Question Details

Chuck, Home Buyer in 22314

What is the difference between a Realtor and a real estate agent?

Asked by Chuck, 22314 Tue Jan 29, 2008

I have been reading post that talk about "Realtors" as opposed to other typs of agents. What is the difference, and what addition tools, if any, does a realtor bring to the table?

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In most states, a real estate agent must be licensed by the state, but is not required to be a REALTOR. A real estate salesperson or broker desiring to become a REALTOR must make application to his or her local Board of REALTORs.

Current REALTOR members have an opportunity to state any objection to the request for membership.

Once the application is accepted, new members must take a class to familiarize themselves with the responsibilities and benefits of the title and they then become members of the National Association of REALTORs.

REALTORs are bound by a strict code of ethics that encompasses articles and standards of practice. The articles impose ethical obligations and the standards or practice serve to help clarify them.

The code of ethics was adopted in 1913 and has continued to be ammended over the years. Articles include duties to clients and customers, to the public and to other REALTORs.

The essence of the code is the Golden Rule. The code is enforced through professional standards committees of the local board.

Through grievance procedures, complaints from the public as well as from other members of the board are heard and disputes arbitrated. Only state license laws govern real estate agents that are not REALTORs.

In addition to the major emphasis on ethical behavior, membership in the local board allows REALTORs the opportunity to affect important industry issues and community interest through participation in several programs.

Political action committees protect the interest of homeowners and private property rights through diligent attention to laws and proposed changes with local and national politicians. Numerous behind-the-scenes REALTORs work on additional committees to provide ongoing quality education for their members, technological research and recommendations, and community seervice work such as affordable housing and fundraisers.

REALTORs continuously strive to become and remain informed on issues affecting real estate and to maintain and improve the standards of their industry and take responsibility for its integrity and honor.

The term REALTOR has come to connote competency, fairness and high integrity resulting from adherence to a lofty ideal of moral conduct in business relations.
5 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jan 29, 2008
What is the difference between a Realtor and a real estate agent? I think the answer depends on WHO you ask! If you ask a Realtor... the responses will be similar to those listed on this screen. If you ask a real estate agent who is NOT a Realtor prepared for a different response.
1) Real Estate Brokers can choose NOT to be a member of a local board of Realtors. They have NOT committed an illegal act by making this decision. Some brokers prefer not to join a board of Realtors. If a broker decides NOT to join a board of Realtors, then ALL agents licensed with his/her firm CANNOT become a Realtor. If an agent wants to be a Realtor, then being licensed with this kind of real estate company will limit the agent's advertising efforts...he/she will not be able to call themselves a Realtor. His/her business cards will have to say real estate professional or real estate agent and Realtor logos cannot be used on for sale signs, business cards, print media advertising, etc. The word Realtor is trademarked and only member agents can call themselves a Realtor.
2) If a broker is a member of a board of Realtors, all his/her agents must individually pay annual board dues (in Atlanta, $200+ per year). If agents can't pay their board dues it forces the broker to ask the agent to leave the company or perhaps move the agent in to their referral company which is a separate company which is NOT a member of a local board of Realtors. If you notice many real estate companies have a second company which is a non-Realtor company put in place for referral purposes. Usually the broker limits the activities of agents in referral real estate companies to just referring real estate business. This way the broker still makes money and the referring agent makes a referral pay check.
2) People may be surprised to know that some real estate brokers prefer NOT to be members of a board of Realtors. The broker's agents can save hundreds of dollars a year in board dues. No time is spent in special classes that are required for Realtors. Brokers do not have to worry about agents who are low on funds and they don't have to set up a second real estate company and move agents to this second company and limit their agents listing/selling activities. Important Note: non-Realtor agents cannot join because they are not a member of a board, BUT virtual tour vendors who are approved with CAN link non-Realtor agents virtual tours to for a fee as long as the property as a multiple listing ID number. Some tour links show agent's name, contact numbers, etc.
3) If you ask any Realtor what they get for their annual Realtor board dues, the answers may not go beyond a monthly magazine, a nice board office with or without a library, some FREE continuing education classes, pride of membership and unlimited socializing. Many describe being a member of a local board of Realtors is like being a member of a private club. How would you feel if your employer said you could keep your job if you joined a private club? You would think he/she was crazy!
4) Non-member brokers can still join the MLS services, run adds in the newspaper, put virtual tours on the Internet, put for sale signs in the ground, list property, write contracts, hold earnest money, etc.... this is why real estate commissions grant real estate broker and salespersons licenses so folks can list and sell real estate and earn a living... no where does it say that brokers/agents must be a member of a board of Realtors and call themselves Realtors in order to list and sell real estate. All that is required to conduct real estate business is an ACTIVE real estate salesperson or broker's licenese.
3) Realtors DO agree to arbitrate disputes. Example: If an agent feels a builder stole their buyer and lost a sales commision to that builder or another agent, the injured agent has no choice but to file the necessary paperwork, wait and go to their board office to arbitrate. A panel of real estate professionals listen to the dispute and decide how the dispute will be settled. This has an upside and a downside. If you win it is a great process.
4) Agents who are not a Realtor are NOT bound by any pledge/agreement to arbitrate disputes. Non Realtors are free to resolve disputes on their own, seek legal council and/or take their case to court if desired. This may also have an upside and a downside....but to me it sounds more like the American way!
5) Many non Realtor real estate agents feel that their ethics and standards meet or exceed the ethics and standards of board member Realtors...note that your local real estate commission is an equal opportunity disciplinarian...both Realtors and non-Realtors can both suffer the consquences of violating the public trust.
6) If you are considering an agent who is NOT a Realtor, give them a chance to show you what a great job they can could be pleasantly surprised.
4 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 31, 2008
Actually, I was wondering how I could go about getting a mailing list for non-realtor agents/brokers in the U.S. I have been both a realtor and non-realtor and am still one of the top broker/owners in the State of Montana. I am however putting together a huge non-realtor convention (thought that would be cool) and was wondering if anyone knows where I can get a mailing list/emailing list, if one exists.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Mar 30, 2008

