Differences Between Real Estate Agents, Realtors, and Brokers
One of the questions I often get is if there is a difference between a Realtor®, Real Estate agent, and a broker.
The difference between a real estate agent and Realtor® is significant.
Hiring someone to help you with a real estate transaction can sometimes be confusing since there are so many different professionals out there vying for your services.
Various real estate terms seem like the same thing to make things more confusing.
You have real estate agents, Realtors, and brokers. Are there differences between the three? And if so, how do those differences impact you as a home buyer or a seller?
It is not uncommon to see the words agent, Realtor®, and broker used interchangeably.
You could compare this situation to certain words becoming standardized in our vocabulary. For example, people use the term whirlpool tub interchangeably with “Jacuzzi” even though Jacuzzi is a brand.
Below you will see a comprehensive review of the differences between Realtors, Real Estate agents, and brokers.
You’ll even learn that it’s possible to be a real estate company owner without being involved in day-to-day operations or even being licensed.
Without a doubt, lots of people wonder what the difference is between a real estate agent and a Realtor.
By the time you’re done reading, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of each.
Real Estate Agents Explained
Let’s examine what a real estate agent is and some of the similarities of being a Realtor.
What is a Real Estate Agent?
A licensed real estate agent is a professional in the real estate industry who participates in real estate transactions. Their job is to help buyers and sellers come together and make transactions. They get paid through commission, usually an agreed-upon percentage of the property’s sale price.
There is no standard real estate agent commission – it is negotiated between a real estate agency and clients.
Real estate agents work for real estate brokerages. The brokerage is who you are hiring, and the agent is the brokerage’s representative for your transaction.
Real Estate agents are considered independent contractors.
What Does it Take to Become a Real Estate Agent?
To become a real estate salesperson, you need to take and pass the classes and exams required by your state. There are no federal requirements for real estate agents – it all happens at the state level.
Depending on the state, it can take between 30 and 90 hours of classroom instruction to get ready for the exam. Part of the requirements is passing the licensing exam.
Real estate agents also have to pay an annual licensing fee and may need to complete continuing education.
These are all requirements to get a Real Estate license and start selling real estate. Once their obligations are filled, a licensed agent can begin performing their functions as part of their real estate career.
Real Estate agents will be under the supervision of a broker, typically called the designated broker or principal broker.
Are There Different Types of Real Estate Agents?
Yes. A sales agent can work for buyers, sellers, or both. Although there are no job titles, real estate agents are referred to as buyers’ brokers or buyers’ agents when representing buyers.
When representing a seller, they are referred to as a listing agent, listing broker, seller’s agent, or selling agent. There are fundamental differences which we’ll get into.
What Are The Responsibilities of a Real Estate Agent?
Real estate agents are responsible for representing their clients’ best interests, whether buyers or sellers. They will help buyers find the home they are looking for and negotiate the best price. They also help sellers find buyers and negotiate the best price for the market.
Real estate agents handle a long list of tasks on behalf of their clients, ensuring that the clients get the best possible results from their transactions.
Some of the most vital roles of a real estate agent include:
- Setting the correct price of a home.
- Marketing properties, both online and offline, through various proven methods.
- Negotiating offers when they are received either from a client or a buyer’s agent.
- Keeping an open line of communication with clients before and during the time of a transaction.
- Helping buyers find and close on a home.
- Numerous other tasks to help the successful completion of a purchase and sale.
It should be understood that buyer’s agents and seller’s agents can have very different tasks in their everyday business operations.
Many consumers do not realize there are different skill sets for real estate agents. Here are nine things a buyer’s agent does for their clients.
On the flip side, you can see what a seller’s agent does for their clients. Both have significant roles in the transaction by doing different tasks.
Summary of Key Responsibilities of a Buyer’s Agent
These are all the things a buyer agent will do to assist in buying a home.
Summary of Key Responsibilities of a Seller’s Agent
These are all the things that listing agents do to complete the selling process successfully.
- Do market research to price a home accurately based on current market conditions and a comparative market analysis.
- Provide a real estate marketing plan designed to get a home sold quickly for the most money possible.
- Sign a listing agreement outlining the agreement between the real estate brokerage and homeowner.
- List the property for sale in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).
- Provide open houses if the client desires them.
- Communicate property before and during the sale.
