People often use the terms “Realtor” and “Real Estate Agent” interchangeably and it’s understood in general conversation. But the two terms actually describe very different things. Not all realtors are real estate agents and the same is true the other way around.
While both require a license to sell real estate, only a realtor is a member of the National Association of Realtors. But what does that mean and what makes them different? Let’s find out!
All realtors must adhere to some key principles that real estate agents do not necessarily follow. They remain honest and forthcoming for the benefit of all buyers and sellers, without exaggeration, misrepresentation, or omission of facts.
Realtors cooperate with other brokers when it’s in the best interest of the client to do so and they offer full disclosure about their affiliation with the transaction if any. They avoid any transaction where they have a direct or indirect stake in the outcome without first divulging that information.
They treat all funds in a transaction in a professional manner at arm’s length, so there is nothing done that the client does not consent to. To that end, they also refuse to provide services that they do not qualify to offer.
All these, and more fall under the Realtor Code of Ethics, which include 17 articles they must adhere to.
As realtors are bound by a specific code of ethics, real estate agents are not. They do require a license to handle real estate transactions but they must work under the umbrella of a managing broker.
All put together, this means when dealing with a real estate agent you are also dealing with the real estate company they work under. It also means that short of knowing who your agent is, you may not be dealing with someone that has the same level of ethical conduct required from a realtor.
The bottom line is this: Know who you want to represent you when buying or selling home. The difference between a realtor and a real estate agent could mean thousands of dollars more or less in your pocket.