JL's Columbia SC Real Estate Blog: Does Being a Realtor Matter Anymore or are we Branded Past Importance

Does Being a Realtor Matter Anymore or are we Branded Past Importance

Blythewood, SC Realtors  Everyone understands what we mean by branding and creating name recognition right, so I won't go through the trouble of explaining that. I will however explain that when I ask if being a Realtor matters, I don't necessarily mean does it matter to thoughts that are Realtors. they pay their dues and joined, as do I, therefore I assume it matters to you. What I mean to ask for the most part is, does it matter anymore to the general public whose attention and  affection we so desire, or has the term Realtor itself simply become synonymous with being a real estate agent?


Blythewood, SC Realtors For the first several years of my career I hung my license with the largest brokerage in the Midlands. It was started by two individual that still ran the place when I got there. During the recession when everyone was dropping out the business and the sky was falling, many of the Realtors in our company simply could not pay their dues.

  As the company used the term Realtors in it's name, The National Association of Realtors rightfully sent a bill to the C.E.O to inform him that as long as they used the name, the company had to pay the bill for all the agents that didn't pay their dues. The answer was pretty swift from the Brokerage, they changed their name and replaced all the signs in front of our 14 offices. This was cheaper than paying the $60,000 or so that NAR demanded.


Blythewood, SC Realtors   So for the next few years, the brokerage carried on with the term real estate replacing Realtors in the title. Not only did we continue to do well, but we gained significant market share during the recession and even more after. For about 3 or 4 years if memory serves correct, I was no longer a Realtor, but a real estate agent and at first I was very concerned about the change in the beginning. However, in those years, clients came and went and not a single one of them asked about the name nor did they seem to worry that I was not a Realtor. I even explained to each one that used the term Realtor in reference to me that I was a real estate agent now and that we were no longer members of NAR and therefore could not use the term Realtor. Again, no real concern shown.


Blythewood, SC Realtors  I am once again after that small break a Realtor as the company I worked with was sold to a big box after the owners each passed away. The experience however reminded me of the fact that I don't know the last time that anyone asked me for a tissue without calling it a Kleenex. You see, Kleenex is a brand of tissue, not a tissue itself. However, their brand became so synonymous with the word tissue, that now everyone simply uses the terms interchangeably. They just ask for a Kleenex, when they really mean that all they want is a tissue, and the brand doesn't matter.


So have we now done the same thing? Have we branded our self past importance when it comes to the general public? Sure they say they would like to work with a Realtor, but do they mean that they just want a Real Estate agent, and the brand doesn't matter?


JL Boney, III - Columbia, SC Realtor - Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate

 I specialize in Columbia, SC real estate and the surrounding areas, including Blythewood, SC, Kershaw County, Fairfield County, and Lexington, SC. If you are in the market to buy or sell a home in Columbia, SC or any of the surrounding areas, I would love the opportunity to speak with to see how I can help. Thanks for reading and feel free to contact me if I can be of service to you.

Office- 803-788-1450     Cell- 803-730-9601     Email- James_Boney@Yahoo.com

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Comment balloon 40 commentsJL Boney, III • February 24 2018 08:43PM


I think this is an interesting question, JL. I honestly don't know the answer. I do however think there are many buyers who equate big name franchises with a certain level of service and prestige. For example, Sotheby's is synonymous with luxury. However, I know several agents who do not know the first thing about luxury marketing, but they are knee deep in it due to their name recognition.  I'm going to ponder this more. 

Posted by Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD, REALTORS® in Clark County, WA (ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors) over 2 years ago

My opinion, for what it is worth, is that most people (general public) don't know there is a difference and use the word interchangeably. I always did until I learned here that you can't and shouldn't. I'm careful to use "real estate agent" now for fear of getting it wrong.

Honestly, it wouldn't matter to me if my agent was a "Realtor" or not. What matters is whether or not they have the experience to get the job done with my best interests as their priority.

Posted by Sharon Tara, New Hampshire Home Stager (Sharon Tara Transformations) over 2 years ago

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Posted by marti garaughty, a highly caffeinated creative type... (garaughty.com) over 2 years ago

For the most part I think being a Realtor has significance.  I am often out in public being a fly on the wall while I listen to others talk.  I hear folks talk about working with their "Realator."  It's a label that seems to have stuck on the public's consciousness.  The label does mean we aim to abide by certain ethical standards.

