Words, even a single word, can create an image or give us ideas. Corporations and trade organizations go to untold lengths and spend millions to give you a particular image when you use “their” word. What word do you use for a cola drink, a copy machine, tissue or a light beer?
When did you become a REALTOR®? When you were born? When you passed your state exam for a real estate license? When you were hired by a real estate firm? Nope, nope and nope. If you are a REALTOR®, you became a REALTOR® when you applied for and completed the membership requirements of a local association of REALTORS®.
“REALTOR®” is a collective membership mark owned by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). The REALTOR® organization is unique in that when a real estate licensee joins a local association, completes their orientation and Code of Ethics requirement and becomes a REALTOR® member they are a member at all three levels of the REALTOR® family – local, state and national. REALTOR® members not only take Code of Ethics training but are held to that higher standard by both their peers and the public. For licensees that are not REALTORS® they are not accountable to the REALTOR® organization.
REALTOR® membership is a voluntary individual membership. For that reason there is limited usage of the word REALTOR® in a firm name. It is not allowed to be contained in the firm’s actual name, including either the corporate or fictitious name. The word REALTOR® can only be used “with” the name, not as a part of a name AND some form of punctuation must be used to separate the term REALTORS® from the company name.
REALTOR® members may use the term REALTOR® as part of an email address or domain name to distinguish themselves; however , rules governing the proper use of the REALTOR® mark must be adhered to at all times regardless of the media used. An individual may use their name and the word REALTOR® such as JaneDoeREALTOR@xyz.com or JaneDoeREALTOR@abc.net or firstname.lastname@example.org. Descriptive words used in combination with the word REALTOR® are never allowed, for example, PhoenixREALTOR@webnetservices.com , GreatREALTOR@janedoe.com, TheBestREALTOR@bestrealtor.com.
The preferred way for the word REALTOR® or REALTORS® is always in all capital letters with a registration mark. When that is not possible, the term REALTOR® may appear in all upper case letters without the registration or with only initial upper case “R” and the registration symbol. There are two exceptions (1) on the internet, which has adopted the use of lower case only letters without symbols and (2) when in newspapers and print media. In news media it is permissible (not preferable) for Realtor® to appear in upper and lower case without the registration mark.
The REALTOR® trademark distinguishes REALTORS® from all other real estate licensees in the real estate profession. A group of real estate licensees should never be called REALTORS® unless you intend to identify them as Members of a REALTOR® Association and every member of the group is indeed a REALTOR®. Firm’s marketing their products and services to real estate agents should not use the term REALTOR® unless it is in reference to a particular member. Generally speaking, it is inappropriate for firms soliciting real estate agents to use the word REALTOR® in their advertising campaigns. If a private firm, such as an insurance company or carpet firm, is having a networking breakfast, it cannot be entitled “REALTOR® Breakfast” just as any organization outside the REALTOR® organization is prohibited from giving an award named “REALTOR® of the Year”. The “REALTOR® of the Year” award is one of the most prestigious and highly sought after awards in any REALTOR® Association.
Oh and by the way, did you know that when you hear the term REALTOR® it could be someone other than a real estate licensee? For example, a principal, partner or corporate officer of a real estate firm or a licensed or certified appraiser?