It’s common for those unfamiliar with the specifics of real estate terminology to use “Realtor” and “real estate agent” interchangeably. In fact, because of how clunky “real estate agent” can sound in conversation, it’s very common to hear people use “Realtor” almost exclusively. Despite the fact that they share many commonalities, these titles refer to two different things, and it’s important to make the distinction. Here are the key differences between the two terms.
A real estate agent is anyone who holds a real estate license. The license can designate someone as a sales professional, an associate broker, or a broker. While the distinctions between the different kinds of real estate agents varies, they are all licensed to sell real estate.
A Realtor is someone who is an active member of the National Association of Realtors, and “Realtor” is a trademarked term owned by the NAR. While many members of the NAR are in fact real estate agents, members also include property managers, appraisers, real estate counselors, and other real estate professionals.
The key difference between a practicing Realtor and a professional in the same position without being part of the NAR is that all Realtors must ascribe to the NAR Code of Ethics. The Code of Ethics consists of seventeen Articles that include putting the interests of buyers and sellers ahead of the Realtor’s own interests, not practicing law unless they are a lawyer, and engaging in truth in advertising.
That’s not to say that real estate professionals outside the NAR don’t follow the same guidelines, or that they aren’t held to the same legal standards. Most real estate professionals you encounter will operate in much the same way, but only Realtors have this additional code that is officially documented and enforced by local real estate boards. This is an attempt by the real estate industry to self-regulate.
When talking about real estate professionals, the terminology you use does in fact matter. “Realtor” comes with its own set of additional guidelines and requirements that “real estate agent” does not, and many real estate professionals fall into one category but not the other, or neither at all. Choosing the correct term when speaking to or about real estate professionals will avoid confusion among all parties.
If you are looking for professional assistance with selling your Seattle area home I highly recommend selecting a broker that is a member of the Realtors association and not just a licensed real estate agent.
Managing Broker | Realtor
Seattle / King Country Association of Realtors
Washington Association of Realtors
National Association of Realtors