Posted by Myrl Jeffcoat, Greater Sacramento Real Estate Agent (GreatWest Realty) over 2 years ago

Hi JL,
To answer your actual question... YES, being a REALTOR® matters because you are supporting the causes and issues that affect homeowners and encourage people to become homeowners and/or investors.  That said, though, I don't think the general public really knows the difference between REALTOR® and real estate agent. It is, essentially, synonymous to most.  If you offer the service, they don't even care... until the personal and financial advantages of ownership starts to diminish through poor (or no) political representation. 

Posted by Carol Williams, Retired Agent / Broker / Property Manager (Although I'm retired, I love sharing my knowledge and learning from other real estate industry professionals.) over 2 years ago

Interesting question!

While NAR fell asleep guarding the base, and was too busy increasing dues and not educating the public explaining, what are the real benefits of being a Realtor versus a real estate agent, the rules outside changed.No, it doesn't matter if you are a Realtor, or a real estate agent, or you are hanging your license with a recognition brokerage firm name.What really matters nowadays is, to have a presence in the social networks and get the job done right!

This business real estate, is based on relationships,the greatest asset real estate agents have.If you`ll ask the new force of buyers in the market, the millennials, who is Compass, or who is Keller williams, the majority would not know, since they do not care.NAR belongs to the history books.The new generation of buyers and sellers could care less and even do not know or heard the name NAR.

Posted by HOMEiZ.COM Real Estate Technology, The Real estate social network (HOMEiZ.COM) over 2 years ago

The public knows less than we think. Agent & Realtor is synonymous for them

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) over 2 years ago

Welcome back to the fold!

Posted by Bill Dandridge, GREEN, ABR, GRI, EcoBroker (MKB, Realtors) over 2 years ago

I don't think the average consumer knows (or really cares).  The term is interchangeable to them, and in an area like mine where NAR membership is mandatory to get MLS access, it's not a differentiator from agent to agent.

Posted by Liz and Bill Spear, RE/MAX Elite Warren County OH (Cincinnati/Dayton) (RE/MAX Elite 513.520.5305 www.LizTour.com) over 2 years ago

I think Liz and Bill Spear are right on target here.  The public doesn't understand the difference.

Posted by Chris Ann Cleland, Associate Broker, Bristow, VA (Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA) over 2 years ago

Talked to two realtors who joined my brokerage. Both of them have be at same brokerage and handed much of their checks back to the broker and wore expensive suits.  It finally boils down to what one really is looking and whether they are happy with their career. Is there a life left and their well being. One stated he was recruited in a Public discount brokerage work 24/7 and expected to close 24 sales(a lot here) to be a salaried salesman.  He decided to focus on commission and lower volumn.  You only got one life close 110 deals is no different than if one close a few deals. Income is the same. 

Posted by Sam Shueh, mba, cdpe, reopro, pe ( (408) 425-1601) over 2 years ago

Eventhough branding is important, its more important how we conduct ourselves in the community or among ourselves!!!

Have we branded our self past importance when it comes to the general public? Sure they say they would like to work with a Realtor, but do they mean that they just want a Real Estate agent, 

Posted by Sham Reddy CRS, CRS (H E R Realty, Dayton, OH) over 2 years ago

I'm not convinced the Realtor name has any real value anymore. The public calls all real estate agents, salespeople, brokers, etc. Realtors. There is no real point of differentiation and the public doesn't care. As for all the we are more ethical hoo-ha, at the end of the day, there are plenty of Realtors who are not ethical and you can't really teach it. For me, forcing me to be a member of the NAR is like forced unionization.

Posted by Nina Hollander, Your Charlotte/Ballantyne/Waxhaw/Fort Mill Realtor (Coldwell Banker Realty) over 2 years ago

Very insightful article.  Thank you.

Posted by Ray Strahl, DTM, NMLS #195562 (Mortgage Power, Inc.) over 2 years ago

Interesting discussion. Thank you for that. I don't think I would agree with Nina Hollander as I do not believe there has ever been a real value. I think that for the most part, it is an artificial distinction between Realtor and Real estate agent. It is simply that NAR managed to trademark the term, which from the get-go was used to mean a real estate agent/broker. And then we started trying to say that in a sense there is a big difference.

