Field Guide to the History of the National Association of REALTORS®
NAR's first Board of Directors, 1909
NAR's Beginnings & Key Events
The National Association of REALTORS® was founded as the National Association of Real Estate Exchanges (NAREE) on May 12, 1908 at the YMCA Auditorium in Chicago, IL. With 120 founding members, 19 Boards, and one State Association, the National Association of Real Estate Exchanges' objective was "to unite the real estate men of America for the purpose of effectively exerting a combined influence upon matters affecting real estate interests."
The Association's founding boards included the Baltimore, MD; Bellingham, WA; Chicago, IL; Cincinnati, OH; Cleveland, OH; Detroit, MI; Duluth, MN; Gary, IN; Kansas City, MO; Los Angeles, CA; Milwaukee, WI; Minneapolis, MN; Omaha, NE; Philadelphia, PA; St. Louis, MO; St. Paul, MN; Seattle, WA; Sioux City, IA; and Tacoma, WA, boards and the California State Realty Federation (now the California Association of REALTORS®).
The Code of Ethics was adopted in 1913 with the Golden Rule as its theme.
In 1916, the National Association of Real Estate Exchange's name was changed to The National Association of Real Estate Boards (NAREB). That same year, the term “REALTOR,” identifying real estate professionals who are members of the National Association and subscribers to its strict Code of Ethics, was devised by Charles N. Chadbourn, a past president of the Minneapolis Real Estate Board.
The collective marks REALTORS® and REALTOR® were registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office on Sept. 13, 1949, and Jan. 10, 1950, respectively, under Registration Numbers 515,200 and 519,789. Since then, the association has maintained a vigilant defense of the trademarks, prevailing in numerous cases. Most recently, in Zimmerman v. NAR (2004), the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board denied a request to cancel the trademarks.
In 1972, the name of the National Association of Real Estate Boards was changed to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). The block "R" logo was adopted by the Association in 1973.
In 1989, the Association adopted The Voice for Real Estate as its theme and as part of its official logo. Along with this theme, the Association encouraged more members to include the REALTOR® emblem on their business cards and stationery.
In 1998, a national Public Advocacy Campaign was launched to educate consumers about the vital role REALTORS® play in the real estate transaction.
The Association became the largest trade association in the United States in the early 1970s, with over 400,000 members. Today, the National Association of REALTORS® has nearly 1 million members, 54 State Associations (including Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands) and more than 1,400 local Associations.
The National Association's logos throughout the years. From left to right, logos for NAREE (1909-1916), NAREB (1917-1922 and 1923-1973), and NAR (1973-present).
Celebrating 100 Years of the American Dream (REALTOR® Magazine, May 2008)
Affiliated Institutes, Societies, & Councils
Early in its history, the Association recognized the need for specialization in the real estate industry, and had created seven specialty divisions by 1923. Over the years, many of these divisions have evolved into the following institutes, societies and councils currently affiliated with the National Association of REALTORS®:
Institute of Real Estate Management (founded 1933)
Women’s Council of REALTORS® (founded 1938)
Society of Industrial and Office REALTORS® (founded 1941)
REALTORS® Land Institute (founded 1944)
Counselors of Real Estate (founded 1953)
Council of Real Estate Brokerage Managers (founded 1968)
CCIM Institute (founded 1969)
Council of Residential Specialists (founded 1976)
Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Council (1996)
In addition, several other national real estate organizations also began as specialty divisions of the National Association of REALTORS®, including the National Association of Home Builders (originally NAREB's Home Builders Division, established in 1925), Urban Land Institute (1936), and Appraisal Institute (established in 1922 as NAREB's Appraisal Division).
The REALTORS® Political Action Committee (RPAC)
The REALTORS® Political Action Committee (RPAC) is currently one of the largest trade association PACs in the country. RPAC's predecessor, the REALTORS® Washington Committee, was established in 1943 to assist the federal government in providing housing for members of the armed forces and other activities in support of the war effort.
In 1969 the Association formed the Real Estate Political Action Committee (REPAC) to solicit voluntary contributions from the Association's members and pool those funds to make contributions to candidates running for public office.
REPAC's name was changed to the REALTORS® Political Action Committee (RPAC) in 1974.
RPAC remained the nation's largest PAC in direct contributions to candidates with disbursements of over $4.3 million dollars to federal candidates and national political committees in the 2004 election cycle.
Real Estate Political Action Committee logo, ca. 1973.
The Issue of Taxation
"Unfair taxation," said Alexander Taylor, NAR's second president, in 1910, "is the most formidable foe of real estate." Ensuring the fair taxation of property owners and preserving the economic benefits of home ownership have been among the primary lobbying goals of the National Association of REALTORS® throughout its history.
A committee on taxation was one of the first standing committees formed by the Association's founders in 1908. When the current federal income tax system went into effect in 1913, NAR's members called on their congressmen to change the law so that rents collected by landlords would not be taxable -- the Association's first grassroots lobbying effort. In 1920, the Association supported Congress in its passage of legislation enabling the mortgage interest deduction.
Other NAR tax-related victories include: Elimination of the “quick-profits” tax (which discouraged people from buying a home that they intended to quickly resell for a profit) after World War II; in 1951, the deferral of capital gains taxes on the sale of a home if another home of equal or greater value was purchased within a year; expansion of tax relief to the elderly in home sales; successfully fighting the reduction of the mortgage interest deductions from $1 million to $250,000; and expanding the capital gains deduction for homeowners to $250,000 for singles, $500,000 for couples.
