Do you know the difference between a Client and a Customer?

Real Estate Agent with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices 01238708

Do you know the difference between a Client and a Customer?

I have been meaning to write this post for over well let’s just say for a long time. To get a better understanding what I mean by a long time, please allow me to give a little Active Rain history before I get to my point.

I have been fighting this terminology for a long time on this platform. When Active Rain was formed, we were a “family” then we became a “team” but still part of the “family” and when Active Rain sold the platform to Trulia we became “customers”. Sadly, when Zillow bought out Trulia the same concept continued.

One of my pet peeves is and has been, that I have CLIENTS and they know it and appreciate it that they are my CLIENTS.


Along the way, I have seen many members on this platform write posts, make comments, and ask questions on the ‘Question & Answer’ portion of this platform and always use the word “customer” vs. “client”!

Allow me to give you an English lesson:

The definition of a CLIENT is: a person who engages the professional advice or service of another. An example is used that an Attorney has clients

Now with that said, I provide professional advice to all my clients and I provide them with my services.


Too often there are agents complaining that their profession is looked down and is not held in high regard. I never have this complaint, every one of my clients has high respect for my knowledge and advice I give them. They are appreciative and grateful for my input into their decision-making process which generally turns out to be the biggest investment of their life for a few and for many it is an opportunity to profit it the long run.

Now let us look at the definition of a CUSTOMER: is a person that buys goods or services from a store or business.


On the surface this might be minor difference, but in my opinion it is a huge difference. I go to the grocery store and I am a customer. I go to the car wash and I am a customer. Anyway, you get the idea…

I go see my Attorney and my Tax Accountant and I am a Client. I am treated and respected as a client.

So, if you agree with me, make a comment. IF you disagree I would be interested to know where I am going wrong.

Now if you are a potential buyer or a potential seller in the Greater Los Angeles area and want to be treated as a CLIENT please reach out to me on the other hand if you want to be treated as a Customer I am not the REALTOR for youJ

If you are considering buying or selling a home, a luxury home, luxury investment real estate, luxury vacation homes, or luxury beach properties in Southern California, Los Angeles, Century City, Westwood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Marina Del Rey, Venice or Malibu, feel free to contact me at 310.486.1002(m) or or visit one of my websites at  I am a Pet Friendly Realtor and I contribute a portion of my commission to local animal rescue organizations




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Kathleen Daniels
KD Realty - 408.972.1822 - San Jose, CA
San Jose Homes for Sale-Probate & Trust Specialist

Endre,  I do agree.  I am not selling widgets or burgers ... my clients are CLIENTS and they appreciate they are treated as such.

I have heard some people say that leads/prospects are customers until they become client.  I disagree with that.  Those folks would be prospective clients ... not customers.  I digress again. 

Dec 18, 2016 05:48 PM #36
Jon Zolsky, Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona Condo Realty, 386-405-4408 - Daytona Beach, FL
Buy Daytona condos for heavenly good prices

Endre - I saw the title and cringed. Thought you would be playing a smart guy with those made up distinctions, which magically transfor what and how you do things depending on what they signed and in which place they signed. Glad I was wrong.

Thanks for the blog posts. I do not care what my clients signed or not signed. It is not about them, it is about me.

Like you I have clients.

And transaction broker, or any other form of brokerage relationship, it does not matter to me.

Once again - big thank you

Dec 18, 2016 08:39 PM #37
Raul Rodriguez
Covenant Partners Realty - San Antonio, TX
Looking out for the client's interest and not my p

In my opinion a client is owed a fiduciary duty whereas a customer is owed courtesy.

Dec 19, 2016 05:33 AM #38
Gita Bantwal
RE/MAX Centre Realtors - Warwick, PA
REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel

I love the post. I hope home buyers and sellers will read it and learn from it.

Dec 19, 2016 06:14 AM #39
Doris Freeman
Broker/Agent, Realtor, Madison-Gibson-Crockett

Thanks for the great post, thought provoking... some wonderful comments

Dec 19, 2016 06:40 AM #40
Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude - Carlsbad

Hi Endre

Congratulations on the feature - you've generated some interesting discussion. There is the semantic difference, which may also be legally defined in different ways depending on the state, but also the practical one in terms of how you are treating others.


Dec 19, 2016 07:42 AM #41
Jan Sohlman
RE/MAX Integrity - Eugene, OR
RE/MAX Integrity

Congratulations on your featured article!

Yes I agree with your blog 100% and I make sure my clients know that they can come to me for referrals of other professional vendors. I do the Buffini system and let my clients know they are a value to me, and I can be a value to them as well. Blessings! J

Dec 19, 2016 01:41 PM #42
Alek Babaa
Prostead - Charlotte, NC
Realtor, Your Carolina Connection

Endre, great post! I try and treat every person I meet with respect and as a potential client.

Dec 19, 2016 04:37 PM #43
Scott Geller
RE/MAX Centre REALTORS - Jamison, PA
The Home Seller

Some states require a written contract to create an agency relationship (thus establishing agent-client fiduciary duties) while some states' common law establishes agency either by contract or conduct. The bottom line, as I often say, is not what is IN the contract but in WHO signs it! Agency and Fiduciaries and Clients are legal terms; Client level representation and services are actions good real estate licensees practice. The public's (and good agents') perception(s) of the majority of real estate licensees will improve when we all do. I'm preaching to the choir because the "agents" who give us a bad name aren't checking Active Rain.

