The National Association of Realtors has deemed Confederate flags a hate symbol and its members are now prohibited from displaying them in listing photos.
The guidance was approved by the organization’s Professional Standards Committee at NAR’s annual convention this month and went into effect immediately.
“It’s huge for the industry, for NAR to take a stand on something that will be controversial,” said Shanta Patton-Golar, 2021 director of Las Vegas Realtors. “Those symbols have always been a means of hate, and we can no longer ignore that.”
This is just the latest step NAR has taken in grappling with racism in the real estate industry and its own organizational history. The association historically prohibited Black agents from becoming members and issued an official apology for that practice in 2020.
Classifying the Confederate flag as a hate symbol for the purpose of listing photos is another way of making the real estate market more open and equitable, NAR officials said.
“The Confederate flag case interpretation was based on guidance based on whether a similar display could be seen as a fair housing violation,” said Mark Mansour, chair of NAR’s Professional Standards Committee. “After just a few minutes of some discussion it passed without any dissension.”
Prior to the committee’s formal meeting and vote, Realtors at the convention had a chance to speak in favor or opposition to the proposal in a public forum, and those in support were a clear majority, according to Mansour
“The National Association of Realtors has a deep commitment to non-discrimination in the real estate profession,” said a statement from the organization. “As part of our Code of Ethics, hate symbols are banned from listing photos to ensure that everyone feels welcome in the home or neighborhood if they were to make an offer on the property.”
Mansour said Confederate flags in listing photos can violate fair housing laws by suggesting that a property is off-limits, or that the community it’s in would be hostile to certain buyers or renters.
Practically speaking, NAR does not control licensing for real estate agents, so Realtors who violate the new guidelines will still be able to remain in the profession. But, Mansour said, enforcement can include official warnings or reprimands, a requirement for continuing education, fines of up to $15,000, or even suspension or expulsion from the organization
Patton-Golar and Mansour acknowledged that Confederate flag displays have not been a huge issue to date, but Patton-Golar noted that in the current polarized political climate, such imagery could easily become more prevalent.
“A time goes by, people are hiding behind free speech more and more. You’ll start to see them and that’s why it’s so important that NAR took a stand,” she said. “As Realtors we hold ourselves to a higher standard,” she added. “It is important that we do what is right. It’s important that we understand diversity and inclusion.”