The Real Difference between Realtors and Real Estate Agents

There is a little-known yet important difference between Realtors and real estate agents. The similarities of the two positions – both operate in real estate, helping people buy and sell homes and property – make the comparison a bit fuzzy. In the gray, however, we can find a noteworthy distinction.

Female agent
Male agent

Who are real estate agents?

So, what exactly does a real estate agent do? A real estate agent is a licensed professional who assists individuals in buying, selling and renting real estate. All real estate agents are required to be licensed with the state in which they operate. In general, to obtain the license, training of between 30 and 90 hours is necessary, although requirements vary from state to state. After the training, a prospective real estate agent must pass a certification exam on both federal real estate laws and state-specific laws. Many states also require continuing education to renew a real estate license, usually either every or every other year.

However, a real estate agent’s job is much more than just getting a license and renewing it. Agents have a vocational calling to help people in the purchase that (in most cases) is the most important one of their lives or the selling of their home which is an equally big endeavor. Furthermore, everyone rents, buys or sells a home at some point in their lives. This means that everyone is a potential lead, and given the tough competition out there, an agent is first and foremost selling their own brand and persona, on top of their services.

Agents meet with prospective buyers and sellers, listen to their needs and cultivate that relationship. An important value-add portion of what a real estate agent brings to the table is market knowledge: the agent will research comparable properties on the market and help clients get the price exactly right, whether be it a good bargain for buyers, or the most money they can get for sellers. An agent will also list the property and develop marketing plans, as well as coordinate appointments, open houses and showings, all while taking care of completing the paperwork – such as real estate documents, agreements, and records.

What does a realtor do then?

A Realtor is also a real estate professional. Realtors belong to the national association of realtors, to which they pay dues. The NAR is the largest professional association in America with 1.4 million members and has a very rich history. It was founded in Chicago over a century ago and, much alike lawyers and doctors, it enlists in its ranks professionals who make a pledge to serve their customers with the highest ethical standard.

The NAR’s code of ethics is a pledge of performance and service. Realtors pledge to treat all parties involved in the transaction fairly, while having their clients’ best interest at heart. Its mission, as stated on its official website, is to “empower realtors as they preserve, protect and advance the right to real property for all”. They aspire to be a trusted ally and guiding partner to those they serve through the ever-evolving real estate landscape. Clients have come to recognize and expect quality, fairness and reliability of service from Realtors.

Other real estate professionals can also be NAR members, and just as not all real estate agents are Realtors, not all Realtors are real estate agents – although there is significant overlap. Appraisers and brokers can also be members of NAR because of the networking opportunities it entails. Furthermore, realtor associations prove to be strong networks for members to grow their business. Real Estate is a very “human” industry, and associations offer those human connections that make the business go around. NAR also represents Realtors in political advocacy efforts (recently, they have been involved with initiatives regarding affordable housing and fair housing) and consumer outreach.

The comparison

In conclusion, Realtors and real estate agents perform many of the same activities, but an association such as NAR offer tons of opportunities and resources for its members, while holding them to a higher standard. Many real estate agents become Realtors and therefore take a pledge to ensure the highest ethical code in all their dealings.