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Realtor or real estate agent?

“Real estate is an imperishable asset, ever increasing in value,” said US politician and financier Russell Sage. “It is the most solid security that human ingenuity ever devised.”

Home ownership is a goal for much of the US population. Yet for those making their first foray into the housing market, it can be difficult to know where to start. What, for instance, is the difference between a real-estate agent and a realtor? And which should you turn to in your housing search? 

Realtor or real estate agent?Multiple Listings Service (MLS) 

In essence, a real-estate agent is a salesperson licensed by a broker, who has permission to use the MLS. A realtor, on the other hand, has direct access to this service, which is a significant benefit for their clients.

The three key aspects of buying and selling are encompassed within the MLS remit: the valuation of property, the listing of properties for sale and the marketing of houses. 

Ethical responsibility 

A realtor, as a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), is obligated to make certain pledges, unlike a real-estate agent. In consequence, realtors are held to a higher level of ethical accountability. These standards include a duty to preserve confidential information, disclose conflicts of interest and refrain from discriminatory practices. There are 17 articles to adhere to altogether in the Code of Ethics. 

The key differences for consumers 

Real-estate agents and realtors are both legally licensed to sell property. Arguably, however, the ethical code imposed by the NAR regulates the industry and ensures realtors adhere to moral practices. Yet there is no absolute guarantee that a realtor will be more trustworthy than an unaffiliated real-estate agent, who must also pass certain examinations in order to qualify to trade. 

Complaints procedure 

Consumers can file complaints against realtors, and realtors can submit grievances against one another, enhancing the level of accountability in the field. Investigations can lead to a fine or the revocation of membership. Real-estate agents, on the contrary, answer to the laws of the US state they practice in. 

Educational compliancy 

Prospective homebuyers will appreciate that realtors are expected to continue their education in the property market in order to retain membership of the NAR. Courses cover subjects such as consumer protection, and realtors are also invited to attend national and state conventions to expand their knowledge. 

Real-estate agent or realtor? 

There is an almost 50% chance that your real estate agent is also a realtor. Of the 2.5 million real-estate agents registered in the US in March 2016, more than 1.15 million belonged to the NAR. To establish their credentials, ask to see the REALTOR® trademark published on their business card. 

Be aware that you’ll also require a broker to sell your home if you’re using a real-estate agent who doesn’t belong to the NAR. Additionally, keep in mind that buying or selling property without the expert assistance of a professional agent is highly inadvisable.

Covering 4 continents and 36 nations, Engel & Völkers are experts in the intricacies of property markets across the globe. Whether you're searching for a realtor or a real-estate agent, we can be of assistance in offering advice. 

Engel & Völkers

Hartbeespoort Dam
Shop 18A, Village Mall, c/o R511 & Magalies Blvd, Schoemansville
0216 Hartbeespoort Dam
South Africa
+27 (0)12 111 1080

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