Although it's a distinction few consumers make, there is a tremendous difference between a real estate agent and a REALTOR®.
A REALTOR® may be a real estate agent, but a real estate agent (or broker) is not necessarily a REALTOR®. REALTORS® are real estate professionals who belong to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), subscribe to the REALTORS®' Code of Ethics, and agree to abide by the ethical business practices and consumer protection standards set forth by this self-governing arm of the real estate industry.
In practice, REALTORS® are often business owners operating a real estate agency with which a number of real estate agents may be associated. Association with a REALTOR® provides real estate agents and brokers with valuable industry resources that are the sole purview of REALTORS®, such as multiple listing services and access to continuing education programs. Doing business with a REALTOR® as opposed to a non-affiliated agent provides home buyers and home sellers with assurance that they will be treated fairly and professionally in accordance with the highest standards in the real estate industry.
The REALTORS®' Code of Ethics contains 17 Articles and a number of underlying Standards of Practice that set out ethical behavior and business practices both between real estate agents and between agents and consumers. Considerably more restrictive than the state regulations that govern the issuance of realty licenses, the Code of Ethics provides consumers with an additional layer of protection against substandard practices, misrepresentation and fraud.
For buyers and sellers, important points in the Code of Ethics include:
- REALTORS® will put the interests of buyers and sellers ahead of their own and treat all parties honestly.
- They will refrain from exaggerating, misrepresenting or concealing material facts and will investigate and disclose facts when warranted.
- REALTORS® will cooperate with other agents/brokers when in the client's interest and will not provide representation when a conflict of interest exists.
- REALTORS® will not collect commissions or fees without seller's knowledge and consent and will not co-mingle client funds with their own.
- REALTORS® will ensure that written documents are understandable and distributed to all parties.
- They will not discriminate for any reason on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin.