The terms real estate agent and REALTOR® are not interchangeable. Understanding the differences can really help you find the best professional to assist you in the buying or selling of your property.
Real Estate Agent
Anyone who earns a real estate license can be called a real estate agent, whether that license is as a sales professional, an associate broker or a broker. State requirements vary, but in all states you must take a minimum number of classes and pass a test to earn your license.
Only real estate agents who are members of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® are properly called REALTORS®. REALTORS® are committed to treat all parties to a transaction honestly and they subscribe to a strict code of ethics. REALTORS® are expected to maintain a higher level of knowledge of the process of buying and selling real estate.
A person who has taken education beyond the agent level as required by state laws and has passed a broker’s license exam. Brokers can work alone or they can hire agents to work for them. Brokers can be REALTORS®.
Someone who has taken additional education classes and earned a broker’s license but chooses to work under the management of a broker. Associate Brokers can be REALTORS®.
The Code of Ethics is what truly sets a REALTOR® apart from a traditional real estate agent. While a real estate agent is licensed and must follow the same legal guidelines set by the state, REALTORS® are under the provisions of the 17 articles of Code of Ethics. These are often much stricter than state level laws, providing home buyers and sellers with additional reassurances that their best interests are being protected. These Code of Ethics are governed by the local REALTOR® boards.