Client or Customer? If You Don't Know, Then How Do You Expect Consumers to Know?

Reblogger Doug Patterson
Real Estate Agent with Park Place Real Estate, Broker-In-Charge

Charita Cadenhead, of Bham Wire Realty in Birmingham, Alabama has made some excellent points in her recent post on ActiveRain.   There are alot of folks who really don't know what our REALTOR Code of Ethics demands of Realtors. Charita has brought a few of those to light!


Original content by Charita Cadenhead

Client or Customer?  If You Don't Know, Then How Do You Expect Consumers to Know?

It seems to me that while reading posts on ActiveRain, I read where agents refer only to "clients" and NEVER "customer."  Should I assume that we all only work with "clients" or do we work with "customers" as well?  Or could it be that some:

  1. Just do so without thinking?
  2. Don't know the difference between the two?
  3. Want to sound more important by using the word client?
  4. Want to give the impression that we only work with buyers that sign Buyer Agency Agreements (even though that isn't always true)?
  5. Have forgotten that technically there is a difference?

Personally I think that the use of the words customer and client in real estate is for the benefit of agents only and a bit ridiculous to me.  I mean consumers really don't give a damn.  They just want to be treated fairly and we owe that to anyone that we work with regardless (or irregardless which should be removed from the English language) of whether they are clients or customers.

At any rate, you can call them what you like.  I'm not really bothered by it like some.  I'm just being the typical wordsmith here and thought the topic was a good one to chew on for a minute.

But since definitions exist in the world of real estate, we may as well know what they are and how they are applied.

Just in case you've forgotten or haven't read the Code of Ethics since Shep was a puppy, here's a little refresher:

Standards of Practice 1-2

As used in this Code of Ethics, “client” means the person(s) or entity(ies) with whom a REALTOR® or a REALTOR®’s firm has an agency or legally recognized non-agency relationship;

“customer” means a party to a real estate transaction who receives information, services, or benefits but has no contractual relationship with the REALTOR® or the REALTOR®’s firm;

“prospect” means a purchaser, seller, tenant, or landlord who is not subject to a representation relationship with the REALTOR® or REALTOR®’s firm;

“agent” means a real estate licensee (including brokers and sales associates) acting in an agency relationship as defined by state law or regulation; and “broker” means a real estate licensee (including brokers and sales associates) acting as an agent or in a legally recognized non-agency capacity. (Adopted 1/95, Amended 1/07)


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Lynda Eisenmann
Preferred Home Brokers - Brea, CA
Broker-Owner,CRS,CDPE,GRI,SRES, Brea,CA, Orange Co

Hi Doug,

Thanks for the re-post (I missed it myself the first time around) and I couldn't agree with Charilita more on explanation of the topic.

Jan 16, 2012 02:14 PM #1
Wallace S. Gibson, CPM
Gibson Management Group, Ltd. - Charlottesville, VA

I frequently have tenant prospects tell me they are my client and they are not...they are my CUSTOMER and the property OWNER is my CLIENT

Jan 16, 2012 03:06 PM #2
Charita Cadenhead
Keller Williams Realty - Birmingham, AL
Serving Jefferson and Shelby Counties (Alabama)

Thanks Doug for reblogging on this most important subject.

Jan 16, 2012 06:39 PM #3
Charita Cadenhead
Keller Williams Realty - Birmingham, AL
Serving Jefferson and Shelby Counties (Alabama)

Wallace I have the same problem with tenants.  I think tenants mistake that mistake because of job requires us to treat everyone fairly which can sometimes seem to them that are our clients.

Jan 16, 2012 06:41 PM #4
David Grbich
Realty One Group - - San Juan Capistrano, CA
Orange County Real Estate - 949-500-0484

Thanks Doug, you are right in that our buyers may not care but best to keep the terms correct.

Jan 17, 2012 03:33 AM #5
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Doug Patterson

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