Monday, October 16, 2006

REALTOR vs Real Estate Agent

For many people the terms REALTOR and Real Estate Agent are synonymous. Others, particularly REALTORS, adamantly point out the difference between the two. So, what is the difference between a REALTOR and a Real Estate Agent? Should these differences effect how you choose an agent?

Nine years ago the National Association of REALTORS (NAR) began an advertising campaign trying to persuade consumers of the dramatic difference between a REALTOR and a Real Estate Agent:

Now in its ninth year, the NAR advertising campaign runs February through November on network and cable television and network and satellite radio. This year's commercials help consumers understand the real value of working with REALTORS®. From their voluntary adherence to a Code of Ethics to their incomparable knowledge of real estate processes, REALTORS® are the experts of residential and commercial property transactions.
(NAR, 2006, Para. 6)

The National Association of REALTORS clearly points out that there is a difference between a REALTOR and just a "regular real estate agent." NAR, sites that an adherence to a Code of Ethics and extensive training set REALTORS apart. Yet, on a practical level, I am not so sure this is true.

I am a REALTOR, a member of the National Association of REALTORS and the Tacoma Pierce County Association of REALTORS (TPCAR). I have paid alot of money to be a part of these organizations. (I don't remember the exact amount, but I think it was between $300-$500 per/year). In exchange for my dues, what have I received? Nothing. No ethics training on the REALTOR Code of Ethics, no extra training beyond my state classes, not even a lousy pin with the letter R on it.

So, I put my mind in rewind, trying to remember the requirements I had to meet to become a REALTOR. Was there a test on the Code of Ethics? Nope. Was there a background check seeing if I was a mass-murderer? Nuh-uh. Was there anyone to see if I was competent enough to fill out a Purchase and Sale Agreement? No Again. Just an online form and a credit card number - that's all it took.

So when the National Association of REALTORS runs multi-million dollar campaigns informing the American public to only use a REALTOR, not just a Real Estate Agent, I sit back and laugh. I laugh because I know my dues are going to pay for those ads, not in helping me become a better agent. (In fairness to TPCAR, I have received flyers in my box for classes sponsored by TPCAR, however most, or all of them, I had to pay for.)

On the other hand, there is just measly Real Estate Agents - non-members of NAR. You don't see many of these any more. Why? Most MLS systems require that you be a part of NAR in order to belong. In other words, in order to use a system you need to function as a Real Estate Agent, you have to be a REALTOR. Given a choice between getting denied MLS access and joining NAR, most agents join NAR. Thankfully, some agents and Brokers have filed suit against this practice and won. The NWMLS (Western Washington's MLS) does not require membership in NAR for membership in the NWMLS.

For those Real Estate Agents left, many have gotten a bad rap from the NAR commercials, but is this deserved? Well, I am sure there are scum-bag real estate agents out there, but I am also sure that there are scum-bag REALTORS out there. There are excellent Real Estate Agents out there too though, and they simply don't need the name REALTOR to be an ethical person.


carl said...

Call me I have real issues with NAR and our local board as well.816-824-0645

4 Percent Realtor said...

Hi Carl,

I would be happy to discuss these issues here on the blog - or you can shoot me an email at

Thanks for your comment!

carl said...

What are your thoughts on NAR not allowing Non board members to use the term "Realtor".
Also our local board charges us dues to belong they also charge us dues to belong to NAR, MAR, KAR and in the bylaws it states there not supose to, it's automatic because the association belongs, what's your thoughts on that.

4 Percent Realtor said...

Some have filed suit in order to genericize the term REALTOR. They have lost. Generocide only occurs when somebody fails to protect their trademark, and as we know NAR vehemently defends their mark. As far as the triple fees, I think that is ridiculous. Its been a while since I paid my dues so I am not sure if I had to pay different fees to the various boards. However, I think I only paid once to my local board (TPCAR). I am contemplating not renuing my membership next year since it is not required for MLS service in Western WA. Does your MLS require NAR membership?

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HamptonsRealEstate said...

A realtor and a real estate agent are both in the world of real estate. They are a great help to property buyers and investors.

christopher Pia said...

This is an interesting article. Im not sure how I came across a real estate article, but interesting read.