The Difference Between a REALTOR and a Real Estate Agent

Do you know the biggest thing that differentiates a REALTOR® from a real estate agent? One of the most important things is THIS piece of paper and everything it stands for.

My most recent Ethics class certification.

A real estate agent is just someone that passed a couple of tests – a state law and knowledge test and a national law and knowledge test. It’s really not hard. I passed the tests a long time ago and have to keep my knowledge growing and updated with new technology, laws, conditions, and policies. To keep my real estate license, I must take a minimum of thirty hours of classes every two years. Three hours of those must be about the law and changes thereof.

A real estate agent is not required to be a REALTOR®.

A REALTOR® is a member of the National Association of REALTORS® (the largest trade association in the US) at the very least. I have to also be a member of the Oregon Association of REALTORS® and the Portland Metropolitan Association of REALTORS®. What do those groups do? They are business associations that offer insight and opinions to our local, state, and national governments and keep watch on the real estate business on many levels. They work to promote homeownership and the interests of REALTORS® nationwide. Personally, I call them The REALTOR® Mafia and/or “The Union” (even though it’s not). A member of The National REALTOR Association are called (guess?) REALTORS®. According to NAR, about half of the agents in the US are REALTORS®.

Here in Portland, an agent must be a REALTOR® to access the Regional Multiple Listing Service.

The NAR Code of Ethics was adopted in 1913 and is actually the first of any trade association to require an ethics code for its members. It was originally written to assure customers that their agents are well trained, have spotless reputations, and are held accountable by the organization for infringements. It did, and still does, ensure that REALTORS® best serve their clients by cooperating with each other.

What makes a REALTOR® different is a three-hour class I have to take every three years on Ethics.  It’s mandatory for members of the National Association of REALTORS and I can be kicked out of NAR if I don’t go. In fact, if I don’t attend, I would lose my RMLS access and my real estate key!

It isn’t just an “Ethics” moral code, it’s an enforceable reputation and standard of care for our clients, strict adherence to law and statute, the way we treat each other and the public, and even the manner in which we speak. The enforcement of the Code of Ethics is carried out by the local boards and may involve anything from a nastygram to fines to official censure to being removed from the Association.

A link to both the official Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice that we all agree to abide by.

I won’t post the whole thing here because I trust that my readers are both smart and have the means to click a link. (And it isn’t that exciting, trust me.)

The entire gist of the eight-page, 8pt., double-column document as it applies to clients, buyers, sellers, and other agents can easily be summed up with Wheaton’s Law: Don’t Be A Dick.

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