I am a Realtor®, ABR, CRS, CNS, and have begun, but not yet completed by GRI. I'm a firm believer in ongoing education in my chosen career, and am proud to be a Realtor. (Here's where I begin to attract the thumbs down) To imply that a Realtor® member of NAR is a more ethical, more professional agent simply based on his/her membership in NAR (which as Todd Miller points out, just takes a payment of your annual dues... and for that he got FIVE thumbs down) is a misrepresentation.

Yes, Realtors® are held to a higher standard, and must adhere to a strict code of ethics. So you can hope that most Realtors® are ethical and professional, but I have met and known many "real estate agents" who are NOT members of NAR, for varied reasons, who are excellent, highly ethical, highly professional people. And I have met some Realtors® who ARE members of NAR who tarnish the image of a Realtor®.

I like to think that I provide that "level of higher quality work" that you ask about, but not simply because I'm a Realtor® NAR member.... but because I'm highly ethical, with a high work ethic, and high moral standards.... and I could do that as a member of NAR, or not.

Highly ethical people are highly ethical people regardless of their affiliations. And ethical behavior cannot be mandated... you either have it, or you don't. Again, this is not a slam against NAR or Realtors® (I am both), simply a recognition that there are some excellent "non-Realtors®" out there doing good work too.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 30, 2008
Alan May, Real Estate Pro in Evanston, IL
The number is probably closer to $400-$500. There are some Realtors who simply pay the dues, and do not utilize any of the resources available. Other Realtors pursue an extensive array of educational opportunities and other resources which benefits the Realtor and clients.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Jan 29, 2008
Deborah Madey, Real Estate Pro in Brick, NJ
I think the difference is $100 per year. I can't remember what they charge, but that's all it takes. Pay the fee & you are a "realtor".
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Jan 29, 2008
The main difference is that Realtors are subject to a higher set of standards than an agent. They are NOT one in the same. A Realtor is an agent, but an agent is not a Realtor until they join the National Association of Realtors. As Kristoffer noted the National Associations of Realtors was established to develop guidelines, standards of practice and a written code of ethics to hold its members accountable for its actions. Purchasing a home or selling a home is many times the largest monetary transaction a person may make it their lifetime and the real estate representative must be knowledgeable as well as accountable. It is important to select a Realtor when choosing your representative.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Jan 29, 2008
A Realtor is a member of the National Association of Realtors as well as a local real estate board. We pay big bucks each year to be a member of the board. An agent just passes their test and that's it. Hangs their license with a broker and is not accountable to a higher power (lol).
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Feb 2, 2008
Would I be accurate is saying that a agent and a Realtor provide exactally the same services, but Realtors provide a higher quality of work, (on average)?
It would depend on whom you ask. :)
Where I am, we had absolutely no MLS until abut 4 years ago, so no one was a "Realtor®", now we are ALL "Realtors®" .
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 1, 2008
Thank you, everyone for answering these questions. It has been a great learning experience for me.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 30, 2008
To you follow up yes there is a higher quality of knowledge and ethical behaviour. The GRI designation that I hold is a Graduate of the Realtor Institute which was an investment of almost 100 hours of education on all aspects of real estate.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 30, 2008
Jed Lane, Real Estate Pro in San Francisco, CA
Great question, Chuck. Below is a link to the National Association of Realtors website and an article that I believe you may find helpful in understanding the differences. As Realtors, we subscribe to a strict code of ethics as well as pursue continuing education on a regular basis, both mandatory as well as optional training such as earning specialized certifications and designations. Regarding previously mentioned costs, between my wife & I (we're both licensed Realtors), we spend well over a $1,000 a year in dues/fees to be members of the national, state and local Boards of Realtors, as well as to keep our certifications/designations on active status.

