Some people think that all real estate agents are Realtors. What makes a Realtor different than a real estate agent?

A career in real estate is complicated enough, and many brokerages require their agents to become Realtors, but it’s not legally required. So, your Realtor is a real estate agent or an affiliated professional who is also a member of the National Association of Realtors, or the NAR for short. Realtors are located all across the world, and if you ask them what sets them apart from a regular real estate agent, they’ll point out being held to a higher standard.

That higher standard is called the Realtor Code of Ethics. If you can believe, real estate agents were considered peddlers way back in the early 1900s. When they agree to become a Realtor, they must agree to conduct their business in a way that adheres to the NAR Code of Ethics, which covers ethical requirements that deal with all aspects of the job from working with consumers and fellow agents to creating truthful advertising.

Multiple listing services (or MLS) are groups of local agents who have banded together in order to share listings more effectively. Most of these groups are affiliated with their state and national Realtor associations, and typically require all MLS agents to become members of both those groups. Agents pay dues to their state and to local Realtor organizations, and they may also pay fees to maintain their membership with local MLSs. Realtors can also be held accountable for their actions; you can file a complaint against another Realtor, and the organization accepts complaints from consumers, as well. Complaints can affect membership status, and at times, fines can be levied against members who have been involved in wrongdoings.

“Realtors are held to a higher standard and a code of ethics.”

Licenses in the U.S. are granted by each state and only the state can revoke it. Complaints are first assessed by a grievance committee, which is made up of volunteers. The group doesn’t establish whether the complaint is valid or true, but rather determines if the facts as stated are true and whether there could be a violation or the Code of Ethics. If the answer is yes, a hearing date is established. A complaint is generally based on a possible violation of an article of the Code of Ethics. During the hearing, the Realtor can obtain legal counsel and will get an opportunity to present their side. The verdict is final and if the Realtor is found guilty, the punishment can include temporary or permanent revocation of benefits or could include a monetary fine.

Now, Realtors also have to continue their education—all licensed agents are required to take continuing education courses approved by their state licensing board, and to retain membership in the NAR, Realtors must take additional continuing education classes, which are often focused on ethical work habits and other consumer protection topics. Realtors must complete an ethics course every two years.

If you have any other questions about what sets Realtors apart from regular real estate agents, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We’d be glad to help!