Many people use the titles of REALTOR® and real estate agent interchangeably, but the truth is they are actually two different jobs. What’s the difference? Who should you try to work with if you are buying or selling a home? Here’s what you need to know:
What is a Real Estate Agent?
Before you can start to help people buy or sell real estate, you must earn a real estate license. Each state has its own rules and regulations regarding how people can earn real estate licenses. In general, earning this license involves completing classes and then taking an exam to see what you have learned. The material typically covers both state and national real estate law and best practices.
People who have earned a real estate license are called real estate agents, and they must renew their license every few years in order to continue working in the industry.
What is a REALTOR®?
On the other hand, a REALTOR® is a title given to any real estate agent who is a member of the National Association of REALTORS®, or NAR.
But not just any real estate agent can join this exclusive association! To join NAR, real estate agents must have a license and work in the industry. Agents will not be admitted into the association if they have filed for bankruptcy in the past, or if a bankruptcy case is currently pending. Their records must also be clear of sanctions for unprofessional conduct.
Real estate agents who work with a firm, such as Keller Williams or Coldwell Banker, must ensure one of the principals of their firm is a member of NAR, otherwise they will not be able to join. Principals of a firm can include officers, shareholders, partners, or sole proprietors. If none of these individuals is associated with NAR, real estate agents at that firm cannot be a part of it, either.
Being a REALTOR® also means abiding by NAR’s code of ethics, which describes how REALTORS® should conduct themselves while doing business with clients, other REALTORS®, or the community.
What does the code consist of? Basically, NAR requires that REALTORS® always make the customer’s best interests their first priority. The code also asks that REALTORS® do not steal other members’ clients, and if a dispute arises between two members, the code requests that it is settled through mediation or arbitration with NAR.
This code is frequently updated, and a new version is released every January so the association can stay on top of changing industry trends and consumer demands.
Who Should You Work With?
Buyers and sellers want to work with a real estate professional that is courteous, knowledgeable, and dependable. There are certainly many real estate agents who fit this description, but there are also many that don’t. REALTORS® must follow the NAR code of ethics, which means you know they will always act with your best interests in mind and work tirelessly to find you a new home or sell your current home.
NAR has a good reputation both inside and outside of the industry, so it’s safe to trust the REALTORS® that they trust to work with you.