Not all Real Estate Agents are Realtors.
In fact, there are a small percentage of real estate licensees who are members of The California Association of Realtors.
The California Association of Realtors is a voluntary organization that has a very strict code of ethics which describes the professional responsibilities and expectations of its members. The CAR also has its own government and systems in place to hold members accountable.
They have a board of grievance that hears consumer complaints and Realtor complaints. If a Realtor is found guilty of breaking the code of ethics, they can be removed from the association and lose access to the MLS. There’s no such over site for Real Estate Agents.
Another advantage for homebuyers is that Realtors are able to network for properties that are not yet available, and they have access to legal research, studies, and other professionals such as legal counsel within the organization. In other words, being part of the CAR places them on the cutting edge in all areas that matter, and gives them and their clients more protection through knowledge and resources.
However, both Real Estate Agents and Realtors are licensed by the California Department of Consumer Affairs, Bureau of Real Estate Division. But not all agents chose to hold themselves to the higher standards of the California Association of Realtors.
As a buyer or seller you may not know what your rights are. So, hiring a Realtor will offer you the most protection and give you peace-of-mind.
The realtor.com site claims 7834 members. The CalBRE states that there are currently 410,701 licensees in CA (a/o june 2013)**. To see their work, videos code of ethics and more, go to the national association of Realtors other website Realtor.org.