Home Owner Tips, Real Estate Industry News

What’s the difference between a Real Estate Agent and a Realtor?

By Michael Yates Last Updated January 8, 2024 3 min read


The terms “real estate agent” and “Realtor” are often used interchangeably. While they both refer to professionals who assist clients in buying and selling properties, there are key differences between the two designations. Understanding these distinctions is crucial for clients seeking the expertise and guidance of a real estate professional. 

In this comprehensive article, we will delve into the realms of real estate agents and Realtors, exploring their qualifications, roles, responsibilities, and ethical standards. By the end, you will understand the unique characteristics that set the two apart and be better equipped to make informed decisions when navigating the real estate realm.

The Role and Qualifications of a Real Estate Agent

A real estate agent is a licensed professional intermediary between buyers and sellers during real estate transactions. Their primary goal is to facilitate successful property transactions while representing the best interests of their clients. To become a real estate agent, individuals must fulfill specific qualifications, which may vary depending on the state they operate in. Typically, these requirements include completing pre-licensing education, passing a state-administered exam, and meeting age and background check criteria. Once licensed, agents can work independently or as part of a real estate brokerage, assisting buyers or sellers throughout the entire process, from property search to negotiations and closing.

Understanding the Realtor Designation

While all Realtors are real estate agents, not every real estate agent is a Realtor. The term “Realtor” is a registered trademark owned by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the largest trade association in the real estate industry. To become a Realtor, an agent must hold a valid real estate license and join the NAR as a member. Membership in the NAR entails adhering to a strict Code of Ethics that outlines professional standards and behavior. This commitment distinguishes Realtors from other agents, ensuring they uphold high ethical standards in their real estate engagements. As Realtor Association members, they gain access to valuable resources, professional development opportunities, and networking connections.

Key Distinctions Between a Realtor and a Real Estate Agent

While both real estate agents and Realtors operate in the same industry and share many similarities, critical distinctions set Realtors apart. One key difference is their commitment to upholding the NAR’s Code of Ethics. This code includes obligations to clients, fellow Realtors, and the general public, emphasizing integrity, honesty, and professionalism. Realtors pledge to prioritize their clients’ interests, exercise reasonable care and due diligence, and provide accurate and honest information. Failure to comply with the Code of Ethics can result in disciplinary action from the association.

Pros and Cons of Working with a Realtor or Real Estate Agent

Choosing between a Realtor and a real estate agent depends on individual circumstances and preferences. Realtors offer the advantage of being members of a prestigious trade association, providing access to vast resources, market insights, and professional communities. Their commitment to the NAR’s Code of Ethics reassures clients of their ethical conduct. On the other hand, real estate agents, while not held to the same NAR membership requirements, can still be highly skilled and knowledgeable professionals. Some clients may prefer the flexibility and personalized approach that may be found when working with agents outside the Realtor association.


In conclusion, understanding the differences between a real estate agent and a Realtor is crucial for clients seeking professional assistance in real estate transactions. While both professionals share a common goal of guiding clients through buying or selling properties, Realtors distinguish themselves through their membership in the NAR and adherence to the association’s Code of Ethics. However, it’s important to note that reputable and knowledgeable agents can also provide excellent service. By considering individual needs, preferences, and circumstances, clients can make informed decisions when selecting the right real estate professional to meet their goals.