The Code of Ethics, REALTORS® and plain old real estate agents

Real Estate Agent with Florida Property Experts
                             Real Estate Agents and REALTORS®. What's the Difference?

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I just read a post by a REALTOR®, who I won't mention by name since I have a strict policy of not  publicly airing any differences. But I did feel the need to address a few things.

The post I read was about the trademarked word "REALTOR®" and that writer's overall disagreement with the definition of the word, as well as some other personal grievances. That person appeared to be basing their opinions on the fact that the public doesn't realize that all real estate licensees are not REALTORS®. This individual was also stating that not all REALTORS® abide by the Code of Ethics. Now for my strong beliefs on this mls

Let me start by saying, I am proud to be a REALTOR®! For anyone reading this post who is not aware of this, the word REALTOR® is trademarked and there are specific rules on how the word can and cannot be used. For starters, the word REALTOR® must be written or typed all in capitalized letters, and must be immediately followed by the "®" symbol that indicates it's a trademarked word. Click this link for more information on the specifics of the laws regarding the use of the word REALTOR®.

gavelAs for how I feel about being a REALTOR®... the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and local REALTOR® Associations were created to separate those who subscribe to a Code of Ethics from those who do not.

One of the points made in the other blog I read, was that not all REALTORS® abide by the Code of Ethics as they're supposed to. This person thought that since all the REALTORS® were not following this code, then it should be done away with, because there were too many rules to follow anyway. I wanted to beat my head on my desk when I read that. Those rules are there for quality control, and to protect the client. They're also there to maintain professional standards in our industry.

Unfortunately, that writer was correct that there are a few REALTORS® who are not abiding by our Code of Ethics. But when a REALTOR® is found in violation, they can be penalized. This leads me to a comparison here. 

Our country has laws that must be obeyed. We don't decide to do away with our laws because some people are breaking them. Those laws are there to protect the people. When people break the law, they're at the mercy of our judicial system. We expect the police and courts to uphold our laws and fight for them at all costs, in order to maintain the high standards that were originally intended. Just because some people don't understand, or they disagree, or they break these laws for whatever reason, it does not excuse their behavior. It's the same with the REALTOR® Code of Ethics.

To me, being a REALTOR® is something of which I can be proud. I like knowing we are being held to a higher standard than those who do not subscribe to our Code of Ethics.

I'm not bashing anyone who is not a REALTOR®. I realize that the costs of joining a REALTOR® Association and Multiple Listing Service (MLS) can be a large expense for someone who is just starting out, or has had personal hardships that have affected their business, etc. I am however, defending my membership and loyalty to this institution. I don't believe that anyone can say it's not in the best interests of our clients, for them to be represented by an actual REALTOR®. How else can the client be assured...sign real estate offer to purchase

  • That their offer will be submitted as quickly as possible?
  • Or that they will not be misled about the market value of a property?
  • Or that their interests will be promoted and protected?
  • And that if these guidelines are not followed by their REALTOR®, there are legal avenues that can be pursued?
  • (I could  go on, but I'll let you follow the link above, to read the entire Code of Ethics)

Now, to address the copyrighted word "REALTOR®" and why it should continue to be protected, here are other examples pertaining to copyright laws: 

  • When I make a video, I can't use copyrighted songs as background music.
  • I can't use clips from other people's videos within mine without their expressed permission.
  • In my blogs, I can't use copyrighted photos I find on the internet to spice them up.
  • I can't use someone else's articles, without their expressed permission.
  • When I register a domain name, I can't register a copyrighted name.

These examples all fall under copyright laws. Violators leave themselves open to law suits. The word REALTOR® is also protected under these laws. Just because some of the people in the public are not aware of this is no excuse. Let me give a simple example....

  • If you commit a traffic violation and a police officer pulls you over and gives you a ticket, but you had not been aware that you were breaking any laws, do you think the officer cares? You're not likely to get out of paying a ticket just because you scales of justiceweren't paying attention, or weren't familiar with the laws of that area.

I recently posted a blog with links to public domain photos, since the copyright laws were nowhere to be found, regarding photos on the internet. I had to spend 2 hours researching this subject, just to find a clear answer. But if I have photos in my posts that are copyright protected, and I get sued by the owner of the photos, I'm not likely to be let off the hook because I didn't know the law. It's my responsibility to do the work and know the law.  

In summary, the word REALTOR® means we're held to a higher standard. I like that. The word REALTOR® is  copyright protected. I like that too. If it were to become interchangeable with all real estate licensees, then how would we differentiate between those who subscribe to a Code of Ethics and those who just have a license?

