What’s the Difference Between a REALTOR® and a Real Estate Agent?

February 15, 2014
What's the Difference Between a REALTOR® and a Real Estate Agent?

While the terms REALTOR® and real estate agent are often used interchangeably, they are actually distinctly different. In simplest terms, one is a job and the other is a title.

Real estate agents and REALTORS® are both licensed to sell real estate. However, the main distinction between the two is that REALTORS® are real estate agents that are members of the National Association of REALTORS® – an organization of real estate professionals who must subscribe to a strict code of ethics in their industry.

According to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), “Members belong to one or more of 1,700 local associations/boards and 54 state and territory associations of REALTORS® and can join one of our many institutes, societies, and councils. Additionally, NAR offers members the opportunity to be active in our appraisal and international real estate specialty sections. REALTORS® are pledged to a strict Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.”

What does this mean to home buyers and sellers?

Essentially, it means that when you work with a REALTOR®, you know you are working with an professional who has put in the time, work and effort to be a standout in the industry. That’s not to say that real estate agents can’t also be ethical and trustworthy – in fact, real estate agents are held to all the same legal standards as any REALTOR®. But working with someone who is a licensed REALTOR® may give additional peace of mind to the consumer and may allow the agent to access additional resources and information that will help in their business. The benefit of this expanded access to resources can be passed on to consumers whenever a home buyer or homeowner works with a licensed REALTOR®.

What is the REALTOR® Code of Ethics?

The NAR’s Code of Ethics consists of 17 Articles and various underlying Standards of Practice. These are all strictly enforced by the NAR.

  1. Pledge to put the interests of buyers and sellers ahead of their own and to treat all parties honestly.
  2. Shall refrain from exaggerating, misrepresenting or concealing material facts; and is obligated to investigate and disclose when situations reasonably warrant.
  3. Shall cooperate with other brokers / agents when it is in the best interests of the client to do so.
  4. Have a duty to disclose if they represent family members who own or are about to buy real estate, or if they themselves are a principal in a real estate transaction, that they are licensed to sell real estate.
  5. Shall not provide professional services in a transaction where the agent has a present or contemplated interest without disclosing that interest.
  6. Shall not collect any commissions without the seller’s knowledge nor accept fees from a third-party without the seller’s express consent.
  7. Shall refuse fees from more than one party without all parties’ informed consent.
  8. Shall not co-mingle client funds with their own.
  9. Shall attempt to ensure that all written documents are easy to understand and will give everybody a copy of what they sign.
  10. Shall not discriminate in any fashion for any reason on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.
  11. Expects agents to be competent, to conform to standards of practice and to refuse to provide services for which they are unqualified.
  12. Must engage in truth in advertising.
  13. Shall not practice law unless they are a lawyer.
  14. Shall cooperate if charges are brought against them and present all evidence requested.
  15. Agree not to bad mouth competition and agree not to file unfounded ethics complaints.
  16. Shall not solicit another REALTOR’S client nor interfere in a contractual relationship.
  17. Shall submit to arbitration to settle matters and not seek legal remedies in the judicial system.

The National Association of REALTORS® was founded in 1908 and has more than one million members. To learn more about the organization, visit www.realtor.org or contact a licensed REALTOR® in your community.

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