You may not know this, but all real estate agents are not created equal. Many people use the terms REALTOR® and real estate agent interchangeably, but that is not accurate. In fact, the differences are huge.
A real estate agent is a REALTOR® when he or she is a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, The Voice for Real Estate® -- the world's largest professional association... REALTORS® are pledged to a strict Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.
Think about it this way: all soda is not Coca-Cola, but we in the South (especially in Atlanta) often ask, "Would you like a Coke?", even if we're offering an array of choices, like Sprite or Diet Coke. Similarly, all facial tissue is not Kleenex, but we often say we need a Kleenex, not because we will only use the brand name, but because it's become a universally accepted name for all tissues.
When you, as a consumer, say you need to hire a REALTOR®, do you mean you want to hire a REALTOR® or are you speaking in broader terms? Here are a few reasons you should narrow your search and seek only to hire a REALTOR®, instead of simply a real estate agent:
REALTORS® are pledged to follow a strict Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice. These guiding principles of the industry outline REALTORS®' duties to clients and customers, the public, and other REALTORS®. The Code, which was adopted in 1913, and standards of practice are living documents, updated to change with the times, even incorporating such modern technology as social media uses.
The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) works every day to protect the homeownership and property rights of people just like you. NAR is the largest trade association in North America and lobbies for property rights and other issues related to homeownership. If you like the idea of deducting your mortgage interest from your income tax every year or the fact that you do not have to pay a capital gains tax when you sell your home (current limits are up to $250,000 if you are single and $500,000 if you are married) if you've lived in it for two of the past five years, you can thank NAR. Their influence as a lobbying organization in Washington, D.C., has helped to establish and preserve those protections for you as a property owner.