You’re fully licensed to sell real estate, so is becoming a REALTOR® that big of a deal?
Jacqueline Kyo Thomas
You’re probably asking yourself: is it really worth it to become a REALTOR®?
To some new agents, it sounds like overkill. After all, you’ve already earned your real estate license. You’re fully licensed to sell real estate; is becoming a REALTOR® that big of a deal?
This existential question is one that every new real estate agent must ponder. It’s right up there with the meaning of life.
While can't just give you the answer (where’s the fun in that?), we can give you a list of the pros and cons of becoming a REALTOR®, and let you decide whether it’s worth it for you. First, we’ll look at the reasons why you might not want to become a REALTOR®. Then, we’ll take a look at the benefits.
But before we get started, a word of warning:
If you’re easily annoyed by the use of all caps and registered trademark symbols (®), be warned that I sprinkle both quite liberally throughout this post. I promise you that my intention is not to make you go crossed eyed, but rather to honor the preferred form of REALTOR®. If you do choose to become a REALTOR®, you’ll need to use the all caps registered trademark form, too.
Before you became a real estate professional, you probably heard the term real estate agent and REALTOR® used interchangeably. A lot of people think that they’re the same. But now that you’re working within the industry and among other real estate professionals, you may have noticed that the term REALTOR® isn’t applied to every agent, but you’re not quite sure why.
To make matters even more confusing, while every REALTOR® is a real estate agent, the reverse may not be true.
Confused? Here’s how it breaks down.
A real estate agent is a person who has passed the real estate exam and received a state issued license.
A REALTOR® is a real estate agent who has joined the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). Since its founding in 1908, the NAR has become one of the most influential, and largest, trade associations in the US. It has over 1 million members. The NAR represents all types of real estate agents, both commercial and residential. As a member, you can belong to one or several of the NAR’s local chapters.
To become a REALTOR®, you’ll need to fill out an application, get approved, and pay association dues and fees. You’ll also need to take and pass an ethics course that hold you to higher standards of practice than the state exam.
Let’s start off with the bad news first. Why would you not want to become a REALTOR®? What would make you hesitate?
While most real estate professionals will choose to become a REALTOR®, it may not be the right path for you. Here’s why:
Becoming a REALTOR® can feel like yet another hoop that new agents have to jump through. It’s can be annoying when you’re convinced that you’ve already finished the race by getting your real estate license.
You're probably thinking, "I’m already a real estate agent, now I’ve got to become a REALTOR®, too? When will it ever end?"
If there’s no one pressuring you to become a REALTOR® (for example, your broker), it might seem like an unnecessary step and expense. Becoming a REALTOR® might seem like a future goal that you can delay until you’re ready to take your career to the next step
Money is probably the biggest con against becoming a REALTOR®. It’s going to require cold, hard cash (or at least credit) to become a REALTOR®. How much money depends on which board(s) you join and how many.
(By the way: local REALTOR® associations are known as boards.)
You’ll pay dues to both the local board and the national association. If you opt to join more than one board, you’ll pay even more.
All together, you’re likely to pay hundreds of dollars to become a REALTOR®. And it’s not a one-time deal, either. To keep current, you must pay up annually.
If cash isn’t flowing, you might not be able to justify the annual dues for this association.
Unfortunately, many newbie REALTORS® have a ton of unrealistic expectations when they sign up. They think that becoming a REALTOR® automatically adds a zero to the end of your annual earnings, but it doesn’t - at least not automatically.
Becoming a REALTOR® doesn’t mean that you’ll immediately start bringing in the big money. While you’ll definitely have a larger network and greater resources at your disposal, you’ll still need to hustle for every penny you’ll get (and some that you don’t get, too).
As a REALTOR®, you may even have to work harder because you’re held to a higher standard of practice. It’s what sets you apart from non-REALTORS®. It absolutely means that you can’t cut corners or behave dishonestly towards your fellow REALTORS® (not that you would ever do that!).
Now, let’s dive into why becoming a REALTOR® is a no brainer. Sure, there are a few reasons why you may want to avoid becoming a REALTOR® right away, but if you hope to have any longevity in your real estate career, it’s pretty much required that you become a REALTOR®. Here’s why:
If you become a REALTOR® you’ll have more opportunities to network. As a real estate professional, you’ll either live or die based on the strength of your network. If you’re able to forge strong and lasting relationships with other real estate agents, you can buy or sell quicker.
Before you can access the local MLS, you may be required to become a REALTOR® first. And by MLS, I’m not talking about the listings that anyone with Internet access can pull up from a Google search. I’m talking about the REALTOR® MLS, the holy grail of real estate listing.
There are hundreds of multiple listing services available, but a REALTOR® governed MLS gives you access to otherwise unsearchable real estate market data. For example, you can find out the details of how long a property was listed, how much it was originally listed for, and when it eventually sold. This can help you build knowledge about the neighborhood so that you become a stronger agent.
The name REALTOR® offers a certain amount of gravitas that you can’t get by just introducing yourself as a real estate agent. Not only is REALTOR® concise - two syllables instead of five - but the title will impress the discerning client who knows the difference between REALTOR® and real estate agent.
The name REALTOR® offers a certain amount of gravitas. Here's why:
Those who understand that REALTORS® are held to a higher code of ethics and standard of conduct will appreciate the fact that you’ve taken the extra step to prove your dedication and invest in your career. It’s a definite checkmark in your favor.
The National Association of REALTORS® works hard to protect real estate agent interests. If you're going to work as a real estate agent, that's going to be important to you, so you'll be happy to hear that a big part your membership dues will contribute towards the NAR's efforts to fight for your interests. With tax reform potentially looming on the horizon, it might make a lot of sense to support your local, and national, chapters of the NAR!
Perks abound when you become a REALTOR®. While you may not get groupies, you’ll definitely get discounts on all sorts of products and services! NAR members get special consideration on auto, home, and renter’s insurance. You’ll get access to the REALTORS® federal credit union which can help you secure loans for cars and business. You’ll also be able to apply for a special REALTOR® credit card.
Additionally, FedEx, OfficeMax, and other office supply services offer considerable discounts to REALTOR® members. You may even get a free REALTOR® website. Check out this page for more details on membership benefits.
So there you have it! Hopefully we've helped you make a decision, but you might still be mulling over whether or not to become a REALTOR®. What questions do you still have about becoming a REALTOR®? Drop us a line an let us know!