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Real Estate Agents vs. Realtors: What's the Difference?

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You're looking to buy a home and you've decided that it's time to hire professional help. Whether you're a first-timer or a repeat buyer, the decision whether to go with a real estate agent or a realtor can be pretty confusing. Let's take a closer look at the difference between agents and those known as Realtors .

What is the Difference Between Realtors and Real Estate Agents?

Realtors are members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). To become an NAR member, an individual must pass stringent qualifications — beyond just having a license, which many states award upon passing some version of their state exam—and complete continuing education requirements every two years. The 'R' in NAR stands for 'registrant,' not realtor. The term itself is a legally protected trademark that was originally registered with the U.S. Patent Office back in 1950.

The terms "real estate agent" and "realtor" are interchangeable, meaning they refer to the same type of professional. Why then do Realtors insist on using their special designation? Perhaps because it's part of an association which prides itself on professionalism, ethics, continuous education and commitment to the highest standards within the profession . Being called a "non-member" can sting (especially if you're proud about your career choice), but it really doesn't make any difference who you are, just as long as you have your license .

This article is certainly not meant to take anything away from the talents, qualifications and professionalism of real estate agents. After all, they are licensed professionals who can legally represent you in all types of real estate transactions, including buying, selling, renting, leasing or property management services. Real estate agents can also practice in many countries outside the United States.

Unlike Realtors, Real Estate Agents are not required to adhere to a Code of Ethics as established by NAR. Such a code limits opportunities for conflicts of interest and protects the rights of all parties involved in a real estate transaction. It doesn't mean that an agent can't or won't bend the rules – it just means that Realtor has agreed ahead of time to adhere to a certain level of service and professionalism.

Realtors and Real Estate Agents: Getting the Job Done

So what's the difference between agents and Realtors? Not much. But when it comes to choosing conveyancing Brisbane and working with an agent, you can at least take comfort in knowing that he or she is more likely than not adhering to some professional guidelines, such as an association's code of ethics.

There are other differences too, but they're few — for example, Realtors typically belong to their local boards of Realtors (and pay dues), whereas real estate agents don't need to be affiliated with a multiple listing service (MLS) and may or may not use onean MLS -(a database that agents use to share information about available properties). However, there are some agents who belong to MLS even though they are not Realtors.


The terms real estate agent and Realtor are interchangeable. However, Realtors typically have a higher level of professional standards, ethics and accountability to go along with their designation. There may be other differences (e.g., belonging to a local board of Realtors), but it's not required.