What’s the difference between real estate agent and Realtor?

Lately with the real estate market being so hectic with inventory down and interest rates up clients — both buyers and sellers — have asked me what is the difference between a Realtor and someone else who also has a real estate license but they are just a real estate agent.

It is actually a very good question that I haven’t been asked in a long time. In reality there is a huge difference between the two. You may have heard the terms used interchangeably, and perhaps you have wondered is there really a difference? The biggest difference comes down to certification, training, professional standards and being a member of the National Association of Realtors.

Simply put, while the duties of each are very similar, Realtors are held to a different set of standards established by NAR.

As a member of NAR, a Realtor must subscribe to and abide by the standards of the association and its code of ethics. They are held to a higher standard than a real estate agent. The code of ethics revolves around “treating all parties honestly,” and is revised yearly to reflect current laws and practices. Unlike a real estate agent, a Realtor collaborates alongside local Realtor associations.

So all Realtors are real estate agents, but not all real estate agents are Realtors. In other words, asking for a “Realtor” when you mean a “real estate agent” is a lot like asking for a “Kleenex” when you really mean a “tissue.” Quality matters. There. Now you can take this fun fact and correct people who use it wrong at dinner parties.

What is a real estate agent?

Real estate agents have to take required classes and pass a state exam that shows they know their stuff when it comes to housing laws, purchases and sales. Then they have to keep their license up to date by taking more classes and renewing it every couple of years.

What is a Realtor?

Before someone can become a Realtor, they have to become a licensed real estate agent. They go through the same classes and take the same exams. And, of course, they have to stay up to snuff on their licensing and education — just like any other agent.

They also have to meet some extra requirements to become a Realtor, such as:

■ Have a valid, active real estate license.

■ Actively work in the real estate business.

■ Don’t have a record of official sanctions for unprofessional conduct.

■ Don’t have a recent or pending bankruptcy.

■ Adhere to the code of ethics established by NAR.

Real estate agents who meet those requirements can join their local chapter of the NAR. Becoming an NAR member is what makes them a Realtor.

What is the code of ethics?

There are a lot of rules in the code of ethics, but the gist is that Realtors will treat their clients and other agents fairly and honestly. And everyone has to pass a test to make sure they know the code of ethics inside and out.

The code of ethics is a big reason why Realtors have such a good reputation. It’s like a signal to potential clients that says, “Hey! We care about doing the right thing over here. We’ll look out for you!”

Some people might prefer to work with a Realtor instead of a real estate agent because they know they’re being held to a certain moral standard.

Tim Kelly Kiernan is the broker and branch manager of Realty ONE Group Summerlin.

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