This article is part of a larger series on How to Become a Real Estate Agent.
Realtors are licensed real estate agents who are members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). These members comply with a strict Code of Ethics while serving both residential and commercial real estate buyers and sellers. Realtors can include salespeople, property managers, appraisers, or counselors, and are located all over the world. To learn what a Realtor is all about, let’s dig into the history, salary, benefits, and responsibilities of being a Realtor versus a real estate agent.
What Does a Realtor Do?
Realtors and real estate agents operate as independent contractors who assist buyers in the purchase of a property. There are many different types of real estate transactions, so this process can look extremely different depending on the type of property, the location, and the real estate market. The majority of Realtors work with residential properties, but there are many commercial real estate agents who work with business owners and investors to find multifamily homes, offices, retail stores, or land.
Realtors do not have set hours, nor do they have day-to-day tasks that remain the same. Within a single real estate transaction, they’re responsible for finding and evaluating new properties, setting appointments, suggesting home improvements, setting a listing price, and writing a contract. They are also in charge of writing a listing description, communicating back and forth with clients and other agents, scheduling appraisals and home inspections, hosting an open house, and helping clients accept or reject an offer.
Being a Realtor means there is also continual work that needs to be done in order to generate new leads, stay in touch with previous clients, and complete administrative tasks to manage the financial side of their business. Real estate is an incredible career opportunity, but it isn’t the right fit for everyone. Agents need to be flexible, self-motivated, social, and hardworking. One of the main reasons why real estate agents fail is a fundamental lack of understanding about the industry and meaning of being a Realtor.
Who Can Become a Realtor
Anyone interested in joining the National Association of Realtors (NAR) must first become a licensed real estate agent. The NAR also requires members to be actively engaged in the real estate business, have no recent or pending bankruptcy, and have no record of official sanctions involving unprofessional conduct.
In addition, agents aren’t the only ones who can become Realtors. The definition of a Realtor includes professional property managers, real estate appraisers, real estate counselors, and other real estate professionals.
How to Become a Realtor
Once you have a license and a sponsoring brokerage, you can find one of NAR’s 1,400-plus local real estate associations. Applying to become a member of the NAR is done exclusively through your local association, so contact them to learn the step-by-step instructions. Find an association near you by viewing the state and local boards.
If you can’t find an association near you, you can fill out the NAR’s online contact form with your name, address, company name, and phone and/or fax numbers to help.
Applicants pay a one-time application fee and wait for the Board of Directors to approve their membership. After that, there’s an annual fee of $150 to maintain membership. Although there are many costs when you become a real estate agent, few of them have the power to positively impact your business like joining the NAR.
The Benefits of Joining NAR to Become a Realtor
As the largest trade association in the U.S., the NAR offers a tremendous number of resources, support, and benefits for its members. For more details about the specific benefits in your area, like professional development courses, local discounts, and charity and volunteer events, contact your local association. Some of the benefits of being a Realtor include:
- Public advertising and campaigns for Realtors
- Support for federal, state, and local policy initiatives
- Resources like Realtor Magazine, designations, and certifications
- International network
- Personalized real estate website and online tools
- Discounts for equipment, insurance, services, and tools
- Further educational and networking opportunities at state and national conventions
- Opportunities to contribute to local and national charities
Another obvious benefit of being a Realtor is being able to advertise it in all of your personal branding and marketing. With this in mind, you can get even more value out of leveraging marketing platforms like Market Leader.
Market Leader is a well-known client relationship manager (CRM) and lead generation platform, but it also includes a variety of marketing automation tools like a customizable website, property landing pages, ready-to-print flyers, social media posts, and monthly newsletters. There is also a complete content library and marketing suite for even more print and digital marketing needs.
Differences Between a Realtor & a Real Estate Agent
When most people ask what is a Realtor, they want to know not only the definition of a Realtor, but also the differences between an agent and a Realtor. Although many people mistakenly use the terms “Realtor” and “real estate agent” interchangeably, this usage is not correct. Although all Realtors are licensed real estate agents, not every real estate agent is a Realtor. An agent cannot legally use the trademarked name Realtor unless they are members of the National Association of Realtors.
If you ask a Realtor what sets them apart from a regular real estate agent, they will most likely reference the higher standards. Licensed real estate agents have to comply with state guidelines, but the NAR’s Code of Ethics is significantly more restrictive and confining to conduct for its members. While Realtors are not necessarily better morally or ethically than real estate agents, they have agreed to follow a set of ethical guidelines aimed at ensuring the integrity of the agent and protecting clients.
The NAR’s code addresses a Realtor’s fiduciary duties to clients and customers, the public, and fellow Realtors. For instance, some expectations include the accurate portrayal of market value to a client, and always being honest about fellow real estate professionals. If Realtors violate the code of standards, they’ll be removed from the association. Real estate agents don’t have the same consequences unless they are convicted of a crime, although all agents and Realtors must follow the Fair Housing laws.
Having and enforcing such strict requirements is one of the ways that Realtors stand out from licensed real estate professionals. In addition, the NAR provides a vast array of benefits, tools, resources, and education to help its members rise to the top of their fields. Both of these factors are what make Realtors naturally stand out from other agents and grow successful real estate businesses.
Realtors who move to a different state can still maintain their NAR membership. You will first need to learn about real estate license reciprocity and portability to get an approved license in your new state. Then, the process of connecting with your new local NAR association is extremely simple as long as you stay up to date on your annual dues.
History of Realtors
In 1908, the National Association of Real Estate Exchanges was founded in Chicago. Its objective was to “unite the real estate men of America for the purpose of effectively exerting a combined influence upon matters affecting real estate interests.” The association grew, and in 1913, it adopted an official Code of Ethics for all members.
Just a few years later, in 1916, Vice President Charles N. Chadbourn wanted a way for members of the Association to distinguish themselves from non-members, so he proposed the use of the term “Realtor.” The association then obtained a copyright and trademark on it in 1949 and 1950, and adopted its current name—the National Association of Realtors, or NAR—in 1974.
Today, the NAR has over 1.5 million members and is the largest real estate association in existence. It includes a large number of institutes, societies, and councils, and serves as a resource and standard for real estate professionals and members all over the country.
Salary of a Realtor
It’s important to note that neither real estate agents nor Realtors earn a traditional salary. Instead, they are paid by commission on the properties that they help clients buy or sell. Realtors who work only part time can make only a few thousand dollars in a year, while others can make six or seven figures in a year. Their income can change depending on their location, niche, or position. For instance, real estate broker salaries are typically higher than agents’.
That said, the average real estate agent salary for all Realtors is $49,700. However, the number changes drastically depending on the agent’s hours and years of experience. In fact, after the first year or two, most agents see their income double or triple. Overall, real estate agents are in charge of their goals and income, and being a Realtor can get them closer to achieving success.
If you’re thinking about becoming a Realtor or investing more time into your real estate career, the best place to start is quality education. Real Estate Express is an online real estate school available in every state, with a wide variety of prelicensing, post-licensing, exam prep, and continuing education courses.
There are also multiple options for every type of course. Whether you want to study independently and pace yourself, participate in live webinars, or get additional study tools like flashcards and books, Real Estate Express has an option that fits your needs. Read our Real Estate Express review to learn how it can help kick off your real estate career.
A Realtor is a licensed real estate professional who is a member of the National Association of Realtors. “Realtor” is proprietary term, so “Realtor” and “real estate agent” are not interchangeable. Those who are Realtors tend to stand out from agents because of their high standards and deep level of support and education. Being a Realtor has many advantages, so if you are an active agent, consider becoming a member.