Now, here is where the ridiculous part comes. If be exact, and this is what we need to do, REALTOR means a paying dude, and little more than that, and please, spare me the COE crap, as there is nothing in the world to control ethics, except for jail :)... Does anyone really care whether we pay dues to NAR any other fee collector?

Posted by Jon Zolsky, Daytona Beach, FL, Buy Daytona condos for heavenly good prices (Daytona Condo Realty, 386-405-4408) over 2 years ago

Hi JL Boney, III, general public doesn't know the difference nor do they care. Whether be a REALTOR®, real estate agent, Broker, all the same to them. Buyers and sellers work with us because of the relationship we built, not because of the company we're associated with. We all know, most of us are forced to be a member of NAR, that speaks volumes.

Posted by Beth Atalay, Cam Realty of Clermont FL (Cam Realty and Property Management) over 2 years ago

I don't think the buyer and selling public knows the difference between agent and Realtor nor do they care. They want someone to help them buy or sell.

Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude (eXp Realty of California, Inc.) over 2 years ago

As many people have stated, the majority of the general public doesn't know the difference, and they don't care. They want a good agent that can help them.

I see some agents who are NAR members because they want to support NAR's lobbying efforts or to take advantage of other NAR resources, and that's great for them, that's what an association is for.

Unfortunately, I see a lot of agents who are held hostage by the board (at least locally) that make NAR membership mandatory to get MLS access.

Posted by Darrin Carey, Real Estate Lender for Investors (Dayton Capital Partners LLC) over 2 years ago

I agree, the general public does not know the difference between an agent and a realtor.  They have become synonimous in their view. 

Posted by Christine Kankowski North SD and Temecula, Excellent Sales and Property Management (House Match Inc) over 2 years ago

You're right, just like a Kleenex in the public's mind, we are all REALTORS. In that regards the NAR Branding has worked. However, I think the question is what to focus on now and the future. We should be building our own brands and leveraging the branding of our brokers. Yet the NAR should be doing more to promote the fact not all agents are equal and informing the public of what sets a REALTOR apart from the rest. (Huge challenge I know, because today most all agents are in fact members of their association these days)

Posted by Stephen Turner, The BIG Guy of NEW HOME SALES (Burkentine Realty Group (Burkentien Builders)) over 2 years ago

HI JL- I'm with Sharon Tara on this. Before reading the posts here, I had no clue about the difference between a real estate agent and a Realtor. And to use the Kleenex example, I'll go into Target and may have Kleenex on my list but I'll buy Puffs because they're softer and I like it better. 

Posted by Kathy Streib, Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224 (Room Service Home Staging) over 2 years ago

JL, I don't think most of my client base knows the difference between agent and Realtor. But I do, and that professionalism and pride translates in everything I do.

Posted by Gwen Banta (Sotheby's International Realty) over 2 years ago

It doesn't matter to the public if they don't care about homeowner rights.  I'd rather be a realtor and support the million plus members who are driving and working for public benefits, like mortgage interest deduction.  It may not matter to the public if they don't know the difference of supporting ethics and what that means.  I'll choose to be a realtor for the rest of my career, and especially now that I'm a Director at my association.  

Posted by Jan Green, HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN (Value Added Service, 602-620-2699) over 2 years ago

J L,

Very insightful post regarding society's current "disinterest" with labeling. A new era of PC "etiquette" has ascended to the forefront, as a vast majority of our populace, has now become fixated with self-indulgence. As a consequence, dealing with the formalities once deemed important by previous generation's of people, has for all intents and purpose, become a moot point.

Individuals involved with the selling of real estate are viewed by today's general public, in the same light as the teller at your bank, the kid's school bus driver, the mechanic who fixes your automobile or the woman who works behind the deli at your supermarket.

I understand the level of service and expertise which I deliver.....is all that really matters. I want my name to be synonymous with "delivering the goods". 




Posted by Sharon Miller (RE/MAX Platinum) over 2 years ago

Hi JL Boney, III 

Great article and questions.  

First...let me state that at one time about 10 years ago I was the Secretary/Treasurer and then Vice President of our local Buffalo County Board of Realtors. I also was on State level committees. I earned the CRS, GRI, and ABR designations.

