Not all real estate agents are REALTORS®
The term REALTOR® is generically applied to all real estate agents by many consumers, much like Jello® is applied to all gelatin desserts or Kleenex® to all tissues. Just like not all tissues are Kleenex®, not all real estate agents are REALTORS®.
The term REALTOR® applies to real estate brokers and agents that are members of the National Association of REALTORS®, the largest trade association in the world. In addition to being a member of the national association, agents and brokers must join the local association as well. In the case of St Louis area, the local association is the St Louis REALTORS®.
What is the significance of an agent being a REALTOR® versus not being a REALTOR®? While there are many things that set REALTORS® apart, probably one of the most significant is the Code of Ethics that REALTORS® are bound to abide by. The Preamble to the Code of Ethics, suggests agents can find no safer guide to interpretation of the code than the golden rule. The REALTORS® code of ethics consists of 17 articles divided into 3 sections: 1. Duties to Clients and Customers, 2. Duties to the Public and 3. Duties to REALTORS®.
Additionally, real estate agents that are REALTORS® have resources available to them that other agents do not. Standardized forms being one of them. For example, the St Louis REALTORS® have developed their own contracts and forms, all of which crafted n the spirit of fairness and protection for both parties. All of the ST Louis REALTORS® contracts and forms have been approved by counsel for the St Louis REALTORS® and, with regard to the sale contract itself, as well as other key forms, have been approved by the Bar Association of St Louis County as well.
When a consumer or even other REALTOR® feels a REALTOR® has not acted properly and in a way consistent with the REALTOR® code of ethics, then the St Louis REALTORS® provide a method and means to file a grievance against the REALTOR®. The filing of the grievance could lead to an Ethics hearing and, if so, and the REALTOR® is found to have violated the REALTOR® code of ethics, the Ethics and Professional Standards Committee of the St Louis REALTORS® can punish the REALTOR®. Punishment can range from a letter of reprimand to a fine or even expulsion from the St Louis REALTORS.