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What is the Difference Between a Real Estate Agent and a Realtor?

This a common question when investigating Santa Monica Real Estate…and I’ve been asked this many times over the years.

Basically all Realtors are real estate agents, but not all real estate agents are Realtors.  Even though people use the two terms interchangeably, there actually is a difference.

The fundamental difference is that although both are licensed to sell real estate, a Realtor is a member of the National Association of Realtors.  And when you belong to this association, you must subscribe to the Realtor Code of Ethics…a set of rules that govern real estate business practices with the consumer in mind.

The Code is really large, but the folks over at About.com did a nice job of encapsulating it…here are some highlights:

#1) Pledge to put the interests of buyers and sellers ahead of their own and to treat all parties honestly and fairly.

#2) Shall refrain from exaggerating, misrepresenting or concealing material facts; and is obligated to investigate and disclose when situations reasonably warrant.

#3) Shall cooperate with other brokers / agents when it is in the best interests of the client to do so.

#4) Have a duty to disclose if they represent family members who own or are about to buy real estate, or if they themselves are a principal in a real estate transaction, that they are licensed to sell real estate.

#5) Shall not provide professional services in a transaction where the agent has a present or contemplated interest without disclosing that interest.

#6) Shall not collect any commissions without the seller's knowledge nor accept fees from a third-party without the seller's express consent.

#7) Shall refuse fees from more than one party without all parties' informed consent.

#8) Shall not co-mingle client funds with their own.

#9) Shall attempt to ensure that all written documents are easy to understand and will give everybody a copy of what they sign.

#10) Shall not discriminate in any fashion for any reason on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.

#11) Expects agents to be competent, to conform to standards of practice and to refuse to provide services for which they are unqualified.

#12) Must engage in truth in advertising.

#13) Shall not practice law unless they are a lawyer.

#14) Shall cooperate if charges are brought against them and present all evidence requested.

#15) Agree not to bad mouth competition and agree not to file unfounded ethics complaints.

#16) Shall not solicit another REALTOR'S client nor interfere in a contractual relationship.

#17) Shall submit to arbitration to settle matters and not seek legal remedies in the judicial system.

The Code of Ethics is strictly enforced…Realtors who break the code can be fined, and worse.  While there is no evidence nor guarantee that all Realtors are morally and ethically better than unaffiliated Santa Monica real estate agents, it is a serious attempt by the industry to regulate itself and help home buyers and sellers. 

And since I myself am a Realtor and uphold the code, I know from experience that it is something I’m always mindful of whenever I’m in the middle of a transaction or helping a client. 

Thanks for reading and if you find yourself needing a Santa Monica Realtor, look no further than REALESTATE-SANTAMONICA.COM.  We’re happy to help. 


 


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