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Ask Will: What is a Realtor, Anyway?

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A  column is written by Will Wiard, Arlington-based real estate broker, voted one of Washington’s Best Realtors of 2015 by Washingtonian. Please submit your questions via email.

Q: Is there a difference between a REALTOR® and a real estate agent?

A: Good question. Many people use the terms interchangeably, but there is a difference. While, both a real estate agent and a Realtor® are licensed, a real estate agent is not held to the same level of ethics and standard of practice as a Realtor®. This is primarily because to be called a Realtor®, a real estate professional must be a member of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and agree to uphold the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.

Of course, both agents and Realtors® are required to operate within the law. However, the NAR Code takes things a step further, for example, by requiring a Realtor® “to protect and promote the interests of their client” and “treat all parties honestly,” among many other articles that real estate professionals are not necessarily bound to under the law. You can find more detail in this great resource by NAR.

How does this apply to buyers and sellers? Well, it means that there isn’t necessarily anything binding a non-Realtor® to offer you the same level of representation. Additionally, the NAR and a state-based chapter strictly enforce the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.

In Virginia, in most cases a Realtor® is a member of not only the NAR, but also the Virginia Association of Realtors® and a local association of Realtors®, for example the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors®. With all these checks and balances created by NAR over 100 years for Realtors®, it’s probably a good idea to look for “Realtor®” when you’re searching for representation. And, while you’re at it, you might also want to throw in a question about the Code to test their knowledge, such as:

Q: What does the NAR Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice say about representing both a buyer and a seller in a transaction?

A (for your back pocket): Realtors® shall not accept compensation from more than one party without disclosing to all parties and securing the informed consent of the Realtor®’s client(s).

I’m hoping some readers can share any additional advice they have in comments.

Thank you for this week’s question. Please keep them coming to [email protected]. This is also a great place to reach me for anyone looking to buy or sell a home in the Arlington area.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

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