Client Vs CustomerWhats The Difference In The Real Estate World

Dated: 02/05/2019

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Believe it or not, the terms are not interchangeable and there is a HUGE difference in how you are represented and treated in a transaction. When a Realtor is representing you, the buyer, or seller, you are the client. The other half of the party would be the customer. Your Realtor has an obligation of fiduciary duties (accountability, care, confidentiality, disclosure, loyalty and obedience) to you while protecting and promoting the interest of you, their client, which remains in effect indefinitely, long after the transaction is over. Regardless of who you are in the transaction or which side you are on (Buyer/Leasee or Seller/Leasor), Realtor’s are obligated to treat all parties, including customers with honesty.


According to the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the National Association of REALTORS, the client and the customer are defined as follows:

  • “client” means the person(s) or entity(ies) with whom a REALTOR® or a REALTOR®’s firm has an agency or legally recognized non-agency relationship;

  • “customer” means a party to the real estate transaction who receives information, services, or benefits, but also has no contractual relationship with the REALTOR® or the REALTOR®’s firm.

Now that you have a better understanding of the difference between the client and customer, let’s apply those to real world scenarios. Let’s take FSBO’s, or For Sale By Owner in to account. In most FSBO cases, the property owner wants to sell his or her property without hiring a real estate agent...why? Because real estate professionals are over paid. It seems crazy that anyone would want to hire a real estate professional to represent their clients best interest when having to accept and negotiate multiple contracts, meeting inspection periods, knowing the differences of various types of loan requirements submitted by real estate professionals representing the very people wanting to purchase their home. With sellers representing themselves against real estate professionals, they are just opening themselves up to liability. FSBO Sellers might as well just advertise “FREE HOUSE” because a couple wrong mistakes, they may be obligated to pay out a hefty legal settlement.

How about a second example...new construction homes. Don’t get me wrong, new builds are amazing! Why? Because everything is brand new, inside and out. From start to finish, you basically pick out your lot, your house model and elevation, and you design it from floor to ceiling, inside and out. The creative juices started flowing on your first walk-thru of the model home and you’re overwhelmed with excitement. You love the builder’s salesperson. You love the buffet of snacks, beverages and free wi-fi. You sign some paperwork and hand over your deposits. Why? Because your salesperson is your new best friend (hahahaha).


In one of my previous blogs, I explained the relationship of the customer (buyer) and builders salesperson in a new construction home process. When purchasing a new build, unless you are personally represented by a Realtor you’ve already hired, you are going through purchase process alone and unrepresented. While the builders salesperson has an obligation to be honest with you, the salespersons interest and obligation is to their client, the builder; not you, the customer, no matter how good they make you feel.


No matter what side of a transaction you may be considering; selling, purchasing, renting, YES, Realtor’s also represent tenants, talk to a real estate professional. In almost all cases, it will be extremely beneficial to build a professional and personal relationship with one long term. If you would like to explore your real estate options, feel free to contact me :)

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Brian Forsberg

Brian has been a Realtor since 2011, working with buyers, sellers and renters. Prior to moving to Arizona in 2009, and joining the real eatate profession, he worked in Southern California in the law e....

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