Dec 19, 2016 05:32 PM #44
Rebecca Gaujot, Realtor®
Perry Wellington Realty, Adam Conrad, Broker - Lewisburg, WV
Lewisburg WV, the go to agent for all real estate

A client or potential client... everyone is treated the same and gets the same great service from me.

Dec 19, 2016 05:37 PM #45
Debra Leisek
Bay Realty,Inc Homer Alaska - Homer, AK

My first and only broker taught us over and over the difference between a client and a customer. He was adamant about the usage of the terms. And he was right! So are you! thanks for a wonderful post!

Dec 20, 2016 12:56 AM #46
Sheri Sperry - MCNE®
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Sedona, AZ
(928) 274-7355 ~ YOUR Solutions REALTOR®

HI Endre Barath, Jr. - I have been out of pocket for a couple of days and this is the first post I have seen.  It is an important post well worth reading and more importantly worth understanding. Congratulations on your feature!  

Dec 20, 2016 05:51 AM #47
Lauren Williams, CPO
Casual Uncluttering LLC - Woodinville, WA
Professional Organizer: Puget Sound homes

EXACTLY ON TARGET!!! I have clients! The closest they get to being customers is when I finally charge them for using up all my boxes!

Dec 20, 2016 11:41 AM #48
Jerry Lucas
ABC Legal Docs LLC - Colorado Springs, CO
Mobile Notary Colorado Springs, CO Notary Training

As a notary public, my role is different. I am commissioned as a public official for the state. I am an agent for the state and must follow state laws.

I deal with important legal documents and I must not give legal advice to customers since I am not licensed to practice law. I administer the written law, I cannot inject my own legal opinions or interpretations or give advice based on a customer's specific situation. I can provide information, but not advice.

A notary must also be neutral and impartial. I cannot advise a customer whether a transaction is good or bad, and cannot encourage or discourage them from signing, except I cannot proceed if the transaction is unlawful.

Advisers give clients (followers) specific customized advice suitable for their goals and situation.

I have customers because everyone receives the same service for the same type of paperwork. There is no customization other than special assistance for someone with a disability.

I am asked all the time for my legal opinion or legal advice. Even if I know the answer, I cannot give legal advice. I could have my commission revoked.

There are a few exceptions that come from English common law. Notaries are authorized to attempt to collect a debt owed to a client by presenting a negotiable instrument for payment. If payment is refused, the notary can record a protest and notice of dishonor of the event.

This was done in medieval and colonial times, before modern banking. Very few notaries today know how to do a protest and it is no longer taught in training classes.

I can also do a marine protest for a sea captain under common law, but we don't have commercial ships in Colorado, only recreational boats. 

Dec 20, 2016 04:46 PM #49
Jim Paulson
Progressive Realty (Boise Idaho) - Boise, ID

You could probably trademark your statement "if you want to be treated as a Customer I am not the REALTOR for you".  I love it!

Dec 20, 2016 06:58 PM #50
Truett D. Neathery Appraiser

This issue is, and has been forever, discussed in BLACK'S LAW DICTIONARY. It all revolves around the fact of "who is paying you". Even though some believe calling every prospect a "client" is very professional and sophisticated, it isn't. And another thing: When are agents who belong to organized real estate going to learn to spell "REALTOR(C)? It's not a generic term for salesperson or broker!

Dec 22, 2016 03:24 PM #51
Tony and Suzanne Marriott, Associate Brokers
BVO Luxury Group @ Keller Williams Arizona Realty - Scottsdale, AZ
Serving Scottsdale, Phoenix and Maricopa County AZ

Endre Barath, Jr. "...every one of my clients has high respect for my knowledge and advice I give them. They are appreciative and grateful for my input into their decision-making process which generally turns out to be the biggest investment of their life..."

Right on target - and - re-blog!

Jan 16, 2017 04:19 AM #52
Ed Silva
RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

I caught this again on the re-blog and just couldnt resist.

Customers are like tire kickers, or even window shoppers.  A client sits down has a heart to heart talk and after showing their bank letter wants to buy a house.

Jan 16, 2017 05:14 AM #53
Gayle Rich-Boxman Fishhawk Lake Real Estate
John L Scott Market Center - Birkenfeld, OR
"Your Local Expert!" 503-755-2905

Endre, gosh you summed it up so beautifully! Words DO make a difference, as do relationships. To me, a client is someone you have a relationship with, not someone you take money from and in an off-hand manner say "have a nice day". 

Jan 16, 2017 09:11 AM #54
Larry Riggs
Re/Max Plus - Frederick, MD
GRI, SRS Your Frederick County Specialist

Actually it depends on the law in the state where you are doing business. In Maryland if you do not have a written agreement with someone, such as a listing or buyer agency agreement they are not clients. Here the state makes a very clear distinction on what term can be used and when. For instance if you meet someone at a property (not a good practice) and it is not a listing with your brokerage you are representing the seller and they are a customer. By Maryland law the term client is only used when there is a written agreement in place.

Feb 06, 2017 10:29 AM #55
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Endre Barath, Jr.

Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002
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