The duties of Realtors to clients and customers

There is a difference between a client and a customer. Realtors owe certain duties to each. Which on are you?

The Code of Ethics’ demand for high standards of professional conduct protects the interests of clients and customers, and safeguards the rights of consumers of real estate services. Article 1 states, “When representing a buyer, seller, landlord, tenant or other client as an agent, REALTORS® pledge themselves to protect and promote the interests of their client.” This obligation to the client is primary, but it does not relieve Realtors of their obligation to treat all parties honestly.

As used in the Code of Ethics, “client” means the person(s) with whom a Realtor or a Realtor’s firm has an agency or legally recognized non-agency relationship. “Customer” means a party to a real estate transaction who receives information, services or benefits, but has no contractual relationship with the Realtor or the Realtor’s firm. It is the Realtor’s fiduciary duty to their client that makes a difference. That duty involves overseeing the wealth of their clients, acting on the client’s behalf and in their best interests.

Duty to customer

» Loyalty to customer’s needs

» Confidentiality

» Provide facts and price


Duty to client 

» Loyalty to client’s needs

» Confidentiality

» Provide facts and advice

» Give counseling and guidance


To become a client, rather than just a customer, you’ll need to commit to one Realtor and sign a representation agreement. For a seller, that’s a listing agreement. For a buyer, that’s a buyer representation agreement. The service you receive from your Realtor depends on your status. Both agreements will stipulate the Realtor’s duties, how the Realtor will be compensated, the date or term of the agreement and the client’s duties.

While the agreement serves as good protection for the real estate agent (guarantees their payment if you purchase or sell a home), the home buyer or seller will get significant value out of it as well. They will receive a commitment of time, communication and advice beyond what a customer receives. Your listing Realtor will advise you how to properly price your property, advertise it on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) and online, show the property and possibly conduct open houses, and negotiate on your behalf. Your buying Realtor will give you access to homes on the market, present and negotiate offers, assist you through inspections, work with your lender to coordinate documents and closing.

Feel free to ask your Realtor for a copy of these documents before signing and to review them with you. Realtors always are happy to provide this as their first fiduciary duty to their clients.