What you should know about selecting a Realtor®

What is the difference between a real estate agent, broker or Realtor® and which should you use?

Those terms are often used interchangeably and incorrectly, sometimes even by people in the real estate industry. However, there are important distinctions between them that anyone wanting to buy or sell real estate should understand.

Individuals must be licensed to function legally as a real estate agent or broker and there are important differences between real estate law and licensing in the various states. Some states license real estate agents, some license real estate brokers, some license both with the two being able to function in different capacities. Utah, for example, licenses both agents and brokers. The experience and schooling requirements to become a broker are higher and brokers can function in ways that agents cannot. Oregon, in contrast, does not license real estate agents and licenses only real estate brokers. You should ask upfront whether anyone wanting to represent you in a real estate transaction is licensed to sell real estate in the state where the property is located, because there can be serious legal risks to you associated with using an unlicensed person. No one who is properly licensed will think that question is inappropriate. You should run, not walk, from anyone who fails to provide an immediate unambiguous answer.

So, what is a Realtor?
The second important question to ask upfront is whether the person is a Realtor. While many people erroneously call any real estate agent or broker a “Realtor,” only a individual who belongs to the National Association of Realtors® is entitled to be called a “Realtor.” The designation is important to you, because members of that trade group are strictly subject to its Realtor® Code of Ethics.

Therefore to buy or sell Oregon real estate property …
Regardless of where you are located, you should be represented by a real estate broker who is currently licensed by the State of Oregon and who also is a current member of the National Association of Realtors® and is therefore a Realtor. More simply, an Oregon broker who also is a Realtor.

How to assess a Realtor’s other qualifications
These are some additional questions you should ask:

  • Do you work in real estate full time?
  • How many full-time years of experience have you had?
  • Have you qualified for any professional designations?
  • Can you refer me to others you have represented?
  • Do you belong to the multiple-listing service in the area where I want to buy property?
  • How familiar are you with properties for sale in my area of interest and price range?
  • Will you be on vacation or otherwise unavailable during the time-period I want to buy or sell property?
  • Exactly what would you do to help me find and buy real estate property that meets my needs or to sell property that I already have?

Be upfront and honest about your requirements. There’s nothing to be gained by not explaining what you need or not asking questions that might help you select the best Realtor. Pay attention to whether the person listens to your concerns and whether they are communicative and responsive to your inquires. Ask for specific information and examples of they helped others in situations similar to yours. The more questions you ask, the better you will be able to make a good choice.

Updated by Doretta Smith,