Perhaps we should ALL be putting forth a concerted effort to educate the public. Because there is a difference! And it's important!

lisa hill realtor daytona beach fl
Lisa Hill sells Port Orange real estate

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Randy "Lazarus" McAtee
Lazarus Realty - Fresno, CA
Owner/Broker, Lazarus Realty, Fresno California
lawsuits of copyright infringement like the one recently in the news should be a wakeup call.
Oct 17, 2007 09:34 AM #1
Thesa Chambers
Fred Real Estate Group - Bend, OR
Principal Broker - Licensed in Oregon
Bravo - this was GREAT - thank you for defending me as well - way to go
Oct 17, 2007 03:17 PM #2
Leslie Prest
Leslie Prest, Prest Realty, Sales and Rentals in Payson, AZ - Payson, AZ
Owner, Assoc. Broker, Prest Realty, Payson,
I really feel the REALTOR vs agent thing is ridiculous. The general public DOESN'T know or care about the difference. I have had dealings with many REALTORS who did things they shouldn't have. Having a Code by no means guarantees that we will follow it. ANd not belonging to NAR (although everyone in my area is required to, in order to participate in MLS) doesn't mean a person would not be ethical.
Oct 18, 2007 07:33 AM #3
Lisa Hill
Florida Property Experts - Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona Beach Real Estate
Leslie-  I think I addressed every one of your statements. 
Oct 18, 2007 01:53 PM #4
Lisa Hill
Florida Property Experts - Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona Beach Real Estate
Thesa- It's ironic that those who show the most pride in their work, are usually the same ones who are most proud to be REALTORS®, and most likely to uphold the Code of Ethics.
Oct 18, 2007 01:54 PM #5
Mike Jones
SUNSTREET MORTGAGE, LLC (BK-0907366, NMLS 145171) - Tucson, AZ
Mike Jones NMLS 223495

As a lender, I do make a distinction between agents and REALTORS(no time to go cut and paste the thigamajig) but it's not one of competence or ethics.  It's the education that's important to me.  I like the idea of being a lifelong student. 

Mike in Tucson

Oct 18, 2007 04:20 PM #6
Lisa Hill
Florida Property Experts - Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona Beach Real Estate
Mike- Good point. That's one of the things I like too. I can't get bored or stagnant when I'm constantly learning something new =) And it's better for my clients that way!
Oct 18, 2007 07:17 PM #7
Don Rogers
Keller Williams Realty Chesterfield - O'Fallon, MO
Realtor, Broker, CDPE, GRI, OnullFallon MO & St Charles County MO homes

Lisa, I know that you wrote this back in 2007 and the only reason I found it was because I was looking for graphics to do a blog on the Code of Ethics.  This is an area that is paramount that we understand and I fully support the NAR for requiring all REALTORS(r) to take ethics training every 4 years.  I wouldn't mind it if thye (NAR) would require ethics training every 2 years.  Thank you for the thought provoking blog.  Do you mind if I quote you in mine?

Have a GREAT day.  Don R.

Mar 22, 2008 02:41 AM #8
Lisa Hill
Florida Property Experts - Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona Beach Real Estate

Don- I don't mind at all if you quote me. And I'd love some link-love (hint, hint)  =)  I was frantically finishing my Ethics training online on New Year's Eve! The class took me about 3-4 times as long as I expected!

Jan 05, 2009 06:38 AM #9
Bill Clemente
Dudum Real Estate Group - Walnut Creek, CA

Great article.... and if a client doesn't know the diference, it is up to us tio enlighten them. And when it comes to pass that a REALTOR is not following the standards set forth, it is our duty to help maintain the level of professinalism by bringing it to the attention of the agent - & if nothing happens to corrrect it, bring it to the attention of the local AOR (Association of REALTORS)


Aug 19, 2010 11:09 AM #10
Tony and Suzanne Marriott, Associate Brokers
Haven Express @ Keller Williams Arizona Realty - Scottsdale, AZ
Serving Scottsdale, Phoenix and Maricopa County AZ

Those that don't, won't or can't play by the rules are announcing to the world that they are incompetent and should be avoided.

Sep 06, 2010 03:25 AM #11
Lisa Hill
Florida Property Experts - Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona Beach Real Estate

Bill- Precisely!

Tony & Suzanne- So true. It's just too bad that we can't warn the public about them. But if we were allowed to warn them, I'm sure it's those same agents who would start lying about the ethical agents! I guess keeping our mouths shut (Code rules) is the better path.

Sep 08, 2010 06:40 AM #12
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