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When is a Real Estate Agent a REALTOR®?

The term REALTOR® is a registered collective membership mark that identifies a real estate professional who is a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics.


Code of Ethics
The Code establishes time-honored and baseline principles that come from the collective experiences of REALTORS® since the Code of Ethics was first established in 1913. Those principles can be loosely defined as:

  • Loyalty to clients;

  • Fiduciary (legal) duty to clients;

  • Cooperation with competitors;

  • Truthfulness in statements and advertising;

  • and non-interference in exclusive relationships that other REALTORS® have with their clients.


National Association of REALTORS® Fact Sheet


For more information contact:
The Public Affairs Office, 202/383-7515

What: The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest business trade association, representing 1.5 million members worldwide (with more than 5,000 outside the U.S.), including NAR’s institutes, societies and councils, involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

Who: Our membership is composed of residential and commercial brokers, salespeople, property managers, appraisers, counselors and others engaged in all aspects of the real estate industry. Members belong to one or more of some 1,200 local associations/boards and 54 state and territory associations of REALTORS®, and 100 international cooperating associations in nearly 85 countries​​. They are pledged to a strict Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.

Why: Working for America's property owners, the National Association provides a facility for professional development, research and exchange of information among its members and to the public and government for the purpose of preserving the free enterprise system and the right to own real property.

The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Code of Ethics: What Does it Mean for Consumers?

How does the Code of Ethics affect everyday real estate practices? 
If a REALTOR® represents you, whether you are buying or selling or leasing a home, investment property, commercial property, land, or any other real estate asset, you can count on that REALTOR® to:

1. Be honest with all parties in the transaction – not just with you, as his or her client, but also with the other real estate practitioner and his or her clients.
For example, if REALTORS® represent a buyer with a spotty credit history, they can’t be dishonest with sellers about this fact. At the same time, REALTORS® can help their buyer clients collect and assemble information, such as credit reports and audited tax returns, to demonstrate that the buyer has addressed the problem and improved their situation.

2. Put your interests ahead of his or her own, at all times. 
A REALTOR® makes every effort to understand the housing needs of his or her client, thoroughly researches available inventory, and shares all relevant information with the buyer so that he or she can make an informed  decision. This service is provided regardless of the compensation available.

3. Disclose all pertinent facts regarding the property and the transaction to both buyer and seller.
If a REALTOR® believes information provided by a seller is questionable, the REALTOR® is obligated to investigate. REALTORS® should recommend that buyers consult their own experts, such as property inspectors, to address concerns. For example, if a property seller asks his or her REALTOR® to conceal the fact that the roof leaks, the REALTOR® cannot comply; if the seller insists, the REALTOR® should end the business relationship with that seller. 

4. Be truthful in all communications with the public.
When REALTORS® distribute newsletters, create Web sites, or place advertisements, they must be careful not to represent other real estate professionals’ work product as their own. If recently sold or listed properties in the community are publicized, it must be clear whether the REALTOR® was actually involved in the transaction, or whether that data came from the local multiple listing service or other source. This ensures that the public understands the REALTOR®’s experience and can make an informed decision when choosing real estate representation.

Read the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®' Code of Ethics:  2022 NAR Code of Ethics


To learn more on the history of REALTORS® and their contributions to the real estate industry and American society, it's recommended that you read the book, A Nation of Realtors®: A Cultural History of the Twentieth-Century American Middle Class, by Jeffrey M. Hornstein.


Ethics Video
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