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  • Writer's pictureTaleen Krug

What's the Difference: Real Estate Agent vs. Broker vs. Realtor

There are real estate agents, Realtors, and real estate brokers who perform different functions when helping people sell or buy homes or properties.

Choosing one can sometimes be difficult when you don't know the differences between the roles because they're hard to distinguish from each other.

You'll be able to choose the right one for you after you read this article.

Real Estate Agents

As part of a real estate career, real estate sales agents help clients buy or sell houses, they are professionals in the realty industry. They participate in real estate sales by helping people buy and sell properties.

They also earn their incomes by selling properties at agreed-on commission rates. Real estate agents aren't paid by the hours worked; they're paid by the sale.

Real estate sales agents work for real estate brokers as the broker's rep representing a transaction.

Real estate sales agents are not employees; they are independent real estate salespeople.

Agents must obtain a real estate agent license, and pass the courses and tests required by the local licensing board before becoming a real estate agent, and pass a background check. Real estate agents don't need any special licenses from the government. It all depends on where you live.

You need between 30 and 90 hours of preparation time before taking the exam. Some states require you to pass their licensing exams before you can practice.

Real estate agents must be licensed and may have to take additional courses.

You need to be able to fulfill these requirements before becoming an agent. Once they're fulfilled, you can begin working as a real estate agent.

A real estate agent works for a brokerage firm, which is usually supervised by a designated broker or principal broker.

Types of Real Estate Agents

Agents can be buyers or sellers; they're usually referred to as "buyers' brokers" or "sellers' agents."

When representing a seller, this type of agent is known as a listing agent, listing broker, seller's agent, or selling agent in the real estate business.

Realtors represent their client's best interests whether they're purchasing or selling a property. He/she finds properties that buyers and sellers both want and then negotiates the best price. She helps real estate agents by finding people who might be interested in buying homes and helping them negotiate the best deal for their needs.

Real estate agents help their clients by handling a long list of different real estate-related activities often when working at a real estate office.

Real Estate Agent Roles:

  • Pricing homes correctly.

  • Help market the property online and offline.

  • Negotiate offers when they are received either from a client or a buyer's agent.

  • Keep lines of communication open with clients before and after transactions.

Help buyers find homes they want to buy.

There are numerous other tasks involved in the successful completion of a transaction.

Buyers' and sellers' agent roles can vary greatly depending on the type of real estate transaction they're involved in.

A Buyer's Agent Tasks

The buyer's agent will help buyers by doing these things:

Help buyers get pre-qualified for mortgages by finding lenders who offer competitive rates and terms.

Help people buy houses by giving them advice on neighborhoods, schools, or communities.

Ask if they need any help with what to offer and then ask them to give you an idea of what they're looking for. Then, when you get back together, talk about the findings.

Suggest a professional home inspection and attend the inspection to share results with clients.

Negotiating inspection repairs for the buyer is an important part of closing the deal.

Talk to both parties' agents and attorneys during the transaction.

Make sure the buyer has committed to buying the property by monitoring their loan commitment.

Before the closing, finish up any loose ends and attend a final inspection of the property.

Responsibilities of a Seller's Agent

Selling agents perform these tasks to sell houses successfully:

  • Conducting a thorough study of the local real estate markets and pricing homes accordingly is an important part of selling a house.

  • Create a marketing strategy that gets homes sold quickly for the highest price possible.

  • A Listings Agreement outlines the terms under which a property may be listed for sale by a realtor.

  • List the property for sale in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).

  • If they want open house events, provide them.

  • Before and during the sale, communicate properly.

  • Before accepting an offer, ensure that the person who made the offer is qualified.

  • Negotiate the most favorable terms for the seller.

  • Representing the best interest of the sellers means attending the home inspection.

  • Provide the appraiser with important details about the house so he/she can give an accurate estimate.

  • Help the seller complete any remaining tasks so they can close as scheduled.

What is a Realtor®?

There is a difference between a real estate agent and a Realtor that you may not have known about.

Most people don't know that there's a big difference between being a Realtor and being an agent.

Most people assume that every realtor is a Realtor®, but they're not. It isn't true.

