Realtors vs. Real Estate Agents: Understanding the Difference
When it comes to buying or selling property, the terms “Realtor” and “real estate agent” are often used interchangeably. However, these titles are not synonymous and come with distinct qualifications, responsibilities, and legal implications. This article aims to clarify the differences between Realtors and real estate agents, helping you make an informed decision when choosing a professional to assist with your real estate needs.
Definitions: What’s in a Name?
Real Estate Agent
A real estate agent is a licensed professional who has completed the required coursework and passed a state exam to represent buyers or sellers in real estate transactions. They can work in various capacities, including as a buyer’s agent, seller’s agent, or dual agent representing both parties in a transaction.
A Realtor is a real estate agent who is also a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Membership in NAR requires adherence to a strict Code of Ethics, which goes beyond state laws to ensure fair and ethical business practices.
Licensing and Education
Real Estate Agents
To become a real estate agent, one must complete a certain number of hours of pre-licensing education and pass a state licensing exam. The educational requirements and exam formats vary by state. Once licensed, agents must also complete continuing education courses to maintain their licenses.
In addition to meeting the licensing requirements of a real estate agent, Realtors must also join the NAR and adhere to its Code of Ethics. Some Realtors also pursue additional certifications and designations offered by NAR to specialize in certain areas of real estate.
Code of Ethics
One of the most significant differences between Realtors and real estate agents lies in the Code of Ethics. Realtors are bound by the NAR’s Code of Ethics, which includes 17 Articles and various Standards of Practice. This code is rigorously enforced and requires higher ethical standards than what state laws mandate.
Because Realtors are part of a professional association, they are subject to disciplinary action, including fines and expulsion, for violating the Code of Ethics. Real estate agents, while subject to state laws and regulations, do not have this additional layer of accountability.
Services and Specializations
Both real estate agents and Realtors can specialize in various types of real estate, including residential, commercial, and industrial properties. They can also focus on specific transaction types, such as short sales, foreclosures, or new construction.
Costs and Commissions
Both Realtors and real estate agents earn their income through commissions, which are a percentage of the property’s sale price. The commission structure is generally the same for both, although some Realtors may offer additional services like home staging or professional photography as part of their package.
While all Realtors are real estate agents, not all real estate agents are Realtors. The primary differences lie in the level of training, ethical standards, and accountability. When choosing a professional to assist with your real estate transactions, consider these factors to make an informed decision.
By understanding the differences between Realtors and real estate agents, you can better navigate the complexities of the real estate market, ensuring a smoother and more secure transaction.