As a prerequisite to selling real estate, a person must be licensed by the state in which they work, either as an agent/salesperson or as a broker. Before a license is issued, minimum standards for education, examinations and experience, which are determined on a state by state basis, must be met. After receiving a real estate license, most agents go on to join their local board or association of REALTORS and the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS, the world’s largest professional trade association. They can then call themselves REALTORS.
The term “REALTOR” is a registered collective membership mark that identifies a real estate professional who is a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS and subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics (which in many cases goes beyond state law). In most areas, it is the REALTOR® who shares information on the homes they are marketing, through a Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Working with a REALTOR who belongs to a MLS will give you access to the greatest number of homes.
Using an Agent and the Obligations that Are Owed to You
An agent is bound by certain legal obligations. Traditionally, these common-law obligations are to:
- Put the client’s interests above anyone else’s
- Keep the client’s information confidential
- Obey the client’s lawful instructions
- Report to the client anything that would be useful
- Account to the client for any money involved
NOTE: A REALTOR® is held to an even higher standard of conduct under the NAR’s Code of Ethics. In recent years, state laws have been passed setting up various duties for different types of agents. As you start working with a REALTOR®, ask for a clear explanation of your state’s current regulations, so that you will know where you stand on these important matters.