Using The Word REALTOR® Online -- Know The Rules!

Services for Real Estate Pros with Real Estate Pipeline, Inc.

I'm online a lot.

Now, I don't mean I turn on my computer and occasionally check my email or post on Facebook once a week. No...I am online ALL DAY. From the time I arrive at work until I decide it is time to leave, I am online. Roughly 10 hrs a day, give or take.

And, one thing I continually see online is real estate agents using the power of the internet to help them promote their business. All well and good, really. And, I'm happy to see it. I just wish more of them knew that using the word "REALTOR®" has rules attached to it...rules that, if you are found out by NAR, could cost you everything you have been trying to build online.

See, NAR is pretty strict about how and where you can use the word REALTOR®. Actually, very strict...(Catholic nun schoolmarm with yardstick strict.) And, a violation of the use of the word could mean that the website or social networking account in question could be shut down. (It has happened before...most recently to a Facebook page that had close to 50,000 fans associated with it.)

Officially, here is what NAR says can and can not happen with the word REALTOR® online.

To summarize:

1. Anytime you use the word REALTOR®, it must refer to a member's name or firm.

2. You can not use it with descriptive phrases or adjectives

3. You can not use it to denote an occupation or in any combination with location or adjectives describing such.

4. You can use it in email as long as the term refers to your name and/or your firm name only.


In other words, it must refer to a proper name of a member or a firm. Nothing else.

Seems pretty simple to me. Yet, every day I come across another or any number of "LalalandRealtor"s online on one social media network or another. There is a myriad of "TomTheRealtor"s and "RealtorBoy(or Girl)"s, "MissoulaRealtor"s and "Your(insert adjective here)Realtor"s. All of which are not approved uses of the word.

I am not going to call anyone out on these misuses. Nor am I an agent or a member of NAR. Quite frankly, it doesn't matter to me in the least that this is happening.

But, if you are one of the people that are doing it, it should matter to you. You could lose everything you have built merely because you ignored (whether knowingly or not) the rule.

Ignorance of the law is not justification for not following it.



Feel free to contact Clint at any time on Twitter or connect on Facebook.


Re-Blogged 4 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Liz Loadholt 09/20/2010 04:03 AM
  2. Graziella Bruner 09/20/2010 09:42 AM
  3. Jean-Paul Peron 09/27/2010 04:32 AM
  4. Roy Kelley 10/12/2010 12:06 PM
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This is a stickler for me as well Clint. It's important to remember that the objective is to make the public understand that not every real estate broker or professional is a REALTOR® and not every REALTOR® is a real estate broker or professional. A REALTOR® can also be an appraiser or property manager for example. Great post!

Sep 21, 2010 07:39 AM #81
Clint Miller
Real Estate Pipeline, Inc. - Missoula, MT

Marte -- I did not run across anything that mentioned that on the NAR site. And, considering it is their rules, I would believe what they say rather than anything else.

Richie -- Thank you so much. Working on the grievance committee would give you an 'in' to be sure. ;-)

Randy -- Yikes...Sorry.

Anon -- You are correct. Not every agent is a REALTOR® and not every REALTOR® is an agent. Good point.

Sep 21, 2010 07:57 AM #82
Kimo Jarrett
WikiWiki Realty - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

Do you really think consumers care what designation is associated with your name because I don't think so?

Many agents are NAR members simply because of the MLS, so does that make them more unique or knowledgeable than a non NAR member, I doubt it. If NAR had major issues about how the designation is being abused by NAR members, over half would be disciplined, yet that has never occurred, hasn't it?

Sep 21, 2010 07:59 AM #83
Tom Waite
Thomas Waite Real Estate Broker - Cypress, CA
So Cal-Apartment Bldg Investments

Thanks for your concise explanation and help with the use of the word: REALTOR®.

Sometimes it's difficult to find and copy and paste the word REALTOR®

However, knowing the rules is a good thing.

Sep 21, 2010 08:03 AM #84
Mike Childs

Well it is important not to infringe upon someone's trade mark or copyrights. However I sincerely hope our National Trade Association is doing all they can to promote our industry and to provide real benefit to it's members not babysitting my emails and ad copy to see if I got the superscripted R in a circle affixed correctly to their trademark.

Sep 21, 2010 08:07 AM #85
Clint Miller
Real Estate Pipeline, Inc. - Missoula, MT

Kimo -- Yes, it matters. Yes, NAR cares about it. Yes, they have shut people down in the past for violating it. Yes, it will happen again.

Tom -- My pleasure. Glad the post helped out.

Mike -- Sure....but that is like saying I sure hope the cops are working to keep the murders and rapists off the streets and let us drug users just sit and break the law whenever we wish. ;-) As I they have bigger fish to fry??? Yes. But, if they catch a small fish, will they fry them also??? Yup.

