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Realtor vs. Real Estate Agent-what’s the difference?


“Under all is the land. Upon its wise utilization and widely allocated ownership depend the survival and growth of free institutions and of our civilization.” These sentences begin the preamble of the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the National Association of Realtors.

The National Association of Realtors with its 1.2 million members, is comprised of real estate licensees from 54 states and territorial associations. However, all real estate licensees are not necessarily members of the National Association of Realtors and thus subject to the Code of Ethics. This distinction should be very important to you, regardless of the type of transaction you are considering, buying/selling or a residential, land or commercial transaction.

The Code of Ethics is divided into three distinct sections: Duties to Clients and Customers, Duties to the Public and Duties to Realtors. There is a total of 17 articles which support the 3 distinct groups.

When you examine Duties to Clients and Customers, you will first see that “Realtors pledge themselves to protect and promote the interests of their client.” Realtors further pledge to “avoid misrepresentation or concealment of pertinent facts” and “shall cooperate with other brokers except when cooperation is not in the client’s best interest.” There is also strict guidance related to compensation received during and potentially outside of a real estate transaction. As one can imagine, all of these areas have potential for misunderstanding and therefore are addressed in great detail.

The second section involves Duties to the Public and begins with a clear admonishment against discrimination. “Realtors shall not deny equal professional services to any person for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity.” This section address advertising practices as well, directing Realtors to “be honest and truthful in their real estate communications and shall present a true picture in their advertising, marketing and other representations.” The constant evolution of social media has presented many challenges in recent years to this section as new advertising venues seem to be created weekly.

As we examine the final section, Duties to Realtors, there is clear direction that “Realtors shall not knowingly or recklessly make false or misleading statements about other real estate professionals, their businesses, or their business practices.” To put it simply, if you don’t have something nice to say, then it’s best to say nothing at all. From this most basic principal, it continues with clear direction on how Realtors treat their fellow Realtors and the clients of those Realtors.

If you are considering a real estate transaction, you can now see why it’s important to work with a Realtor member of this National Association verses a person who simply holds a real estate license and is not subject this Code of Ethics. If you have read through this brief summary and feel you have experienced a breach in this code, then simply contact us at Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors office for details on how to file a complaint. GCAR services Hamilton and Sequatchie counties in southeast Tennessee, and Catoosa, Dade and Walker counties in northwest Georgia. Go to for more information

The Greater Chattanooga Association of REALTORS is The Voice of Real Estate in Greater Chattanooga. The Association is a regional organization with more than 1,800 members and is one of more than 1,400 local boards and associations of Realtors nationwide that comprise the National Association of Realtors.

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