It appears that you may be looking to purchase a home. I would recommend that you consider selecting a Realtor who holds the Accredited Buyer's Representative (ABR) designation and/or one of the other NAR-approved designations geared toward meeting the needs of the home buyer.

Here is a link to another article on certifications/designations (copy & paste into your browser):

Best wishes purchasing your new home - Ted
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 30, 2008
Vicki Masell…, Real Estate Pro in Duluth, GA
Hi Chuck.

Real estate agents don't necessarily have access to the same systems with the same data. So, a real estate agent who is not a Realtor, might be very good, but not have the same it applies to residential real estate.

Many commercial real estate agents are not Realtors, and belong to other associations and organizations that support their area of practice. I can think of some very talented, knowledgeable real estate agents who work in commercial. I know commercial agents who are Realtors, also.

Most of the active real estate agents who show residential property and write contracts for clients on a regular basis are Realtors. Some Realtors make extensive use of the educational tools and resources, while others do not.

One of the most important factors of membership in NAR is the Code of Ethics. This Code is the same for all members of NAR and enforced by the state and local associations. This Code does much to support integrity in the profession and vigorously enforced when an ethics violation is enforced. It does much to support and protect the public.

When a member of the public chooses a Realtor, their Realtor must abide by the Code of Ethics or face an ethics committee, [if reported]. A buyer or seller should speak with a few Realtors before selecting their representative. Not all Realtors have the same strengths or knowledge base.

For residential transactions, I would emphatically recommend a Realtor.....but still recommend to interview and choose from a few before determining your representative.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 30, 2008
Deborah Madey, Real Estate Pro in Brick, NJ
Would I be accurate is saying that a agent and a Realtor provide exactally the same services, but Realtors provide a higher quality of work, (on average)?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 30, 2008
Chuck, on your follow up question regarding what are the benefits for being a "card carrying" Realtor, yes access to the local MLS in my area can ONLY be obtained if you are a member of your Local, State, & National Association. Also many designations that we can obtain are only obtainable if we are Association Members. I LIKE being held to a higher standard. I just wish it meant as much to some agents as it does to most Realtors I know.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jan 29, 2008
Regarding your follow up question, many brokerage offices insist that a newly licensed agent join the board of Realtors. One of the main reasons to join is that historically the multiple listing service was created by agreements between brokerages to share listing infromation and to pay cooperating brokerages that bring the buyer to the seller. The ethical standards that we swear to abide by go beyond the law and create a market place that is based on fair dealing and honest ethical behaviour. As a new agent grows they realize that their standing in the community, both Realtors and the community at large, is based on their reputation. In that vein the Realtors also give alot back to thier communities in many ways. While we do support lobbyists that work to protect the rights of property owners as well as our market, we give time and money to many good causes. We work to educate or members and in turn our clients of upcoming important issues. We work very hard to support that part of the American dream of homeownship. To be a part of this organization is a just a requirement to some and an honor to others. I am one of the honored and active ones.
Quick story, last year I served on our Affordable Housing committee here in San Francisco. We recommended to our Board of Directors a donation to a non-profit group here in San Francisco, SFEARN that works to help people break the cycle of poverty by building assets through savings accounts that are matched by donations. Our local association of Realtors gave $25,000 to the group to match the savers dollar for dollar.
Web Reference:
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jan 29, 2008
Jed Lane, Real Estate Pro in San Francisco, CA

Thanks for your outstand reply. I must assume, from the quality and professionalism, of your reply that you are a Realtor. I am not sure who gave you the TD, but someone must be mad that you let out a little too much information.

I need to practice my communication skills, so I am going to paraphrase something you said to see if I am correct: Realtors have lobbyist to protect their and their customer’s interests?

I do have another follow up questions: Why would someone want to be a Realtor if they are bound to higher standards? What are the benefits? Do they have access to certain websites, data bases, etc?

Thanks again.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jan 29, 2008

A Realtor is a real estate agent who is a member of the National Association of Realtors.

The Realtor can join the local Realtor Associations and as a member, has access to and can use the local or extended MLS.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jan 29, 2008
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