The vast majority of the public use those terms interchangably. The public doesn't realize there is a difference between the two and those that do recognize a difference don't understand what it is. It's been a huge gap in NARs marketing to not promote this difference.
The biggest difference between a REALTOR and just a real estate agent is the NAR Code of Ethics. It's akin to "the force" that binds us together and makes us inherently better than the random guy out selling homes. Does this mean that all agents who are not REALTORS are bad people? No. It simply means that REALTORS are bound by a higher degree of ethical behavior. Those ethics are a major part of what ensures ethical conduct at the negotiating table, dealing with lenders, and treating everyone in the transaction with the respect, courtesy, and honor they deserve.
Why does a code of ethics make REALTORS better? Simply put, it governs how we conduct business. Some examples include:
- cooperating with other brokers and not use a listing simply to capture buyers and "double-end" the sale
- accurately representing offers to sellers and not excluding any of them
- not misleading the seller as to the true value of a home so as to "buy" the listing
- disclosing all the facts they know about a property to both buyers and sellers
- and many more...
The growth of the foreclosure and short sale markets has made the real estate industry a sort of "Wild West" where agents, who don't abide by the Code of Ethics, conduct business to their own advantage or at the expense of their clients. The lack of ethics casts a shadow over the industry and the public assumes a lack of professionalism across the board. A REALTOR holds ethical conduct in the highest regard. The can and will treat everyone in a transaction accordingly.
To see the details, take a look at the National Association of REALTORS website with the latest version Code of Ethics.
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Bryan Robertson, CEO | T: 650.799.9951 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Website: http://www.BryanRobertsonHomes.com |CA BRE# 01191946 | Catarra Real Estate, Inc | 171 Main St #220 | Los Altos, CA 94022