Did you know you can be a real estate agent and not a Realtor? How is that even possible – and if I’m trying to buy or sell a house, which do I want to represent me?
Let’s start with the basics. The term Realtor® is a registered trademark, used by NAR – the National Association of Realtors, and applies to any Real Estate Agent when they become a member of the National Association of Realtors. I’m learning all kinds of things I didn’t know in Real Estate school.
Founded in 1908 the NAR started out as a group of around 120 members, but over the last 100+ years has grown to over 1,000,000 members. Yep, that’s right, there are over a million Realtors around the world. But let’s put that into perspective. I find it kind of strange that it took a full century for them to grow to that size, when today, using social medial someone like Lady Gaga can amass over 19 Million twitter followers in just 2 short years. The world is a different place these days.
But some things are still the same. Before someone can become a Realtor®, you still needs to take Real Estate classes, and pass the licensing exam to become an agent. In the State of Texas, there are three core classes plus an additional course I need to take in addition to all the college I had before today:
- Principles of Real Estate core real estate course [60 classroom hours]
- Law of Agency core real estate course (30 classroom hours)
- Law of Contracts core real estate course (30 classroom hours)
- An additional core real estate course (30 classroom hours)
Then after all those classroom hours are completed, I have a bunch of forms to fill out, and of couse I must sit for and pass an exam – the TREC (Texas Real Estate Commission). Finally I need to get sponsorship from an active and licensed broker. That’s one of the reasons I’m blogging and Twittering
now – I want to stand out above all the other fresh agents who are starting their marketing from scratch.
And at this point, after the schooling, testing, and sponsoring, I can call myself a Real Estate Agent. But I’m still not a Realtor®, yet.
Let’s take a trip back in time to learn why people wanted to take the next step and become Realtor®, instead of just stopping after school.
As I understand, back in the days before the internet, it was sort of hard to find houses for sale. Sure you could drive around neighborhoods and look for signs in front of houses. Or you could open up the newspaper and look for ads paid for by brokerages of their listings. There was a third option, a place where all the listings were consolidated in one place, and that was at the local Realtor® office in your town.
Sitting at a desk was a person who would keep track of all the houses for sale in a given region. Real Estate Agents paid dues to their local Realtor® office, for access to this listing service. It was an easy way to see all the properties on the market in one place. A central office of all houses for sale. There were some other perks, but the main reason to be a Realtor® was to have access to this listing service, called the MLS (Multiple Listing Service). It was specific to each town, and was the hub of all activity for real estate agents.
Today, with the internet, things are a bit different. Sure the MLS still exists. It is still regionally based, and even is controlled by the Realtor® office. But now there is an additional level called IDX – Internet Data Exchange – that allows brokers to display each others listings on their own websites, and on national sites like Trulia
, and Realtor.com
. But this is all stuff that happens behind the scenes for most people. I just like to know how everything works for some strange reason.
I believe you still need to be a Realtor® to add houses to the system. In addition to paying dues which give them access to MLS listings among other things, Realtors pledge to uphold a high standard and Code of Ethics, which is always a good thing in business.
Honestly, it all can get a little bit confusing. You go to a real estate website, and can view and browse all the houses for sale in a town. Some of the houses are represented by the brokerage of the website you are visiting, but the majority are represented by other agents and only being shown through the IDX portal on the website you are visiting.
Let me explain it this way: You go to Google and search for Houses for sale in Austin, and click on the first result. It takes you to a local agent’s website, where you enter your price, size, and other info. You look through the list of houses, and find one that is perfect. So you call the number on the website to get more information. But the house you are interested in isn’t actually represented by the agent’s website. The house you are interested in belongs to another agent. See what I mean that it can get confusing?
And to make it even more complex, in every house sale there is a Buying Agent, and a Sellers Agent. The Buyers agent represents the buyer, and works as hard as they can to make sure the buyer gets the best deal. The Seller’s Agent represents the seller of the house and does the exact same thing for the seller. Plus there are many states that allow for dual agency – where an agent can represent both the Buyer and the Seller. In Texas, both parties (buyer and seller) must acknowledge if this is the case, and sign an agreement that they are aware of the situation.
Let’s say that you have been searching for a while, and already have an agent you like to work with. When you search on the web it can become even more confusing because the house for sale is represented by the seller’s agent, you are represented by the buyer’s agent, and the website owner you just called is a third agent.
Thankfully Realtors® know how to sort all this out, and make the process as smooth as possible. They have access to additional resources that plain ‘ol real estate agents don’t. Although the old days are gone, and we are in a new more technology advanced time, Realtors help make everything work.