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Real Estate Basics: REALTORS® vs. real estate agents?

If you’re looking to buy or sell a home, having an expert on your side is your best bet for a successful transaction. While that’s true for many reasons – some of which we outlined for you previously — not all agents who assist in buying or selling can be called REALTORS®. The terms are often used interchangeably, but the technical distinction between a REALTOR® and real estate agent is important when looking for someone to help guide you through the real estate process.  

Essentially, all REALTORS® are real estate agents, but not all real estate agents are REALTORS®. Confusing, right? 

Real Estate Agents

A real estate agent is anyone who is licensed by a state to be able to help buy or sell property, whether commercial or residential. Each state has different requirements for licensing, though all require an annual license fee along with continuing education requirements for license renewal.

In the state of Alabama, obtaining a real estate license requires 60 hours of pre-license coursework, and applicants have to pass the exam within six months of completing the course. After passing the exam, agents must complete 30 hours of post-license training within the next six months in order to receive a permanent license and remain an active agent, according to the Alabama Real Estate Commission


Of course, REALTORS® must also be licensed in the state or states they conduct business, but the term is actually a trademarked name for members of the National Association of REALTORS®, the country’s largest trade organization since the early 1970s. Most importantly for the public, members of the association agree to abide by the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice. Founded on the Biblical Golden Rule, the Code helps ensure clients receive excellent customer service – above the requirements of state law. “The Code ensures that consumers are served by requiring REALTORS® to cooperate with each other in furthering clients’ best interests,” according to NAR. 

Be sure to ask any agents you are interviewing if they are a REALTOR®. While all agents should be able to assist you in the real estate process, the reputation of a REALTOR® includes an elevated commitment to customer service. 

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  • Buyer & Seller Tips
  • Real Estate Basics
Posted on August 18, 2020