Realtor vs. Real Estate Agent: What's The Difference?

Ah, real estate and its … Realtors®? Real estate agents? Salespeople? It’s no surprise that people use all those terms – and more – interchangeably. They all sound relatively the same and all share an industry, so they’re all the same, right? Wrong, surprisingly.

Not every real estate agent is a Realtor® and although both are licensed to sell real estate, the main difference between a real estate agent and a Realtor® is that a Realtor® is a member of the National Association of Realtors®.

While real estate is regulated by state governments which may have different requirements for earning a license, generally speaking, the titles you may hear include:

  • Real estate agent: A real estate agent has earned a real estate license, either as a sales professional, an associate broker or a broker, by taking a minimum number of classes and passing a test.
  • Realtor®: A Realtor® is a real estate agent who is a member of the National Association of REALTORS®, and must uphold the standards of the association and its code of ethics.
  • Real estate broker: A broker has sought state-required education beyond the agent level and has passed a broker’s license exam. Brokers can work alone or hire agents to work with them.
  • Real estate salesperson: Another title for a real estate agent.
  • Real estate associate broker: A licensed broker that chooses to work under the management of another broker.

Ultimately, the biggest differentiating factor between agents and REALTORS® is the Code of Ethics. There are 17 Articles in the Code of Ethics. Strictly enforced by local real estate boards, the 17 Articles of the Code of Ethics outlines Standards of Practice that are much more restrictive than state guidelines governing agents who simply hold a real estate license.

Abbreviated, the 17 Articles are as follows:

  1. Realtors® pledge themselves to protect and promote the interests of their client.
  2. Realtors® shall avoid exaggeration, misrepresentation, or concealment of pertinent facts relating to the property or the transaction.
  3. Realtors® shall cooperate with other brokers except when cooperation is not in the client’s best interest.
  4. Realtors® shall not acquire an interest in or buy or present offers from themselves, any member of their immediate families, their firms or any member thereof, or any entities in which they have any ownership interest, any real property without making their true position known to the owner or the owner’s agent or broker.
  5. Realtors® shall not undertake to provide professional services concerning a property or its value where they have a present or contemplated interest unless such interest is specifically disclosed to all affected parties.
  6. Realtors® shall not accept any commission, rebate, or profit on expenditures made for their client, without the client’s knowledge and consent.
  7. Realtors® shall not accept compensation from more than one party, even if permitted by law, without disclosure to all parties and the informed consent of the Realtor®’s client or clients.
  8. Realtors® shall keep in a special account in an appropriate financial institution, separated from their own funds, monies in trust for other persons, such as escrows, trust funds, clients’ monies, and other like items.
  9. Realtors® shall assure that all agreements related to real estate transactions are in writing in clear and understandable language expressing the specific terms, conditions, obligations and commitments of the parties.
  10. Realtors® shall not deny equal professional services to any person for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
  11. Realtors® shall conform to the standards of practice and competence which are reasonably expected in the specific real estate disciplines in which they engage.
  12. Realtors® shall be honest and truthful in their real estate communications and shall present a true picture in their advertising, marketing, and other representations.
  13. Realtors® shall not engage in activities that constitute the unauthorized practice of law and shall recommend that legal counsel be obtained when the interest of any party to the transaction requires it.
  14. Realtors® shall present all pertinent facts before the proper tribunals if charged with unethical practice and shall take no action to disrupt or obstruct such processes.
  15. Realtors® shall not knowingly or recklessly make false or misleading statements about other real estate professionals, their businesses, or their business practices.
  16. Realtors® shall not engage in any practice or take any action inconsistent with exclusive representation or exclusive brokerage relationship agreements that other Realtors® have with clients.
  17. Realtors® shall mediate disputes if the Board requires mediation and if the dispute is not resolved through mediation, or if mediation is not required, Realtors® shall submit the dispute to arbitration in accordance with the policies of the Board rather than litigate the matter.

And while Realtors® have pledged to adhere to a very strict code of ethics in an effort to better serve their clients and their clients’ interests, real estate agents are held to the same legal standards, too.

In the end, what matters most is that those being represented – either by agents or Realtors® – are being represented with their best interests at heart. So whether you’re looking to sell or buy your next home, let one of our experienced real estate agents represent you and your best interests today.

Because at Debbie Richards Group, ‘We’re More Than Realty; We’re Family.’