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While you may think the terms “real estate agent” and “realtor” can be used interchangeably, that is just not the case. In fact, there are several differences between the two. Today, we’re shedding some light on a few of those determining factors – along with some similarities, too.

First and foremost, they’re both legit. Both real estate agents and realtors have taken the necessary courses and passed the required licensure exam to help buyers and sellers complete their real estate transactions. That may be their biggest similarity. Their biggest difference is pretty simple too… Realtors belong to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), while real estate agents do not. What does that mean?

Realtors practice real estate under the NAR code of ethics. Basically, they agree to work with other real estate professionals to ensure that their clients’ best interests are met. What does that mean to a buyer and seller? Well, obviously, it means their realtor pledges to do their best to help their client buy or sell a home. What it does not mean for those clients is that their realtor will do this unethically. Realtors also pledge to treat all parties in a transaction with honesty.

What are the consequences for violating the NAR code? That is pretty simple too. Realtors who are found to have acted in a way that is not in accordance with the code of ethics can have their “realtor” title removed.

Do these differences mean that you’ll only receive honest, reputable service from a realtor? Absolutely not. What this information means is that you need to choose the person who will be representing your home sale or purchase very carefully.

Here are three tips to help you make sure you select the right real estate agent:

1. Take advice from family and friends.
When a family member or friend has had a good (or bad) experience during a real estate transaction, they are bound to want to talk about it. If you have friends or family members who are particularly happy with their home sale or purchase, find out what it was they liked most about their real estate professional – and find out if they would use that person again.

2. Read the reviews.
Family members and friends are not the only people who want to share their opinions about their real estate transactions. Use tools like social media sites and online reviews to confirm the word-of-mouth advice you receive.

3. Conduct your own interviews.
As with any advice, take real estate recommendations in stride. Reach out to the real estate agents or realtors who’ve helped your family and friends. But make sure they can help you too. Ask them about the things that matter most to you when it comes to your transaction. See if they will be a good fit for you. Once you’re satisfied, select your real estate professional, and rely on their honesty and expertise to carry your home sale or purchase to completion.

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