- Ensure that the buyer is qualified before accepting an offer.
- Negotiate the best terms possible for the seller.
- Attend the home inspection to represent the best interests of the seller.
- Attend the home appraisal to provide the appraiser with essential information about the property.
- Help the seller finish up any necessary tasks to be able to close as planned.
Understand What is Dual Agency
In some states, it’s possible to become both the buyer’s and seller’s agent. This situation is what’s referred to as dual agency. If you are smart, you will not use a dual agent.
The real estate agent becomes a neutral party when you accept dual agency. They can no longer perform the regular tasks they would if they were a buyers or listing agent. To be blunt, the agent cannot give you any counseling or advice – one of the crucial reasons you hire a real estate agent in the first place.
As you can see, real estate agents play a significant role in completing a sale. One of the most numerous consumer complaints towards real estate agents is a lack of communication.
This kind of behavior is highly unprofessional. Real Estate Agents and Realtors need to understand they are typically dealing with someone’s most significant financial asset.
RE/MAX, the franchise I work for, has a humerus video worth a look. This video will be spot on with what they have experienced in a real estate transaction for many consumers. Agents should take special note not to be like the person portrayed in the video.
Video Realtor vs. Real Estate Agent: What NOT To Do
Licensed Realtors Explained
The difference between a Realtor® and a Real Estate agent will become clear shortly.
What is a Realtor®?
Did you know there is a difference between a Real Estate agent and a Realtor®? If you are shaking your head, no, you’re not alone. Most people have no idea a licensed Realtor® is much different than being an agent.
The majority of people I know assume that every real estate agent is a Realtor®. That is not the case.
A Realtor is a professional in the real estate industry who is a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). It is a federally registered membership mark.
Members of The National Association of Realtors swear to uphold the code of ethics in real estate. NAR is one of the largest trade associations in the country.
Real estate agents and brokers are just some of the professionals who can join the organization.
Property managers and real estate appraisers can also join, among other professions. All members of the NAR pledge to abide by the standards and code of ethics of NAR.
NAR attempts to hold its members accountable for their professional behavior. Because of the higher standards of NAR, Realtors believe they can offer a better experience for their clients than the everyday real estate agent.
What Does it Take to Become a Realtor®?
A licensed Realtor® must meet all the professional requirements of their position and pass a course on the NAR Code of Ethics every four years.
Local real estate boards strictly enforce the NAR Code of Ethics. Realtors must uphold the code in their professional lives to maintain membership.
Members must also pay a yearly fee of $150 for 2022.
What Are The Responsibilities of a Realtor®?
Realtors have the standard responsibilities of their professions, like serving buyers and sellers as real estate agents or brokers.
Realtors, however, are held to a higher level of business standards and ethics. They must adhere to and follow the NAR Code of Ethics. Following the code of ethics is the most significant difference between being a Realtor and a real estate agent.
Below is an excellent summary of the 17 Articles of The Code of Ethics Realtors must adhere to. Keep in mind this is just a summary of the basics behind the code. Each article in the code has additional sub-codes detailing what rules Realtors must follow.
The code is considered a living document that can be amended as necessary. It has been changed throughout its history to remain in lockstep with today’s best real estate practices.
NAR has also changed the code when necessary to reflect fair housing laws and standards changes. NAR has some interesting statistics on Realtors.
Is it Worth Being a Realtor®?
In my professional opinion being a Realtor is worth it. For the past thirty-five years, I’ve taken pride in the fact I am a licensed Realtor®. Being highly ethical and moral is something that means a lot to me. Putting my client’s interests ahead of mine has always been a mantra worth following.
I would recommend to anyone who asks that being a Realtor vs. a Real Estate agent is the way to go.
Is it a Good Time to Become a Realtor®?
If you enjoy working with people becoming a licensed Realtor® can be extremely rewarding. Please understand, however, that making great money in your first couple of years can be challenging. Do not assume being a Realtor® or Real Estate agent is an easy job.
You will put in long hours at inconvenient times, such as nights and weekends. If you put your heart and soul into it, like anything else, it will probably be something that pays you back.
The 17 Articles of The Realtor Code of Ethics
A licensed realtor must follow the code of ethics as the chief difference when comparing a Realtor vs. Real Estate agent. A NAR member follows these truths as a regular part of their business.
Let’s look at NAR’s code:
- Protect and promote the best interests of buyers and sellers ahead of their own and treat all parties honestly.
- A Realtor shall not exaggerate, misrepresent, or conceal any material facts about a property. They shall investigate and disclose when situations reasonably warrant it. REALTORS® shall only be required to find and disclose adverse factors reasonably apparent to a person with expertise in those areas required by their real estate licensing authority.
- Realtors shall cooperate with other real estate agents and brokers when it’s in their clients’ best interests.
- A Realtor must disclose if they represent family members who own or are about to purchase real estate and if they are a principal party in a real estate transaction.
- Realtors cannot provide professional services in a transaction where the agent has a contemplated or present interest without disclosing that interest to all parties involved.
- A Realtor shall not collect a commission, rebate, or profit from the transaction without the seller’s knowledge, nor recommend third parties from which they will profit without the seller’s express consent.
- A Realtor shall refuse fees from more than one party even if the law permits without all parties’ informed consent.
- Realtors shall have a dedicated financial account holding clients’ funds always from the agents’ own funds.
- Realtors will attempt to ensure that all written documents, including listing and purchase contracts, are easy to understand. A copy of all materials is signed and delivered to the appropriate parties.
- Realtors will not discriminate in providing services based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin.
- Realtors will be competent to conform to standards of practice and not provide services outside the scope of their expertise.
- A Realtor must be truthful in advertising and marketing. Realtors also shall never quote pricing other than the agreed-upon listing price unless expressly permitted by the seller.
- Realtors cannot practice law and therefore give legal advice unless the Realtor is also an attorney.
- If charged with unethical practices, a Realtor shall cooperate and present all evidence requested by law.
- Realtors shall not make false accusations about another Realtor, discredit them, and file unfounded ethics complaints.
- A Realtor cannot solicit another Realtor’s client, nor can they interfere in their contractual relationship. Realtors are prohibited from intentionally marketing to another Realtor’s client.
- Realtors must submit disputes to the real estate board for mediation if the board requires it. If the argument isn’t resolved through conciliation or intervention is not needed, a Realtor will submit the dispute to arbitration by their board’s policies rather than litigate the matter.
As you can see, a licensed Realtor is held to a higher standard than a non-member real estate agent. It should be becoming clear there is a difference between a Realtor and a Real Estate agent.
What Benefits Do the National Association of Realtors Membership Fees Provide?
The dues an agent pays to be a member of NAR include the following benefits:
- Access to information webinars
- Code of ethics training
- A subscription to Realtor Magazine
- Market research and technology reports
- Historical data requests
- Library and research services
- Discounts on certification courses, conference attendance, mobile phones, car rentals, dental and health insurance, and books/brochures.
Real Estate Brokers Explained
Let’s look at the difference between a real estate broker vs. an agent.
What is a Broker?
The real estate broker vs. agent is a bit more clear.
A real estate broker is a real estate professional who has continued their education beyond a real estate agent’s level – successfully obtaining a state real estate broker license.
Brokers may work as independent agents or start brokerages and hire other real estate agents and Realtors to work for them. Some of the most recognized real estate agencies in the world include:
- RE/MAX International
- Coldwell Banker
- Century 21.
- Keller Williams
Many of these real estate franchises are located in the United States and around the world.
What Does it Take to Become a Broker?
A broker must go through all the training, pass all the exams required for a real estate agent, and then continue with their education to obtain a broker’s license.
Licensing requirements vary by state, but you must pass the broker’s exam.
When comparing real estate brokers vs. agents, the chief legal difference is holding a broker’s license.
Most brokers will have years of experience as agents before becoming a licensed broker.
What Are The Responsibilities of a Broker?
As more experienced and qualified real estate professionals, brokers tend to handle the higher-level requirements of a real estate transaction.
If they employ real estate agents, the broker may focus more on the detailed paperwork and legal requirements of a deal while the agents focus on the basics of the purchase or sale – like helping buyers find homes and helping sellers find buyers.
Most significant real estate brokers almost always oversee all of the real estate agents they employ daily.
The typical difference between a broker and a real estate agent is it usually includes an active ownership role.
What is an Associate Broker?
An associate broker has passed the broker’s exam and has a broker’s license but has chosen to work for another broker.
