Hot tub does not equal Jacuzzi®. Cowboy does not equal Stetson®. Tissue does not equal Kleenex®. Slow cooker does not equal Crockpot®. Lip balm does not equal Chapstick®. Reusable container does not equal Tupperware®. The first item in all of these statements as compared to the second branded item is not only a generic name, but most often it represents the difference between poor to average quality, and superior and proven quality.
Then there is this: Real Estate Agent/Licensee does not Equal REALTOR®. The same theory applies in this analogy. Many people in the public arena do not have any idea that there is a difference between a Realtor® and a Real Estate Agent or Licensee. There are many very important differences, all of which typically seriously impact the Public when entering into a real estate transaction. Whether you are Buying or Selling within the Continental U.S., if you choose to work with a Realtor® (as opposed to a Real Estate Agent or Licensee), the end results and satisfaction levels to your transaction will often have very different outcomes for you, the Consumer.
So, what is the difference between a REALTOR® and a Real Estate Agent/Licensee? There are many significant differences. However, at the top of the list of the most valuable and important differences, are the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) Code of Ethics and Professional Standards.
So, what’s the big deal about these? All Realtors® have voluntarily agreed to abide by this Code of Ethics and Professional Standards based on professionalism and protection of the Public. It is a detailed document that spells out the professional responsibilities of every Realtor®. The NAR is the governing body that all members of the Association must ultimately answer to in any transgressions they have conducted, including harming the Public and their fellow Realtors®. In fact, members are subject to disciplinary action and sanctions if they violate the duties imposed by the Code of Ethics.
Real Estate Agents/Licensees do not subscribe to and are not subject to The Code of Ethics or Professional Standards, as a direct result of choosing to not be a member of the governing association.
Don’t Realtors® ever ‘transgress’ against the public or each other? Indeed they do, whether intentionally or unintentionally. The NAR governing body has set up a method of self-policing, via a formal complaint process, which is then presented to the Ethics and Arbitration committees at the local and state association levels. The complaints are analyzed, and if they prove to have solid merit, formal hearings are conducted in front of a panel of working Realtors®, completely unrelated to the transaction. Depending on the severity of the complaint and the Hearing Panel’s decision, the end results are any combination of both fines and updated classes to the offending party.
As a long standing member of the Colorado Association of Realtors® Professional Standards Committee, I have personally been a part of many ethics hearings over the years, and have seen this process be extremely effective and efficient in policing Realtors®. A very experienced real estate attorney representing one side of an argument in a hearing said he commended the process and, “ “wished that attorney’s had the same outlet for bad behavior (in their industry).”
So what should I look for when searching for when Buying or Selling real estate? Do not hesitate to ask the people you are interviewing if they are a Realtor® and ask that they provide you with The Code of Ethics, including the Standard of Practices. These Standards lay out the very specific conduct we as Realtors® subscribe to and are held to by the NAR. It is the core of what makes the difference between Realtors® and Real Estate Agents/Licensees.
My 22 years as a Realtor® (all here in these Mountain Communities), have included many years of service to the Local, State and National Associations that help keep Realtors® in line with the Code of Ethics. I am so proud to be a part of the Realtor® community, and all that it represents. Particularly, our local Mountain Metro Association of Realtors® membership is dynamic, educated, professional, ethical, and very community oriented.
Don’t forget to ask “Are you a REALTOR®?” in your next real estate transaction!