REALTOR vs Real Estate Agent

Written by


    People often ask me what is the difference between a Realtor and a real estate agent?  Simple answer: a Realtor is a real estate agent, but a real estate agent isn’t necessarily a Realtor.  A Realtor is a member of the National Association of Realtors, is THE largest trade organization in the United States. The Association became the largest trade group in the 1970’s and has over 1.2 million members, 54 State Associations (including Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands) and more than 1400 local Associations..  The NAR was founded with 120 members in 1908 at a convention in Chicago, Il., to ‘unite the real estate men of America for the purpose of effectively exerting a combined influence upon matters affecting real estate interests.’ Soon afterwards (1916) the NAR adopted a Code of Ethics for its members to follow while selling real estate.


          To sell real estate on the behalf of others, you must have a real estate license. That license is issued in each and every state in the Union, and the licensing requirements are different in each state.  Basically, you must go to a real estate school (live or on-line) for a specific amount of hours and learn about national and state real estate laws and practices. Then, after passing a state-issued test and paying fees, the new licensee can sell real estate by affiliating with an already licensed real estate broker.


          Once you receive your license from the state, you are qualified to join the NAR and its local entities. Here in Utah you would join say the Salt Lake Board of Realtors or the Park City Board of Realtors, and also the Utah Association of Realtors simultaneously.  In joining, you pay more fees and promise to abide by the NAR Code of Ethics. The license here is issued by the Utah State Department of Commerce.


          Both the word REALTORS and REALTOR are registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and only Realtors in good standing can use both the word ‘Realtor’ and the recognizable ‘R’ trademark in advertising.  The NAR has vigorously defended the ownership of these words and trademark successfully over the years in courts throughout the country.


          As the word ‘Xerox’ has come to mean ‘copy’, the word ‘Realtor’ has come to mean ‘real estate agent’ to many people.  Yet it is Realtors who openly stand behind a stated Code of Ethics (see and who fight for the property rights of individuals in the U.S.  Realtors lobby Congress and State governments to keep the mortgage deduction on your tax return and also help police the real estate industry by calling out crooks who attempt to scam homeowners into bad mortgages and false loan modifications.


          It’s worth a minute to Google the Realtor Code of Ethics and look for yourself as to what Realtors promise to abide by in their day to day practice. All real estate agents must abide by the laws of their state and the U.S.  Realtors have an extra layer of rules and regulations we must try and follow every day in addition to the law, and are proud to say at the end of the day that we take extra steps to do good by our clients and customers.