Sep 21, 2010 08:41 AM #86
Carrie Sampron
Home Smart Realty Group - Highlands Ranch, CO
ABR SFR & Kathy Sampron (303) 931-3629 Highlands R

Clint:  Thanks for bringing up this topic again, I've gained a lot from reading the thread.  I tend to agree with those who think NAR should be concerned with helping not harming.  Also, that the term is associated with anyone who represents buyers and sellers whether they belong to NAR or not and whether NAR likes it or not.  The public doesn't know or care that there is a super special way of using the term.  I get it that they're going to come down on people as you've mentioned over and over, but we don't all have to agree with their logic and processes.  Carrie

Sep 21, 2010 09:40 AM #87
Clint Miller
Real Estate Pipeline, Inc. - Missoula, MT

Carrie -- I am glad you learned a lot. That's great. And, I think it is less a question of whether or not you agree with the logic vs simply following the guidelines set forth by being allowed to use the title in the first place. If everyone just did it right, this post wouldnt have to be written. ;-)

Sep 21, 2010 09:45 AM #88
Danny Ma
New Pacific Realty - San Francisco, CA

I hear people "offline" using the word "realtor" a lot.  Whether they are part of NAR or CAR in my state, it does seem like it would be misrepresentation to say that they are if they are not.  Don't say what you are when you really aren't.

Sep 21, 2010 12:09 PM #89
Jon Quist
Tucson's BUYERS ONLY Realtor since 1996

I remember speaking to NAR a few years ago about what can and cannot be done. The big taboo was putting the name of a city or town with the word REALTOR, like PhoenixRealtor. A big no no.

At the time they didn't seem to have a problem with a name and the word REALTOR, as in REALTORFelix. Maybe they changed that last one though. It's been a few years but I actually spoke directly to NAR's trademark enforcement people.

Sep 21, 2010 08:20 PM #90
Ty Lacroix
Envelope Real Estate Brokerage Inc - London, ON

Clint, well put and in Canada, the use of the word is even stricter!

Sep 21, 2010 10:59 PM #91
Clint Miller
Real Estate Pipeline, Inc. - Missoula, MT

Danny -- Misrepresentation is one of the number one reasons NAR is as strict with this trademark as they are...

Jon -- You got it. And, it must now be done with a proper name (first and last) or the name of a firm. No first names only.

EREBI -- Yes, in Canada it is much worse.

Sep 22, 2010 12:58 AM #92
Todd Carpenter - Denver, CO

Thanks Clint! Our legal team put together a short video that explains why it's important to protect our mark. Please feel free to share. Click Here. It's great to see the enthusiastic comments in this post. Thanks everyone.




Sep 22, 2010 10:43 AM #93
Nicole Fleming
FC Tucker Emge - Henderson, KY

I know that in Microsoft Word you can create a shortcut key for any symbol and determine what key you want to use so you don't have to lookup the ® to insert it all the time. Not sure how to do that online, though.  It's a pain, but it must be done!  Great post and reminder.

Sep 22, 2010 04:41 PM #94
Clint Miller
Real Estate Pipeline, Inc. - Missoula, MT

Todd -- Thanks for the link to the video! Much appreciated!

Nicole -- I love using shortcut keys. They make my life easier. ;-)

Sep 23, 2010 12:48 AM #95
Kathy Jackson
RE/MAX Midwest Real Estate Group - Henderson, KY
CDPE, Your Tri-State Real Estate Expert

Timing is amazing-I just attended 2 law CE's this week and a large portion of the discussion was the proper use of the term! Many, many agents didn't know that they couldn't use city, state in front.  I've checked all my websites & I'm safe except for my username on Youtube.  I'll be fixing that today!  Great clarification for all of us!  I personally don't care who brings up the topic-if it needs to be discussed then let's discuss it!!

Sep 25, 2010 02:52 AM #96
Ken Gramley
Cary, NC

This is a very interesting post, and apparently I have violated the rule on occasion.  However, I do have a question for you.  Isn't your post itself a violation of the rules on how the word can be used?  You use the word half a dozen times or so, but never is it in reference to a firm or members name.  I think you're safe though, I doubt they'll make you delete your post.  :)

I'm just pointing this out to say that NAR's rules on this issue seem a little extreme.


PS - This comment does not violate the NAR's rules on the use of the word REALTOR®.  Wait.  Oh, dang it...

Sep 25, 2010 04:29 PM #97
Lee & Pamela St. Peter
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices YSU Realty: (919) 645-2522 - Raleigh, NC
Making Connections to Success in Real Estate

Clint, well said.  I did a similar post here in rainville last year - titled I don't want to go to Real Estate Jail.  I learned I was using the word incorrectly - and I made the changes...  But you are correct - there are a lot of others out there using it in their twitter names, blog names etc. that it will cause them pain if they asked to either remove it or change it.  All their SEO will be lost...

Sep 26, 2010 09:26 AM #98
Jean-Paul Peron
The Outer Banks Real Estate Copmpany - Corolla, NC
Carova Beach - Living & Working in 4-Wheel Drive

Great Post!

I actually got notified by NAR about my misuse. and have been having quite a time trying to change everything. if you don't mind I think I'll do a re-blog to remind everyone not to make my mistake.

Sep 27, 2010 04:37 AM #99
Tre Pryor
REMAX Champions - Louisville, KY
Realtor, e-PRO - Louisville

Good to be reminded of this... thanks for sharing!

Dec 07, 2010 03:30 AM #100
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