What Is a Realtist?

A Realtist is a member of the minority real estate trade association the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, or NAREB, whose mission is 'democracy in housing.'
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Written by Linda Bell
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A Realtist is a real estate professional who is a member of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, an equal rights organization focused on serving people of color. NAREB’s mission is “democracy in housing,” which is the right for people of every race, color or creed to become homeowners.

NAREB, the oldest minority real estate trade association in the United States, was founded in 1947 as an alternative to the National Association of Realtors. At the time, the bylaws of many local Realtor organizations excluded Black members, according to NAR. This blocked Black real estate agents from using the Multiple Listing Service, a database of homes for sale, in addition to other professional resources. It wasn't until 1964 that Ben Slayton was admitted as the first Black Realtor of NAR, currently the largest trade association in the U.S.

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Realtist vs. Realtor

Realtist is the trademarked name for a member of NAREB, just as Realtor is a trademark for real estate professionals who are members of NAR.

Both Realtists and Realtors represent a wide variety of occupations in the real estate profession, including real estate agents, appraisers and mortgage brokers.

NAREB’s membership is primarily made up of African Americans. However, the organization is open to any real estate professional who supports and promotes fair housing for all.

These days, most NAREB Realtists are also Realtors, belonging to both organizations. Both groups agree to abide by a strict code of ethics, which includes the professional responsibility not to discriminate against anyone because of their race or color and other classifications like sex or religion.

But that wasn’t always the case with NAR. At one time, the association supported policies that contributed to housing inequality, such as redlining and racially restrictive covenants, which prevented property owners from selling to Black home buyers, as well as other people of color and members of certain immigrant and ethnic groups.

Since then, NAR has taken steps to right those wrongs. The organization has apologized for its past policies and amended its code of ethics to require Realtors to provide the same quality of service to everyone regardless of their color, race and other classifications. NAR also launched a Fair Housing Action Plan in 2020, which includes unconscious-bias education and training for Realtors.

What is the primary focus of a Realtist?

For more than seven decades, NAREB has been committed to increasing Black homeownership and fighting the housing disparities that still exist today. Realtists put their mission of “democracy in housing” into action by executing the “5 Pillars of NAREB.” The initiatives include:

Faith-based and civic engagement: Reaching out to religious and local organizations to educate and motivate Black communities about homeownership.

Women in real estate: Helping Black women become homeowners, invest in real estate and grow careers in real estate.

Diversity and inclusion/small business: Teaching NAREB members how to foster business development skills and generate income through new business opportunities.

Multigenerational wealth building: Instructing young people, Generation Z and millennial consumers and older adults how to build wealth and create a financial legacy.

Government relations: Advocating for legislation to boost Black homeownership.

The Black/white American homeownership gap has ranged from 20% to 30% since 1900, according to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, an organization focused on ending housing discrimination and other inequities in the consumer financial system. In 2023, the gap was 28.6%, above the 24.3% gap in 1900 and 27.3% in 1960 when segregation was legal. The NCRC cites the homeownership divide as one of the key factors that have contributed to the racial wealth gap.

"There's a lot that has happened to lead us there from systemic racism," says Courtney Johnson Rose, president of NAREB. Knowing that history helps with understanding the homeownership gap and crafting a way forward.

Jones grew up with NAREB. Her father is a real estate broker and an association member.

"I've always wanted to be a part of it, and still to this day, I am excited about being a part of it," she says. "What drives me to stay active is really the mission of our association … I see the barriers, the challenges that we have. The focus of the work that I do in NAREB is to help overcome those challenges and level the playing field. That's what keeps me motivated and keeps me excited. And there's lots of work to do in our communities."

Bridging the Homeownership Gap

NAREB Realtists have joined forces with organizations including NAR, the NAACP, the Mortgage Bankers Association and the National Fair Housing Alliance to form the Black Homeownership Collaborative. The coalition has a seven-point plan to champion 3 million new Black homeowners by 2030 through initiatives like marketing and outreach, education, homeownership counseling and down payment assistance.

In 2023 NAREB kicked off the Building Black Wealth Tour, a series of events in cities across the country that include classes, workshops and one-on-one counseling to empower more families and individuals in the Black community to buy homes.

The target market for the tour are Black renters who want to buy a home and are ready or nearly ready to qualify for a mortgage. A Freddie Mac study showed that as of January 2021, 2 million Black adults ages 45 and younger are "near mortgage ready" and 5.4 million are "potentially mortgage ready."

Events in Houston and Birmingham, Alabama, each attracted about 1,000 people, and a recent event in Charlotte, North Carolina, drew 2,000.

Rose calls the turnout a sign of "amazing progress."

In many cases, the people NAREB targets don't have a family background in homebuying. "Their parents never owned a house. Their grandparents didn't own a house. They don't know where to start," Rose says. "But when you educate them and you give them the tools and the information that they need, they take advantage of it."

The tour will continue to other major cities this year and next. More information is available on the NAREB website.

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How to find a Realtist

NAREB’s website has a tool where you can search for a Realtist by state and ZIP code. The association has more than 100 chapters in more than 30 states across the country.

If you're looking for a Realtist in a particular discipline, such as appraisals, or need help with a specific issue like property management, contact NAREB’s national office or search for NAREB chapters by region. The local chapter president can refer you to the specific service you need.

Connecting with NAREB’s local chapter can also give you access to financial literacy training and home buyer workshops.

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