When the traditional tax status of the independent contractor real estate salesperson came under attack by the IRS, NAR was instrumental in the enactment of a provision in the Revenue Act of 1978. The 1982 tax act provides a safe-harbor test for real estate sales people that, if satisfied, determines their status as independent contractors for federal tax purposes.
More recently, the battle for full deductibility of health insurance premiums for self-employed real estate professionals, to be phased in over the next several years, has been passed and is now available.
The taxation of real property is only one of many legislative and regulatory issues the Association has worked on over the decades — work which continues today.
Since its inception, the Association has provided a number of benefits and services for its members. The Association's Library was founded in 1923, and with over 15,000 volumes, is the largest real estate library in the United States. In 1997, Membership Records, the Library and Customer Service were merged into Information Services, a one-stop point of contact for members. Through Information Services, members can place product orders, request information from the Virtual Library and obtain assistance with REALTOR.org.
In addition to the award-winning service from Information Services, the National Association of REALTORS® offers members discounts on various products and services for business and home through the REALTOR® Benefits Program. The National Association of REALTORS® actively works for its members in many ways to keep REALTORS® at the center of the real estate transaction—through lobbying efforts, public awareness campaigns and the nation’s largest real estate website, realtor.com®.
The Association began keeping statistics on housing and property values as early as 1909. Its first statistical department was formed in 1917, and the first research department in 1920. The Association has provided statistical data for the support of its lobbying efforts and for use by various federal agencies since the early 1920s. The monthly Existing Home Sales report was started in 1968, and continues to be an important indicator of the nation's economic health. Today, NAR's Research group conducts surveys and prepares reports on the home buying and selling process, REALTOR® demographics, real estate firm structures, commercial property markets, and many other aspects of the real estate industry.
NAR has been involved in the international arena for over half a century. Since the Association began its international operations program in the early 1950s, it has built a network of cooperative agreements with real estate associations around the world, and is actively expanding and developing this network. NAR promotes international real estate education, development of technical standards and technical information exchange, and international real estate practice in a number of other areas, including commercial outreach activity, cultural diversity training, and development of an international real estate consortium, among others.
The Association helped establish the International Real Estate Federation (FIABCI) in 1951, and has since hosted and participated in several public forums on housing and property rights issues around the world. In 1981, NAR formed an International Policy Committee to expand its affiliation with real estate organizations in other nations and pursue a leadership role in the global marketplace. The Association's CIPS Network was formed in 1992. Currently, the Association maintains bilateral reciprocal agreement with over 80 real estate associations in nearly 60 countries.
NAR & Technology
Never before have REALTORS® and the public had such an extraordinary amount of real estate information available at their fingertips. The very first computer system used at the National Association of REALTORS® was installed in September 1973. Computerized multiple listing services (MLS) became a reality in 1975, and by the early 1980s the idea that computers would soon replace traditional paper MLS directories was quickly becoming a reality. The National Association of REALTORS® has launched several programs over the years to help the industry take advantage of computer technology, including REINET and RCS-MLS in the 1980s.
In the 1990s, NAR saw progress on several technology fronts. Realtor.com®, the official site of the National Association of REALTORS®, was launched in 1997, giving consumers a powerful tool to help them connect with REALTORS® and find a new home. Today, realtor.com® features over 4.4 million property listings viewed by more than 6.3 million monthly unique users, and is recognized as the No. 1 consumer destination for real estate-related information.
Launched in 2001, REALTOR.org is a valuable tool providing REALTORS® with access to the information and services they need, including online registration for the annual convention, industry news, REALTOR Magazine, information on designations and continuing education opportunities, and much more.
The National Realtors Database System, NRDS, an Internet database allowing local associations to post member records, was launched in 1998. When a record is entered into the system the state association and the national association have immediate access, eliminating duplication and giving members faster service. One benefit of NRDS is that it gives REALTORS® the ability to update their own information in their individual records online.
NAR's Second Century
Real estate has changed and grown much more complex since 1908 -- from handwritten notes and 3x5 index cards to cell phones and online property listings. REALTORS® will be working with many different groups in the coming years, including young people buying their first homes, aging Baby Boomers, second-home owners, international investors and recent immigrants. REALTORS® bring their knowledge and expertise to the real estate buying and selling process, guiding consumers in making make the right decisions and helping to shape the future of the industry. As it begins its second century, the National Association of REALTORS® continues to pursue its objective of keeping the REALTOR® at the center of the real estate transaction, promoting the interests of its members among consumers and policy makers and in the increasingly competitive real estate marketplace.
For more information...
To learn more about NAR's early history and the evolution of real estate in the United States, see Real Estate in American History, by Pearl Janet Davies (Public Affairs Press, 1958) and A Nation of REALTORS: A Cultural History of the Twentieth-Century American Middle Class by Jeffrey M. Hornstein (Duke University Press, 2005). The May 2008 issue of REALTOR Magazine, Celebrating 100 Years of the American Dream, is a special commemorative issue exploring NAR's first century.
Also, see our History of NAR timeline.
Field Guides & More
These field guides and other resources in the Virtual Library may also be of interest: