Most people only buy or sell a house 3-4 times in their lives. As a result, the concept of real estate agents vs Realtors isn't top of mind to most consumers in the US.
How many real estate agents and Realtors are there in the US?
There are more than 3 million people holding active real estate licenses in the United States. While each of these 3 million people need to obtain a license from their respective state, not all of these state-licensed agents are "Realtors."
Are all real estate agents Realtors?
As of 2022, a little more than 52% licensed real estate agents in the U.S. are "Realtors." Being a Realtor gives agents a special, paid designation by the National Association of Realtors.
The National Association of Realtors is a national organization, plus there are hundreds of local and regional Realtor "boards" or associations.
New Realtors members are entitled to several benefits and also the credibility that comes with the affiliation with the National Association or Realtors (NAR).
With that being said, many local agents do not see the value in maintaining the membership yet are still successful as agents in their area.
Do they perform the same job?
In terms of skills and required experience, Realtors and real estate agents are essentially the same thing. A real estate agent can work with a homebuyer or seller to buy or sell a property and is not required to be Realtor to do so.
Becoming a Realtor: How it works
As mentioned earlier, to become a member, you first need to be licensed as a real estate agent in your state. However, a real estate agent cannot be a Realtor without joining the National Association of Realtors.
To qualify for membership, you must agree to adhere to the NAR's standards of practice. The NAR ethics code is one of the core tenants that distinguishes Realtors from basic real estate agents.
NAR is a very large trade organization and is a powerful voice for lobbying state and federal governments on behalf of its members.
A tough real estate market tends to be difficult on inexperienced agents. Having consistent results, experience and the Realtor designation may be a benefit for many career agents - but less important for part-time agents.
According to NAR, more than 150,000 agents became Realtor members in 2021. That uptick was likely triggered by record-high housing prices and a chance to work remotely and enjoy a flexible lifestyle.