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What Makes a Real Estate Agent a REALTOR®?

By Frank Hough, November 2nd, 2018.


What makes a real estate agent a REALTOR®?  The terms are often used interchangeably, but they mean awfully different things.  It was something that even I didn’t understand very well early in my career.

A REALTOR® is someone who is part of the National Association of REALTORs®, the largest trade organization in the United States.  Not all real estate agents are REALTORs®, in fact many agents aren’t part of the trade organization.

Why would someone elect (and pay) to be part of the National Association of REALTORs®?  Well first and foremost they kind of own the MLS.  When a brokerage chooses to be part of the National and Local REALTOR® associations they gain access to the MLS.

Most consumers would see this as the “back-end” of the MLS.  The “front-end” of the MLS that consumers see is actually something called an IDX feed.  This IDX feed pulls information in from the MLS and propogates listing data.



A second and very important reason why agents become REALTORs® relates to a code of ethics.  The National Association of REALTORs® has a strict code of ethics that all REALTORs® are required to follow.

This code of ethics puts standards of practice in place for REALTORs® regarding their duties to clients, customers, the public, and fellow REALTORs®.

All real estate agents are obligated to follow state laws.  In Minnesota our real estate laws are laid out in chapter 82 of the state statutes.  However, only REALTORs® are obligated to follow the code of ethics.


Frank Hough

REALTOR®, e-PRO®, Broker Associate

Coldwell Banker River Valley REALTORs®

2510 Superior Dr NW

Rochester MN, 55901