There is a BIG difference! The term real estate agent is used the same way as the term REALTOR®. BUT they are not the same. Both are licensed to sell real estate, the difference between a real estate agent and a REALTOR® is a REALTOR® is a member of the National Association of REALTORS® and in Texas a member of the Texas Association of Realtors® (TAR) and their local board of REALTORS®.
The biggest differentiation is that a is that a REALTOR® must subscribe to the REALTOR® Code of Ethics. Okay you say , so what? What does that mean to me as a consumer?
The REALTOR® Code of Ethics is strictly enforced. It has 17 Articles and various Standards of Practice. These rules are NOT just for window dressing BUT are much more restrictive and confining as to a REALTORS® professional conduct.
Agents who simply hold a real estate license are NOT bound by these restrictions. We all know that REALTORS® are not morally and ethically better than unaffiliated real estate agents. The REALTOR® code of Ethics is a way for the industry to regulate it’s professionals. That document (click here for the code of ethics) is a way for us REALTORS® to stand apart from the crowd and it deserves mentioning here!
There are 17 articles that a REALTOR® promises to adhere to that a real estate agent does not:
- When representing a buyer, seller, landlord, tenant, or other client as an agent, REALTORS® pledge themselves to protect and promote the interests of their client.
- REALTORS® shall avoid exaggeration, misrepresentation, or concealment of pertinent facts relating to the property or the transaction.
- REALTORS® shall cooperate with other brokers except when cooperation is not in the client’s best interest.
- 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.
- 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.
- REALTORS® shall not accept any commission, rebate, or profit on expenditures made for their client, without the client’s knowledge and consent.
- 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.
- REALTORS® shall keep in a special account in an appropriate financial institution, separated from their own funds, monies coming into their possession in trust for other persons, such as escrows, trust funds, clients’ monies, and other like items.
- REALTORS®, for the protection of all parties, shall assure whenever possible that all agreements related to real estate transactions including, but not limited to, listing and representation agreements, purchase contracts, and leases are in writing in clear and understandable language expressing the specific terms, conditions, obligations and commitments of the parties.
- REALTORS® shall not deny equal professional services to any person for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.
- REALTORS® shall not undertake to provide specialized professional services concerning a type of property or service that is outside their field of competence unless they engage the assistance of one who is competent on such types of property or service, or unless the facts are fully disclosed to the client.
- REALTORS® shall be honest and truthful in their real estate communications and shall present a true picture in their advertising, marketing, and other representations.
- 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.
- If charged with unethical practice or asked to present evidence or to cooperate in any other way, in any professional standards proceeding or investigation, REALTORS® shall place all pertinent facts before the proper tribunals of the Member Board or affiliated institute, society, or council in which membership is held and shall take no action to disrupt or obstruct such processes.
- REALTORS® shall not knowingly or recklessly make false or misleading statements about competitors, their businesses, or their business practices.
- 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.
- In the event of contractual disputes or specific non-contractual disputes as defined in Standard of Practice 17-4 between REALTORS® (principals) associated with different firms, arising out of their relationship as REALTORS®, the REALTORS® shall submit the dispute to arbitration in accordance with the regulations of their Board or Boards rather than litigate the matter.
The National Association of REALTORS® was founded in 1908 and has more than one million members.