I am a real estate broker and real estate professional and currently a Realtor®. To me, being a Realtor® simply means that I am a paying member of the Seattle/King County Board of Realtors®, Washington Association of Realtors® and National Association of Realtors®.
Here in Western Washington, the Board of Realtors® does not own the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), so Realtor® membership is not required for use of the MLS. It is good to help support the organization which does a lot of lobbying on behalf the real estate industry and property owners, but how much is too much?
The dues for these organizations are not inexpensive - $470 plus "optional donations". These are charged to each member broker, as well as every salesperson employed by that member broker. In September the Board of Directors of the Washington Association of Realtors® approved a mandatory special assessment of $100 per Realtor® to create two funds to do what the organization was already supposed to be doing - protecting homeowners and the real estate industry.
There are already a number of companies who have chosen NOT to be part of these organizations. This keeps the expenses for their agents lower and allows them to keep more of the money they earn. It can actually give them a leg up in hiring over their competition who compel their agents to join the Realtors® and pay the dues.
Prior to the "special" assessment, I was already disenfranchised with being a Realtor®. I have not been seeing any direct benefit, except for the honor of writing a check each year and getting (too) frequent emails about overpriced educational classes.
I have decided that I will let my Realtor® membership expire at the end of this year. I will continue to be a real estate professional, but will no longer be able to call myself a Realtor® - and won't have to keep using those darn ® symbols.