I was asked to join a real estate company that was statewide in the rural markets and not members of the local, state, or national boards. I approached all 3 boards about having the Boker and I join.

Only the State Board said for me to remain a member...all 30+ agents of this company would have to join all 3 Boards...sound familiar? What stupidity on their part.

Now, over 10 years later, I still 100% believe that the State and National Boards are a joke and waste of money.

ALL of you real estate agents and Brokers could very easily survive with a private MLS that anyone can belong to for a fee.

You see...I was and am willing to pay the local fee but they are not allowed to let me join...they want me to join...but I can't unless I pay ransom to the state and national boards.

I have been extremely successful over the past 10 years not being a member...but admittedly, it is frustrating not having an electronic lock box key...more for the agent that has to accomodate me than me.  State Law says they have to allow me to show the MLS homes whether I have an MLS key or not.  That puts undue pressure on them.

In regards to ethics...joining NAR does not mean that you have higher ethics or morals than a non-member...it means that you are paying to adhere to the NAR Code of Ethics. 

A true moral and ethical person should be adhering to a higher standard than those anyway.  Paying for it on a yearly basis does not make you better...and I have yet...in the past 10 years...had anyone say they would not use me because I was not a member.


Posted by Mike McCann - Nebraska Farm Land Broker, Farm Land For Sale 308-627-3700 or 800-241-3940 (Mike McCann - Broker, Mach1 Realty Farmland Broker-Auctioneer Serving Rural Nebraska) over 2 years ago

Ask almost any Realtor and they will say the same thing (read the comments above).  The public doesn't know or care about the difference between Realtor and real estate agent.   Realtor is no different than a Kleenex!

Posted by Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty, Fifteen Years Experience in Brevard County (Bucci Realty, Inc.) over 2 years ago

Thank you for sharing this amazingly wonderful post. NAR does very little for anyone but themselves. The public has no need to worry about the term Realtor and what it means. 

Posted by Laura Filip, What can we do for you today? (Laura Filip Broker , Opening doors for All Seasons of Life ) over 2 years ago

Good morning, JL!

I honestly do not think it makes a difference to the consumer if we are REALTORS or Real Estate Agents.  To them, it means the same thing.  We help consumers buy and sell houses and property.  It's a shame.


Posted by Brigita McKelvie, Associate Broker, The Broker with horse sense and no horsing around (Cindy Stys Equestrian and Country Properties, Ltd.) over 2 years ago

No JL, I doubt the general public knows or cares about the difference between Realtor and real estate agent.    Only members of the NAR know and we must be sure we always pay our mandatory dues and pronounce Realtor correctly 

Posted by Linda Metallo DiBenardo (RE/MAX Impact, Lockport, Illinois) over 2 years ago

JL Boney, III , you hit the nail on the head here. The general public does not know that not every real estate agent is a REALTOR. Here in Maryland, the only way to have access to our MLS system is to be a member of the board. I am quite certain that is the only reason many members are REALTORS. Perfect analogy with the Kleenex. Despite the fact that we use Puffs Plus in my house, the family still asks for a Kleenex!

Posted by Marney Kirk, Towson, Maryland Real Estate (Cummings & Co. Realtors) over 2 years ago

Consumers do not (for the most part) know that there is a difference between a real estate agent/salesperson and a REALTOR. It's all the same thing. 

Posted by Kat Palmiotti, The House Kat (406-270-3667, kat@thehousekat.com, Broker, Blackstone Realty Group - brokered by eXp Realty) over 2 years ago

The brand is your name, yet the tools we need to succeed are controlled by NAR and the local Boards of the MLS. However, when I choose not to become a Realtor, I'll still pay a fee to our Broker to hang my license and use his resources so I could save 50% or more annually for access to the Brokers resources. 

I'm going to cease my NAR affiliation, save about 50% for dues and see what happens. I'm transitioning to a new business plan and am excited to explore the landscape and determine the consequences if there are any. Adapting to change and new strategies are difficult, however, the brand will dictate what direction you're willing to travel.

Posted by Kimo Jarrett, Pro Lifestyle Solutions (WikiWiki Realty) over 2 years ago

Nar isn't what it used to be.... like so many things they have become so political they tend to forget the mission and the membership.