What is a Managing Broker?
On the other hand, managing brokers oversee the daily operations of running a real estate brokerage firm. They are in charge of running the brokerage firm, including managing staff and hiring and training new agents. They will oversee everything to make sure the business functions smoothly.
An associate broker and managing broker will also be a licensed broker.
Difference Between a Realtor and a Broker
The difference between a broker and a Realtor is likely to be just the ownership piece. The vast majority of real estate brokers are also Realtors.
How Does This All Apply to Home Buyers and Home Sellers?
When searching for an agent, it can help know the differences between real estate agents, Realtors, and brokers. Things to think about include:
- Real estate agents work for someone else. There is nothing wrong with this fact – most of the options you choose when finding an agent will work for a brokerage. But it is worth remembering that you are hiring an agency, not just an individual when hiring a real estate agent.
- Realtors hold themselves to a higher standard. Most Realtors are proud that they are part of such a well-established, highly-respected organization as the National Association of Realtors. They know that they have to try harder and be more careful to adhere to their Code. The first requirement they follow is ‘honesty,’ worth prioritizing when choosing an agent to handle what is probably the most significant financial transaction of your life.
- Brokers have more qualifications than agents. Many Realtors and real estate agents are plenty qualified to help you buy or sell a home. Of course, if you have the chance to hire a broker, you are justified in feeling some security knowing that your representative has achieved a higher level of education and certification. Many brokers, however, choose not to compete with their agents.
How Does An Owner Differ From a Real Estate Broker?
In many businesses, you have a “silent partner.” In real estate, this is no different. You can have a real estate company owner who does not possess a real estate brokerage license or even be a licensed salesperson. The owner typically remains out of sight of the business’s everyday operations.
An owner, however, could be consulted on vital business decisions surrounding the company. Sometimes owners of real estate companies are investors that see it as an excellent business opportunity.
It’s also possible that the company’s broker needed funding to establish the business. Nothing prevents a non-licensed individual from having a stake in a real estate firm.
Is it Better to Be a Real Estate Agent or Broker?
There is no right or wrong answer. The choice will boil down to a few factors. Do you enjoy the sales aspect of real estate, or are you more in tune with managing other people? If you strictly enjoy working with buyers and sellers, being a real estate agent might be more suitable.
On the other hand, if you like having more control of your business and having people working underneath you, a real estate broker might be a better choice.
Who Gets Paid More Real Estate Agents or Real Estate Brokers?
As a general rule, real estate brokers get paid more than real estate agents. Real Estate brokers will receive a percentage of all the commissions real estate agents collect. However, any company’s top producers may make more than the real estate broker does.
According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2020, a real estate broker’s average salary was $60,370. The average salary for a real estate agent was $49,040.
You can see more interesting statistics comparing real estate brokers vs. agents on their website.
Should I Hire a Realtor, Real Estate Agent, or Broker?
It is reasonable to want to hire the best person you can find for the job of helping you buy or sell your home. However, it is crucial to maintain the proper perspective in searching for the right candidate.
Things like local market knowledge, experience, recent satisfied references, a track record of success, and a good working relationship are worth considering, along with education levels and association memberships.
Do the work of interviewing candidates and asking the questions that really matter – such as how many homes they have sold recently, how close the sale price was to the original price and other vital questions like market time.
You may find a real estate agent that fits your needs to a T. Don’t avoid hiring the right person just because they are not a broker or a Realtor®.
Final Thoughts on Comparing Types of Agents
Whether you choose to hire a real estate agent, Realtor, or broker, it makes sense to do a careful interview process. Hiring someone to represent your interests is one of the most critical aspects of buying or selling a home. Not doing careful research is just asking for trouble.
Hopefully, you now understand the differences between real estate agents and Realtors. While there are some similarities between all three types of agents, there are noticeable variations as well.
Additional Valuable Real Estate Resources
Use these additional helpful resources to make intelligent decisions when selling a home.
About the author: The above Real Estate information on Realtor vs. Real Estate Agent vs. Broker: Similarities and Differences Explained was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 508-625-0191. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for 35+ years.
Are you thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!
I service Real Estate Sales in the following Metrowest MA towns: Ashland, Bellingham, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Natick, Northborough, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Sutton, Wayland, Westborough, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton, and Uxbridge MA.