What’s the Difference Between a Real Estate Agent and a Realtor?

Have you ever wondered how real estate agents are different from REALTORS®? The words are often used interchangeably so it can be a little confusing. Let’s dive in to clarify the terminology and learn about the benefits of being a REALTOR®

Who Can Use the Term REALTOR®? 

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) has been around since 1908. The association registered the terms REALTORS® and REALTOR® in 1949 and 1950, respectively. When you see REALTOR® on a business card or advertisement, it represents a real estate agent who is a member of the NAR. 

In California, to become a real estate agent, you must: 

  • Be at least 18 years of age 
  • Live in the state 
  • Pass a certified training course 
  • Pass the state Real Estate Salesperson License exam 
  • Join a brokerage 
  • Participate in continuing education 
  • Renew your real estate license every four years 

To become a REALTOR®, you have to complete all the above steps to become a licensed real estate agent, but there are a few things you need to add to your list:  

  • Be an active member of the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). 
  • Pass an exam on the 17-article NAR code of ethics 
  • Abide by the code of ethics 
  • Renew NAR membership every four years 

REALTORS® can also be licensed brokers or broker associates. One thing to note, is when the NAR uses the term REALTOR®, not only is it fully capitalized, but it carries the trademark symbol. You can only use these terms, on advertising and marketing materials, if you are an active NAR member. 

There are Perks When You Join the NAR 

The NAR claim to fame is being America’s largest trade association. Over 1.4 million of the country’s two million real estate professionals are members, in 1400 local chapters across the country. The group provides up-to-date research and statistics, content resources, professional development, and marketing insights for both residential and commercial real estate professionals.  

Advantages for Real Estate Agents 

  • The ability to load listings on multiple listing services without paying additional dues 
  • Political advocacy for the industry, at the state and federal levels 
  • Print, online, radio, and television advertising campaigns for REALTORS® 
  • Professional designation training including SRES® (Senior Real Estate Specialist) and ABR®  (Accredited Buyer Representative), to provide REALTORS® with a competitive advantage 
  • A robust member benefits program that includes discounts on personal and business products and services such as insurance, electronics, office supplies, and marketing resources 
  • A professional magazine 

Advantages for Consumers 

  • Designations that provide REALTORS® with current, relevant education 
  • A strict code of ethics to protect buyers and sellers and serve their interests 
  • REALTORS® with the highest levels of professionalism  
  • REALTOR® directories 
  • Public access to the comprehensive multiple listing service, realtor.com 
  • A voice for the public, in all levels of government, regarding tax and property issues 

Hopefully, you’re a little more clear now, on the difference between a real estate agent and a REALTOR®. You’ll still see real estate agents referred to as realtors, even if they are not NAR members, but now you know why we sometimes see the word capitalized with a trademark symbol. 

Ready to Become a Real Estate Agent? 

You can have a successful real estate career with or without membership in the NAR. The choice is yours. If you’d like to know more about careers in real estate, sign up for a free, virtual Career Day session where you can ask all your burning questions and get answers from an active, licensed professional. Or Be Our Guest, and try out one of our online classes. 

When you’re ready to enroll, choose the learning style that suits you best. With Group Study, you can participate in virtual or in-person classes. If you prefer self-paced, independent learning, choose the Fast-Track instead. Both streams are well-suited for people who are working while they study. 

We’ve also got 1:1 Tutoring Packages or Prep Practice web class to help you succeed on the California State Exam. 

Contact us today, for more information, (858) 304-2700.