I suppose there will always be a bit of controversy between the differences of a REALTOR® and that of a licensed real estate salesperson.
A REALTOR®, of course, is a member of the National Association of REALTORS as well as the State and Local Chapters. For me, it is hard to imagine any professional NOT being a member of their industry national association - whether it be doctors and the AMA, Attorneys and the ABA, or any other professional trade group.
The article below does a good job of talking about our "Code of Ethics"...and perhaps this is the most important reason for the consumer - but as a professional I have a responsibility to my profession; and it is the National Association that is the advocate of the industry I live and love every day.
The showdown: REALTOR® versus real estate agent, you know, the guy with just a real estate license who has not joined the ranks of the ethical elite.
Which person is better equipped to represent buyers and sellers in a real estate transaction, the REALTOR® or the person with just a real estate license?
Consider this, both the REALTOR® and the person with "just a real estate license" have an ethical and legal code of conduct in business according state laws and both still have fiduciary responsibilities to their clients when conducting a real estate transaction. Being a REALTOR® means you have paid a fee to join the National Association of REALTORS®, a national organization that has developed a code of ethics containing 17 Articles of enforceable conduct by the organization. These codes are definitive and give real estate professionals a standard in conducting their own business and gives other agents, sellers, and buyers, an idea on how they can expect to be treated by the REALTOR®. That does not mean that a real estate agent that is not part of the organization does not, should not, and is IS NOT required to adhere to ethical standards, specially since many of of these ethical obligations are also in many state legal guidelines that apply to anyone with a real estate license conducting real estate business.
As a licensed contractor in the real estate industry, we deal with both REALTORS® and non-REALTORS®. We have seen incredibly dishonest and downright unethical acts by BOTH. We also have quite a few Dr. Phil moments listening to REALTORS® complain about other REALTORS®. I am not convinced that if every real estate agent joined the National Association of REALTORS® the problems would go away or diminish in any measurable way. As one REALTOR® told me, "The gloves have come off, and this market is revealing the worst in people."
This market has the opportunity to reveal the best in all agents and real estate professionals (agents, contractors, title, escrow, lenders, etc) . This can be an incredible time for our industry to show we have ethical standards that we actually believe and practice!
Whatever the issue between REALTORS® is, it nearly always falls under the category of ethics; with some of the greatest areas being exagerrating, misrepresenting, and concealing material facts, truth in adverstising, cooperating with the agents, and bad mouthing other agents.
Some past blogs on the following subjects involving conversations with REALTORS®:
With that said, I am a supporter of the National Association of REALTORS®. There should be a great sense of proud in joining an organization that represents the highest standards of ethics in an industry. BUT, being a REALTOR® does not automatically give an agent ethics or standards in the way they conduct business, and agents that are not REALTORS® does not disqualify them from having high ethical standards. Greed, selfishness, fear, pride, ego, and jealousy can all pollute the heart of REALTORS® and non-REALTORS® alike and influence day to day activities and decisions, including business. It really is a matter of the heart. A REALTOR® and "that person with just a license" are on a level playing field when this is considered. In fact, as a REALTOR®, if you don't hold true to the values of being a REALTOR®, maybe you are really "just the person with real estate license?"
When you became a REALTOR®, it should not have been about joining an organization out of pressure or because everyone else was doing it, but about joining because of principles, principles that you agree to and would conduct your business by whether you were a REALTOR® or the guy with just a real estate license.
To all REALTORS®, maybe it's time to renew your vows based on the 17 Code of Ethics for REALTORS® Go ahead, say them aloud, use them in developing your mission statement, your business plan... and keep them in your heart :)
#1) I shall put the interests of buyers and sellers ahead of my own and to treat all parties honestly.
#2) I shall refrain from exaggerating, misrepresenting or concealing material facts; and is obligated to investigate and disclose when situations reasonably warrant.
#3) I shall cooperate with other brokers / agents when it is in the best interests of the client to do so.
#4) I shall disclose if I represent family members who own or are about to buy real estate, or if I myself am a principal in a real estate transaction, and that I am licensed to sell real estate.
#5) I shall not provide professional services in a transction where I have a present or contemplated interest without disclosing that interest.
#6) I shall not collect any commissions without the seller's knowledge nor accept fees from a third-party without the seller's express consent.
#7) I shall refuse fees from more than one party without all parties' informed consent.
#8) I shall not co-mingle client funds with their own.
#9) I shall attempt to ensure that all written documents are easy to understand and will give everybody a copy of what they sign.
#10) I shall not discriminate in any fashion for any reason on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.
#11) I shall expect to be competent, to conform to standards of practice and refuse to provide services for which I am unqualified.
#12) I shall engage in truth in advertising.
#13) I shall not practice law unless I am a lawyer.
#14) I shall cooperate if charges are brought against me and present all evidence requested.
#15) I shall not bad mouth competition and agree not to file unfounded ethics complaints.
#16) I shall not solicit another REALTOR'S client nor interfere in a contractual relationship.
#17) I shall submit to arbitration to settle matters and not seek legal remedies in the judicial system.
By the way: I think any one of these 17 items are great blogging material and ideas for our Active Rain community. Would love to hear stories and real life examples that illustrate the importance of why these are considered ethical standards; the good, bad, and ugly consequences of following and not following them in your real estate business.