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The Difference Between Realtors® and Real Estate Agents

I. Realtors® Defined

There is a subtle but significant difference between Realtors® and real estate agents and it’s not just something confusing to students at the West Virginia Real Estate School, Spruce School of Real Estate, it’s everyone. Said simply, just because you hold a WV Real Estate License it doesn’t mean you automatically have earned the title of REALTOR®: while both a real estate agent and a REALTOR® are licensed to list and sell real estate, only Realtors® have pledged to adhere to a Code of Ethics set forth by the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). This doesn’t change the fact that both agents and Realtors® are held to the same legal standards in terms of principles and practice, but it does subject Realtors® to the enforcement of a set of 17 ethical standards that are strictly governed.

In addition, because Realtors® are active members of the NAR, they are trademarked as such, and may only use the trademark according to the rules and guidelines of the organization.

Otherwise, both real estate agents and Realtors® have gone through the process of getting a real estate license (in West Virginia, this means taking a 90-hour class and passing the state exam), and are regulated by the same state laws.

So hopefully this statement is making a little more sense now. Just because you hold a WV Real Estate License you can’t call yourself a REALTOR because after you pass the state exam you have yet to become a member to carry the REALTOR designation.

II. The NAR Headquartered in Chicago, The National Association of Realtors® is the largest professional association for real estate practitioners. Residential and commercial real estate salespeople, brokers, appraisers, property managers, and other real estate professionals make up the NAR’s membership body.

So what does this all mean? This means AFTER you get your WV Real Estate License you actually have to do MORE to become a REALTOR®. To join, members must complete a course and pass the exam testing them on their understanding of the code of ethics. Every four years after this, Realtors® must take a refresher course. Members join their local board, which gives them automatic membership in the NAR. (WV Real Estate License Professionals will join their local chapter of the West Virginia Association of Realtors: http://www.wvrealtors.com).

One of the many benefits of becoming a Realtor® is the opportunity it provides for continuing education and self-development as a real estate practitioner. The NAR hosts conferences and networking events, all of which enhances an agent’s ability to gain advantage in a competitive industry. And simply by having the Realtor® designation, salespeople benefit from the inherent trust it draws from clients.

III. The Code of Ethics The Code of Ethics was adopted in 1913, and is enforced by a panel of NAR leaders who evaluate complaints involving the conduct of their members in order to take disciplinary action, if necessary. The code is made up of 17 articles each Realtor® pledges to uphold, including duties to clients and customers (articles 1-9), duties to the public (articles 10-14), and duties to Realtors® (articles 15-17).

The code is revised yearly, but one thing that remains arguably the most important is a Realtor’s pledge to treat all parties fairly and honestly. Real estate professionals should always abide by their own intrinsic sense of ethical standards, but in practice it is inevitable that there will be gray areas and blurred lines – this is when a professional code of ethics becomes a beacon to both practitioners and clients.

Overall, getting the Realtor® designation is always a smart consideration. Between the opportunities for growth, networking, and self-development as an individual and a professional, it can be a valuable enhancement to your career. See the NAR’s website for more information: http://www.realtor.org

Whether you’re taking classes at Spruce, the West Virginia Real Estate School, or have been practicing real estate for years, this topic has always been muddy. People will always seem to confuse a REALTOR® and a real estate agent are and use the term synonymously when they are actually very different. Hopefully this write up helped a little. Whether you’re looking to get a WV real estate license or a real estate license in any state the REALTOR designation is a national entity and this info can be applied to your own locality.

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