Do the NAR Trademark Police Watch The Bachelor?

Jonathan Dalton, Phoenix Real Estate AgentBetter question – why was I watching The Bachelor last night? (Answer: my wife essentially ordered me to and I complied, knowing agreement will pay off in some extra football viewing this weekend.)

Two of the would-be lifetime loves of The Bachelor had their occupation listed as “Realtor.” No full capitalization, no trademark. And NAR’s rules clearly state that we can’t say we are a REALTOR as a vocation. We would need to say we’re a real estate agent and a REALTOR, assuming we’re members of NAR.

So who gets the C&D letter for this one? The ladies? ABC? We can’t just let this happen …


That likely is more than enough beating of this dead horse. Again the question may arise, what does this have to do with the general public? And the answer is indirectly it affects the quality of what you receive from the real estate industry.

A strict Code of Ethics such as that all Realtors agree to uphold works well only if those who sign up truly are committed to that code. When agents are joining NAR not out of a desire to uphold any standards but rather to gain MLS access, the Code of Ethics is diminished. And the way you, the general public, are services by those in the industry is that much more haphazard.

There are great agents who are Realtors. There are terrible agents who are Realtors. No matter what the advertisement may say, there’s little difference between a Realtor and a non-Realtor except the latter doesn’t subscribe to the Code of Ethics and most likely does not have access to the MLS (owned by the associations in most areas.)

Then again, simply being a member of NAR doesn’t make one ethical. Perhaps a tad less unethical than others, assuming the person in question has read the code, but not ethical as a blanket statement. That’s still left to each individual person.

NAR is rather successful in its primary mission – lobbying on behalf of its members. It’s only when NAR ventures into the realm of economics and public relations that it looks incredibly foolish. Hunting down violations of the REALTOR trademark in an effort to protect the brand from becoming public domain is a waste of the members’ money.


In the interest of self-reflection, much of the anti-NAR bent you see here and on other real estate blogs is based in the personality of those who practice real estate. We’re generally not huge on authority, on being told what we can do and when we need to do it. Rules are great for maintaining an open playing field but if they’re too restrictive they’re anathema.

Being forced to pay to belong to an organization that doesn’t seem to have much clue what its membership wants looks wrong, feels wrong, is wrong. The argument for change is that changes can occur from working within the system. But I don’t think volunteering for a sub-committee for the Phoenix Association of Realtors is going to give me much sway over Lawrence Yun’s incoherent, naive spin.

As a member of the general public, you’re being goaded into believing a myth about the power of the magical Realtor R. But it is a myth. It’s not being a Realtor that makes me better or worse than any other agent out there. It’s the skills and experience I bring to the table. And that’s not conveyed by a protected trademark.

[tags]NAR, real estate marketing[/tags]

Jonathan Dalton

Jonathan Dalton is a 40-plus-year resident of the Valley and has been helping folks buy and sell homes since 2004. He can be reached at 602-502-9693 or info at


  • Bonnie Erickson 10 years ago

    I personally believe NAR members are penalized by not being able to use the term REALTOR® to describe their occupation. Everyone else does, but we can’t. Many agents themselves do not know the difference in the usage of REALTOR® until they get a letter from the NAR. In like manner, every other person on the face of the earth can get a domain name, company name, etc., using REALTOR®, but we can’t? The non-member gets a cease and desist letter, but we can lose our membership and access to the MLS and our livelihood as a result! There’s no comparison. The cow is out of the barn folks. It’s too late to keep REALTOR® out of the public domain. Afterall, we all know that Kleenex is a tissue, right?

  • Ryan Hukill 10 years ago

    Jonathon, great points indeed. And Bonnie’s followup points out what’s always gotten under my skin. How is it that the NAR ties the hands of it’s members but lets the general public run free, using the term realtor as loosely as they can?

    If the word “REALTOR” and the big R really are supposed to carry some royal weight, shouldn’t we, as members, have the advantage over the non-members?

    It’s quite clearly the other way around.