Realtor vs. Real Estate Agent: Differences & Similarities

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Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a real estate agent and a realtor? Many who are looking into utilizing the services of these professionals are unaware that there are some major differences, as well as similarities, between the two titles. To boil it down simply, it can be put this way: all realtors are real estate agents, but not all real estate agents are realtors, as becoming a realtor requires some extra steps on top of the normal real estate qualifications. 

For example, if you are a San Pedro real estate agent, you are licensed to sell properties in California, specializing in the Los Angeles area. However, if you want to be called a San Pedro realtor, you’ll have to undergo several steps that are laid out by the NAR, or the National Association of Realtors. In this article, we’ll look at those qualifications and how both real estate agents and realtors serve to enhance your experience as a home buyer or seller.  

Real Estate Agent Roles

Both real estate agents and realtors serve an important function in society. Both require intensive licensing and qualification by the state, and not just anyone can call themselves a real estate agent. Providing the ability to fairly and equitably transfer properties from one owner to the next in a way that everyone is satisfied with is a critical job, and many functions in society would collapse without them.

Becoming a real estate agent requires careful study and practice, and you must perform well on several tests administered by the state to accurately call yourself a real estate agent. Completing these tasks is the first step towards becoming a realtor, as the NAR will reject any application where these first steps haven’t been completed.

Essentially, to become a realtor, you must first become a real estate agent. However, let’s take a look at the further requirements laid out by the NAR to become a fully-fledged realtor. 

Realtor Requirements

NAR makes a distinction between “principles” and “non-principles”, with the average person falling into the non-principal category. To be a principal, you must be one of the above:

  • Board member of a real estate firm
  • Owner of a real estate firm
  • Partner of a real estate firm

If you fall into one of the above categories, you will likely have an easier time applying to the NAR, although your application will still be subject to their discretion on approval or non-approval. However, for the average person who is not an owner, partner, or board member of a real estate agency or firm, the following steps must be completed:

  1. You must: hold a valid real estate license in your state or a state that shares a border with the state where the NAR group is located.
  2. You must: be employed or affiliated with a NAR licensed realtor.
  3. You must: have a clean record free from civil judgments within the last seven years involving real estate, civil rights laws, or other undesirable conduct.
  4. You must: be clear of any criminal convictions from the last seven years relating to real estate procedures.
  5. You must: submit a written application to the NAR.
  6. You must: provide any applicable information on ethics or conduct violations you are aware of.
  7. You must: agree to follow the NAR Code of Ethics, as well as any other applicable laws in your jurisdiction.
  8. You must: complete the NAR orientation course.
  9. You must: submit an application that is “acknowledged” by a NAR principal member.

Real Estate Ethics

Within this list, the Code of Ethics is one of the main points that is emphasized. In large part, it can be summed up this way: Realtors are strictly bound to disclose all information that is relevant to the sale, even if it could hurt their chances of making a sale or commission.  

However, this does not mean that real estate agents don’t follow this rule as well. All real estate agents are similarly bound by state and local regulations to also disclose any information that they know about properties. When it comes to the average person choosing between a real estate agent and a realtor, you won’t notice much of a difference.

The main things that realtors have access to are a stronger advertising network, more connections within the NAR that can enhance their career, and occasional discounts and perks from various companies. While these can be extremely helpful for building a career in real estate, as everyone knows the importance of networking, if you are simply looking to buy or sell a home it won’t make a huge difference either way.  

Mainly, you should focus on your connection to the real estate agent or realtor, and try to find someone that you can relate to. Make sure that they specialize in your area and are local, as local real estate agents are always better suited for the job. Schedule a consultation with a real estate agent or realtor today, and get the process started!

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