Ever wonder about the difference between a real estate agent and a realtor? They’re the same, right? Not so. Working with a real estate agent can take a lot of time and stress out of the home buying process, but not all real estate agents are the same. Some agents go on to become Realtors. The title is sometimes used interchangeably with “real estate agent,” but it shouldn’t be. Here is why it matters to buyers.
What is a real estate agent?
Real estate agents have taken required courses and passed a state examination to buy and sell properties. They have obtained a real estate license, and may sometimes also call themselves brokers. They have typically completed between 30 and 90 hours of coursework and may be required to renew their license ever one to two years, depending on the state.
What is a Realtor?
A Realtor is a real estate agent who has become a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR)—the largest professional association in the world. Realtors can also be brokers, salespeople, property managers, appraisers, counselors, and others in the real estate industry. NAR boasts about 1.3 million members spread across 1,200 local associations and 54 state and territory associations. The association obtained a copyright for the term “Realtor” to set its members apart. NAR has faced legal challenges arguing “Realtor” is a generic term and shouldn’t be a trademark, but so far, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has upheld the title registration.
Why does the distinction matter to buyers and sellers?
- Membership Requirements. NAR members must have a valid real estate license, have no record of official sanctions, and have no recent pending bankruptcy. This helps to ensure you are working with a reputable agent.
- Code of Ethics. Members of NAR are held to a higher ethical standard than other licensed real estate agents. They must follow the organization’s Code of Ethics, which includes duties to protect and promote their clients’ interests beyond what the law requires. The code also addresses Realtors’ duties to the public and fellow Realtors. If a member violates the code, they could be removed from the association. Here are a few things Realtors promise to do:
- Be honest with clients.
- Cooperate with other brokers/agents when it is in the best interests of the client.
- Not solicit another Realtor’s client.
- Not collect any commission without the seller’s knowledge.
- Strive to ensure all documents are easy to understand and provide copies for all parties involved.
- Expanded industry knowledge. Realtors have taken an extra step to continue to learn and grow as a real estate agent. As NAR members, they can take advantage of several business tools and educational opportunities. They also have access to helpful real estate market data, and can often view properties that aren’t listed on other home search sites.
How do I find out whether my real estate agent is a Realtor?
Most agents are Realtors, but to find out for sure, you can search for them on the NAR website.