Understanding the differences between a real estate agent and a REALTOR® is essential for buyers and sellers who want to ensure their interests will be protected throughout the transaction. The distinction is murky at best for most people that do not work in the industry on a daily basis, however, and the terms are often used interchangeably.
With that in mind, it is important to point out that there is actually a significant degree of separation between a REALTOR® and a real estate agent. The process of becoming a REALTOR® starts with passing a real estate exam and becoming a real estate agent. After that initial first step, individuals who want to call themselves REALTORS® must:
- Be actively involved in the real estate industry
- Maintain an active, valid real estate license
- Have a record that is free of sanctions mentioning unprofessional conduct
- Not be involved in a recent of pending bankruptcy case
One of the most important differences between a real estate agent and a REALTOR® is that, to acquire the title, individuals must agree to abide by a comprehensive ethical code. After joining the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), those who want to continue their membership have to complete periodic ethics updates and training.
The Code of Ethics that all REALTORS® must adhere to is extensive. It includes 17 articles, of which nine explicitly state the duties and responsibilities all REALTORS® have to their clients, five are focused on the duties REALTORS® have to the public, and three indicate the obligations that REALTORS® have to other REALTORS®. Although space constraints prohibit including a complete list, it is worthwhile to detail a few of the highlights. To comply with ethical guidelines, all REALTORS® must:
- Promote their clients’ interests before their own and treat everyone honestly
- Avoid exaggerating, misrepresenting or withholding facts about a property or transaction, within the scope of the real estate license
- Cooperate with other brokers if doing so is in the clients’ best interest
- Obtain client consent and knowledge before accepting any form of payment
- Keep personal funds separate from client funds
- Avoid providing professional services for a property in which they have an interest, unless disclosed to the client
- Be truthful in advertising and marketing collateral
- Refrain from discriminating against any person based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity
It’s also important to note that only REALTORS® have access to the MLS, not real estate agents. For those who want up-to-the-minute updates, timely insights and a trusted advisor on their side, it is critical to choose a professional from Cape Fear REALTORS®. After understanding that only about half of all real estate agents in the US are certified REALTORS® (according to the NAR), and that all REALTORS® must abide by strict ethical standards, it’s easy to see why learning more about the distinction can be a difference-maker for those who want to buy or sell real estate and have a positive experience.
For more insights or information on the subject, visit CapeFear.REALTOR
or call 910-762-7400.
Tom Gale is the 2021 president of Cape Fear REALTORS®, an organization with nearly 3,300 members who serve as the region’s Voice of Real Estate. Cape Fear REALTORS®, through advocacy, education, and community involvement, support efforts to protect the rights of property owners, promote the availability of housing, and provide resources to guarantee every individual has the right to share in the “American Dream.” For further information on this topic and the association, please visit capefear.realtor or contact the Cape Fear REALTORS® at 910-762-7400.