So, what is the difference between a real estate agent and a Realtor? Aren’t all real estate agents Realtors?
No, not all real estate agents are Realtors, though some will mistakenly use the terms interchangeably. It is important to know the difference before hiring one. Realtors belong to the National Association of Realtors. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) is an organization that supports its members through access to educational, financial, statistical, and marketing resources and many other benefits.
In order to become a member of the NAR, an agent must: be a licensed real estate agent, pay a membership fee, adhere to the NAR’s Code of Ethics & Professional Standards, and commit to keeping up with its continuing education requirements every year.
In addition, in order to be approved by the NAR Board to become a member of NAR, the real estate agent must not have any official sanctions held against him/her for unprofessional conduct, be free and clear to do business as a licensed real estate agent, and must not be currently in or have recently filed for bankruptcy.
The way it works for brokerages is this; if the principal of the brokerage is a Realtor, then the other agents under the principal may apply for membership to become Realtors themselves. However, if the principal is not a Realtor, the agents underneath the principal will not be considered for membership by NAR. In addition, where the principal of the brokerage is a Realtor, but one or more of the agents under that brokerage are not, the principal will be charged non-member assessment fees for each agent that is not a member of NAR.
The code of ethics of the NAR is the keystone of the organization. Its philosophy is based upon the Golden Rule- which is most often quoted as “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Applied to the community of real estate professionals and consumers, members are expected to foster a supportive community among the membership, and make decisions that are in the best interests of their clients.
Over time, the code of ethics of the NAR has changed as necessary, but continues to hold the Golden Rule at its core. For instance, it has been amended to incorporate equal housing opportunity and fair housing laws.
This code of ethics also requires that the Realtor’s fiduciary responsibility is to you. They are required to do what is in your best interest. That’s not to say that someone who is not designated as a Realtor will not have your best interests at heart. However, realtors have a host of legal and compliance resources and information at their hands through their membership. They are tapped into a community that prides itself on holding themselves to the highest standards, and work to keep abreast of everything that pertains to the real estate industry, from legal requirements, to best practices, market news, education and marketing. All of these resources, support systems, and standards are positioned to give the clients of Realtors a leading edge when buying or selling a home.
So how do you find out if your real estate agent is a Realtor? Realtors are the only ones able to use the Realtor designation with the registered trademark symbol. You can also check realtor.com, and search their online Realtor directory.