Unless they are involved in some way with the industry, most people don’t realize that there is a difference between a real estate agent and a REALTOR®. Although both are held to the same standards of conduct, a REALTOR® has agreed to certain codes of ethics in the performance of their duties that is not required by a real estate agent. As a member of the National Association of REALTORS®, there are very specific rules which must be adhered to at all times if a REALTOR® wishes to remain a member.
Both home buyers and home sellers should consider this when choosing an agent to assist them. The following is the Code of Ethics that all REALTORS® agree to uphold. It is much more restrictive and inclusive when compared to what is required to obtain and keep a simple real estate license. This is not to say that a real estate agent that is not a REALTOR® is dishonest or less trustworthy, but the REALTOR® organization is making an attempt to regulate and consolidate the real estate industry.
Here are the specific standards that all REALTORS® must abide by:
1) Pledge to put the interests of buyers and sellers ahead of their own and to treat all parties honestly.
2) Shall refrain from exaggerating, misrepresenting or concealing material facts; and is obligated to investigate and disclose when situations reasonably warrant.
3) Shall cooperate with other brokers / agents when it is in the best interests of the client to do so.
4) Have a duty to disclose if they represent family members who own or are about to buy real estate, or if they themselves are a principal in a real estate transaction, that they are licensed to sell real estate.
5) Shall not provide professional services in a transaction where the agent has a present or contemplated interest without disclosing that interest.
6) Shall not collect any commissions without the seller’s knowledge nor accept fees from a third-party without the seller’s express consent.
7) Shall refuse fees from more than one party without all parties’ informed consent.
8) Shall not co-mingle client funds with their own.
9) Shall attempt to ensure that all written documents are easy to understand and will give everybody a copy of what they sign.
10) Shall not discriminate in any fashion for any reason on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.
11) Expects agents to be competent, to conform to standards of practice and to refuse to provide services for which they are unqualified.
12) Must engage in truth in advertising.
13) Shall not practice law unless they are a lawyer.
14) Shall cooperate if charges are brought against them and present all evidence requested.
15) Agree not to bad mouth competition and agree not to file unfounded ethics complaints.
16) Shall not solicit another REALTOR’S client nor interfere in a contractual relationship.
17) Shall submit to arbitration to settle matters and not seek legal remedies in the judicial system.
Understanding these differences can help you make a more informed decision when choosing an agent to help you buy or sell your home.