Oh my goodness.

Let me tell you about the National Association of Realtors. Mostly they are a cheerleader for the real estate industry. Nothing wrong with that, I guess. Just about every industry has an organization that works in their members’ best interests (er, even if those interests aren’t in the best interests of our country’s, but I digress …)

I’m a member of NAR. By default, this means I’m also a member of the Massachusetts Association of Realtors (MAR). And, by default, this means I’m also a member of the Greater Boston Association of Realtors (GBAR), which is a part of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board (GBREB). (In reality, it’s the other way around: I’m a member of GBAR, which makes me a member of MAR, which makes me a member of NAR.)

There are some benefits to being a member of NAR/MAR/GBREB/GBAR, so I’ve joined and stayed a member, for at least three or four years.

The benefits to me are just three, basically. First, I have access to a bunch of online forms which I use when writing up offers, etc., for clients. Second, I receive a once-daily email of national real estate news. Third, I can take discounted continuing education courses through NAR/MAR/GBREB/GBAR. (The fourth benefit I guess is that I get to advertise myself as a Realtor, which some people find respectable.)

Why do I mention all of this?

Well, I just received my 2008 membership fees invoice.

It is making me very sad angry.

Here’s the deal (I’ll try to be brief).

It is voluntary to join the National Association of Realtors. A real estate agent or broker doesn’t have to be a member of NAR. Although many people use “real estate agent” and “Realtor” interchangeably, it doesn’t mean the same thing.

(Similar to cola and Coke, I guess.)

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts licenses all real estate agents and real estate brokers.

Each real estate office in Massachusetts has a “Designated Broker”. Every real estate agent in the Commonwealth works under a real estate broker’s license.

If a broker decides that he / she wants his/her office to be a member of NAR/MAR/GBREB/GBAR, he / she pays an annual fee to NAR/MAR/GBREB/GBAR.

For 2008, the annual membership fee is $613.

NAR/MAR/GBREB/GBAR calls this person a “Designated Realtor” (DR).

Thing is, if the DR decides to sign his or her office up as a member, then each agent in that office is required to sign up as a member, as well.

For 2008, the annual membership fee for each agent is $441.

What happens if an agent doesn’t sign up as a member?

The broker is charged an annual “non-member” fee.

Of $411.

Did you catch that?

The “non-member” fee is the same almost the same as the “member” fee.

UPDATE: (A difference of $30, actually. A GBREB representative tells me that the member fee includes a $30 MAR fee which is not included in the “non-member” fee.)

(** In addition, each agent must pay a one-time “entrance / application fee” of $100.)

So, here are the options:

* The DR can pay the annual “non-member” fee of $411 on behalf of each agent;
* The DR can pay the annual “member” fee of $411 on behalf of each agent;
* The DR can require all agents become members of NAR/MAR/GBREB/GBAR as a condition of employment; or
* The DR can choose to not join NAR/MAR/GBREB/GBAR, at all.

Most likely, the DR will choose to require all agents be members of NAR/MAR/GBREB/GBAR, because there’s no way a broker is going to pay the “non-member” fee for each of his / her office’s agents.

Regardless of the size of the office.

In fact, I think a large company is even less likely to pay the fee than a smaller company.

For example, I find it EXTREMELY hard to believe that Coldwell Banker (where I used to work) would be willing to pay the “non-member” dues for all of its agents who “choose” not to join.

But here’s where I have the problem:

I find it just as hard to believe that MAR/GBREB/GBAR is going to require Coldwell Banker, for example, to pay the “non-member” dues for all of its agents, or lose its Realtor designation.

Because, if companies such as Keller Williams, Coldwell Banker, Jack Conway, etc., etc., etc., pull out of MAR/GBREB/GBAR, the association would cease to have any relevance.

And the organization cannot allow that to happen, right?

My guess is:

* MAR/GBREB/GBAR will conveniently forget to enforce the rule for the large companies;
* the large companies will be given a “pass” on the requirement that all agents be members; or,
* (and perhaps most likely) the large companies will be given a discount on the “non-member” fees.

Which would, of course, be unfair.

(To give you an idea of how many agents are / are not members of NAR/MAR/GBREB/GBAR, I just looked and in one large downtown Boston office of 36 agents, 24 agents are not a member.)

Now, I know what you’re saying. Membership is voluntary, so why complain? If you don’t like the rules, don’t join. (People say the same thing if you’re Catholic, btw …)

But, I think our board should encourage people to join. Not discourage.

The board says they are just following NAR’s rules & regulations.

I guess.

But GBREB/GBAR has agreed to follow those rules, not challenge them.

Which makes them just as responsible.

I would like to hear from other Massachusetts real estate agents / brokers who have an opinion on this.

Do you plan on paying the “non-member” dues? Do you plan on requiring ALL your agents join NAR/MAR/GBREB/GBAR? Do you plan on ignoring the invoice?

Or, do you plan on withdrawing from NAR/MAR/GBREB/GBAR?

Send me an email or leave a comment.

(Anyone else can, as well.)


Contact me to find out more about Boston condos for sale or to set up an appointment call/text 617-595-3712.

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For more information please contact one of our on-call agents at 617-595-3712.

Updated:  1st Q 2018

Author Profile

John Ford
John Ford

Over the course of 20 years in the Boston downtown real estate market, John represented and sold numerous, condominiums, investment and development properties in Greater Boston and in the surrounding suburbs

In addition to representing Boston condo buyers and sellers, John is currently one of the most recognized Boston condo blog writers regarding Boston condominiums and residential real estate markets. John's insights and observations about the Boston condo market have been seen in a wide variety of the most established local & national media outlets including; Banker and Tradesman, Boston Magazine The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald and NewsWeek and Fortune magazine, among others.


For over 24 years, John Ford, of Ford Realty Inc., has been actively involved in the real estate industry. He started his career in commercial real estate with a national firm Spaulding & Slye and quickly realized that he had a passion for residential properties. In 1999, John entered the residential real estate market, and in 2000 John Started his own firm Ford Realty Inc. As a broker, his clients have come to love his fun, vivacious, and friendly attitude. He prides himself on bringing honesty and integrity to the entire home buying and selling process. In addition to helping buyers and sellers, he also works with rental clients. Whether you’re looking to purchase a new Boston condo or rent an apartment, you’ll quickly learn why John has a 97% closing rate.


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John Ford and his staff can be reached at 617-595-3712 or 617-720-5454. Please feel free to stop by John's Boston Beacon Hill office located at 137 Charles Street.

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Ford Realty Inc
137 Charles Street
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