official sanctions involving unprofessional conduct
  4. No recent or pending bankruptcy

Are you part of a real estate firm? If so, your principal (such as the sole proprietor, partner, corporate officer, majority shareholder, branch office manager, etc.) must join a Realtor association before any non-principal can join. If a principal does not join an association, none of the other employees associated with that firm can become members.

Being a REALTOR® is not required for a successful real estate career, but many see it as a helpful perk when doing business. There can be some hefty fees associated with being a REALTOR®, but also some great networking opportunities and a community to lean on. You can make the decision that works best for your business and future career path once you've received your real estate license.