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The terms agent, broker, and REALTOR® are often used interchangeably but have very different meanings. For example, not all agents (also called salespersons) or brokers are REALTORS®. Learn who is a REALTOR® and the reasons why you should use one. As a prerequisite to selling real estate, a person must be licensed by the state in which they work, either as an agent/salesperson or as a broker. Before a license is issued, minimum standards for education, examinations, and experience, which are determined by New York State, must be met.

After receiving a real estate license, most agents go on to join their local association of REALTORS®, the New York State Association of REALTORS®, and the National Association of REALTORS®, the world’s largest professional trade association. Then they can call themselves REALTORS®.

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 (which in many cases goes beyond state law). In most areas, it is the REALTOR® who shares information on the homes they are marketing, through a Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Working with a REALTOR® who belongs to an MLS will give you access to the greatest number of homes and buyers.

Alphabet Soup: Click here to learn more about all of those letters following your REALTOR’S® name.


There are many important reasons to use a REALTOR®. Some of the services your REALTOR® will provide for you include:

For Sellers:

  • Walking you through the process of selling your home
  • Providing comparable information about other properties that have sold
  • Supplying information regarding local customs and regulations
  • Including your home in the ENYR Multiple Listing Service
  • Overseeing the marketing of your home
  • Handling inquiries from potentially interested buyers
  • Negotiating the sales contract
  • Alerting you to potential risks
  • Complying with the disclosures required by law
  • Providing you with an estimate of the closing costs you will incur
  • Assist you during the contract to the closing process

For Buyers:

  • Helping you determine how much home you can afford. Often a REALTOR® can explain alternative financing methods
  • Can tell you what personal and financial data to bring with you when you apply for a loan
  • Familiar with current real estate values, taxes, utility costs, municipal services and facilities, and may be aware of local zoning changes that could affect your decision to buy
  • Will research your housing needs in advance through the ENYRMLS
  • Showing you only those homes best suited to your needs
  • Negotiating the sales contract.
  • A REALTOR® is sensitive to the importance you place on this major commitment you are about to make. Look for a real estate professional to facilitate negotiation of a win-win agreement that will satisfy both you and the seller.

Buying/Selling On Your Own

“You can get rid of the broker, but you cannot get rid of the broker’s work” is an old caution for those who intend to offer their homes “For Sale By Owner” (FSBO) or for those buyers who wish to buy without professional representation. Selling or buying on your own is not an easy undertaking. It requires a significant amount of time to study the process, understand your obligations, and do some of the complicated work that a real estate agent does. In addition, selling or buying on your own requires extra help from outside professionals, such as a REALTORS®, accountants or attorneys for some of the jobs that require specific expertise.

Here are several important considerations:

  • As a personal safety measure, only show your house to those individuals with whom you’ve made a prior appointment that’s been confirmed by phone.
  • Don’t price the house so low that it sells too quickly – pay for a market value appraisal by an experienced appraiser.
  • Hold out for a buyer with written pre-qualification from a lending institution.
  • Find out your legal obligations.

Without any obligation, you can invite local REALTORS® to visit your home and give you a “listing presentation” about why they’re the best ones to market it for you or to help you buy a home. Two to three presentations will probably give you a good opportunity for choice. A listing presentation includes having the REALTOR® review with you the reasons why you should work with that particular individual and providing you with information that will assist you in making initial decisions about selling or buying.

Recent laws in every state have defined the duties of someone specifically retained as a real estate agent. Most states require a real estate agent to explain his or her role at the outset of any conversation. A professional agent will promptly provide this such a disclosure.

Look for an agent who:

  • Is a member of the local board or association of REALTORS®
  • Explains and discloses agency relationships (the role of the agent, i.e., who they are representing–the buyer or the seller) early on in the process, at “serious first contact”
  • Advises you on how to prepare your home for the market
  • Shows some enthusiasm, listens attentively, instills confidence, operates in a professional manner, and has a complementary personality style to yours

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