A Realtor works for an organization called NAR, which is a federally recognized brand name.

Real Estate agents who belong to the National Association of Realtors wear abide by the Code of Ethics. NAR is one of the largest trade associations in the country.

Some real estate professionals include Realtors, mortgage lenders, appraisers, title companies, and others.

Real estate agents, property management companies, property managers, and mortgage brokers can also join. All NAR member companies must adhere to the standards and code of conduct set forth by NAR.

Real estate professionals who belong to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) believe that they can offer a superior level of services compared to the average real estate agent.

Becoming a Realtor®?

To become a Realtor, you need to be a member of the National Association of REALTORS®, which requires you to meet certain qualifications and pass an exam every four years as well as have real estate experience that is far above the norm

Realtors must adhere to strict ethical guidelines set by the National Association of Realtors and Realtors must uphold the standards of practices and code of ethics in their professional lives to maintain membership.

Membership costs $150 per year until 2022.

Responsibilities of a Realtor®

Realtors have certain responsibilities which include serving both clients as either real estate agents or brokers.

Realtors, however, are expected to adhere to a higher level of professional standards and ethical conduct than most other professions.

As a Realtor, you need to follow the code of ethics, as well as be a licensed agent, follow standards of practice, and more.

Being a member of NAR is the main differentiator between being an ordinary real estate agent and a Realtor.

The NAR Code is considered a living document that can be updated as needed. It has been modified through its history to stay up to date with current real estate practices. NAR has also updated its policies and procedures to comply with fair lending laws and regulations.

What is a Real Estate Broker?

A real estate broker is someone who has gone through additional training after becoming an experienced Realtor.

A principal real estate broker may work independently or he or she may start his or her realty firm and hire other Realtors to work for him or her.

Some of the most recognizable real estate broker companies and real estate agencies in the world include:

  • RE/MAX International

  • Coldwell Banker

  • Century 21

  • Keller Williams

  • ERA

  • Redfin

These are some of the many real estate franchises available worldwide.

How to Become a Principal Broker

To become an actual principal licensed real estate broker, one has to first complete the necessary courses and broker exams, and educational requirements and then keep up with his/her studies to obtain a real estate broker's license.

Licensed broker's requirements vary by location, but you must pass an examination before becoming licensed and joining a real estate firm.

There are two main differences between real estate brokerage firms and real estate agent companies: one is having a broker's license; the other is not having a broker's license.

Principal brokers usually have years of agent training before they become licensed brokers.

Responsibilities of a Broker

A real estate broker who has more experience and knowledge usually handles the higher-level aspects of a real estate deal.

In the real estate industry, real estate brokers usually handle the details of buying and selling properties, while their associates (or "salespeople") help clients find houses for them to buy or sell.

Most significant brokers usually oversee all of their salespeople every day.

A broker's primary responsibility is to hold a buyer's earnest money deposits until the deal closes.

A broker typically has an active ownership role compared to a real estate agent who may be employed by a brokerage firm but not own any properties.

Realtor vs. Broker

The difference between brokers and Realtors is likely to be just one thing — who owns them? The vast majority of real estate brokers are also Realtors.

Hiring a Realtor, Real Estate Agent, or Broker

You shouldn't be too concerned about finding the "best" real estate agent if you're trying to get the most out of your experience.

Consider things like local market knowledge, professional services, previous experience, recently satisfied referrals, track history of success, and a strong working relationship when making hiring decisions.

Interviewing potential employees is an important part of hiring them. Ask them relevant and important interview questions such as how many homes did they sell recently, how close the sales price was to the original prices, and other vital interview questions such as market times.

You might be able to find a real estate agent who meets your specific requirements. Don't avoid hiring the right person just because they are not a broker or a Realtor.


It makes good business practice to conduct an interview process before hiring someone. When purchasing or renting a house, one of the most important things is hiring an agent who works for your best interest. Better safe than sorry.

After reading this article, hopefully, you'll now be able to decide whether you want to hire a Realtor, an agent, or both. There are some differences between all three types of realtors, but they're not so different from each other that you won't be able to tell them apart.

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