I have served on my board many many times as well as state board and RPAC trustee I am currently on state legislative committee and state grievance chairperson. On a state level we have been able to make good changes to our statues and regulations. We helped rewrite the  AK usuary law which was really important and good for our state. We have helped with many significant things as well as the RD Nationwide regulations on holding tanks for potable water. 

I think you get what you give. I am not 100% happy with NAR on a national basis but I know we have made a difference locally and statewide and I am proud of those achievements and that makes it worthwhile for me.

I agree most people dont know the difference between REALTOR and real estate salesperson... but I do... 

Posted by Debra Leisek ( Bay Realty,Inc Homer Alaska) over 2 years ago

Homebuyers want fair, ethical and professional representation from their agent.  They may or may not know the difference between Realtor and Real Estate Agent but they know if they have been treated fairly.

Posted by Doug Bullwinkel, Mortgage Loan Originator NMLS #281609 (Envoy Mortgage,NMLS ID 6666) over 2 years ago

If you are a REALTOR and attend the county and state meetings, overtime you become a better agent or broker. Regardless of your thoughts on NAR and what they do to lobby for legislation that affects homeowner's rights, real estate issues, etc. Remember why the REALTOR organization and designation started. I agree with Debra Leisek and Jan Green ... the MAR group in my state does so much good for affordable housing, state legislation for property owner rights and helps make the local area a better place to live. Proactive, positive and community minded. The REALTOR legal hot line in how to handle sticky situations best, most professionally and contract review committee improvements alone are worth the price of admission. It's not a franchise. Without the trade group association it would be a free for all like back in the days when they established the real estate dealers exchange in Chicago in 1908 where it was self serving not public protective. Client, customer, if every agent or broker took the code of ethics seriously the home buyers and sellers we represent would be better off. I don't think Realtor.com should have been sold off, I don't think all the time that many NAR execs in the glass corner offices are in touch with the guys and gals in the real estate trenches in our local communities. But NAR is more than counting up the number of agents and sending in whopping amounts of dues. I am proud to be a REALTOR. Like federal government, shrink it at the top and make it more affordable. Give back control to the states, the counties. In my area, in my state the public does know what a REALTOR is. If you don't believe and promote the REALTOR ideals, the buyers and sellers in your area won't know what the R stands for or appreciate it. Rotary has a four way test... your REALTOR group is that four way test and more specific to real estate transactions... a higher standard to live by and guide you. I don't reduce it to something as trivial as some say tissue, you say Kleenex.

Posted by Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573, Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker (MOOERS REALTY) over 2 years ago

I am not sure the general public ever knew the difference.  To them any agent is a REALTOR, and they don't have a clue that it is a brand per se'.  I am on board with most of those who feel it is a term that is meaningless and is nothing more than a political money grab from agents.  They hold our MLS's and our keysafe's hostage, as a means to force membership.  When a State Representative recently said that approximately 80% of the dues we pay is for political lobbying efforts, it turned me off more.  Certainly they do advocate for homeowner's rights and provide us with some tools, but otherwise, belonging to the associations is of little actual benefit to agents. 


Posted by Sandra Paulow, REALTOR, Associate Broker, GRI, SFR (Aspen Properties, Inc. ) over 2 years ago

Realtor® was meant to carry a higher level meaning than real estate agent.

It is supposed to carry the idea that we abide by the Code of Ethics.

However, as you have pointed out, the consumer does not know the difference.

NAR brands Realtor®, but we must do our own branding that lets the consumer know the benefits of working with us.

Posted by John Wiley, Lee County, FL, ECO Broker, GRI, SRES,GREEN,PSA over 2 years ago

If given a choice between working with a real estate agent or a Realtor, and if the public knew what the difference was, the public would choose a Realtor.

But the public doesn't know, doesn't care and never will.

Posted by Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Realtor Top 1%, Put 40 years of experience to work for you (RE/MAX Gold) over 2 years ago

Despite all those really good commericals and even a stint on Modern Family, the general public seems not to know and not to care about our Realtor trademark.

Posted by Jill Sackler, LI South Shore Real Estate - Broker Associate (Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. 516-575-7500) over 2 years ago

Most people cannot even say Realtor correctly. I even had a manager who said Real-a-tor - 3 syllables intstead of 2!  Obviously he wasn't a good Speak-at-er. 

Posted by Gwen Banta (Sotheby's International Realty) over 2 years ago