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Jul 25, 2022 PropStream

The Difference Between a Real Estate Agent, REALTOR®, and Broker

How many times have you heard the terms real estate agent, broker, and REALTOR® used to describe the same person?

Probably more than you can count if you’re active in the real estate industry!

While some responsibilities within these titles can overlap, each of these titles actually reflects an entirely different job and status in the industry. Not sure how agents, brokers, and REALTORS® differ? Keep reading to learn more.

What is a Real Estate Agent?

Real estate agents are professionals with a license to help with the buying, selling, and renting of real estate.

Agents operate off of commissions they receive for connecting homebuyers and sellers. The commission is taken from the sale of the property the agent was involved in.

While the process of becoming a real estate agent will vary depending on the region, generally, agents in the United States must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be a legal citizen
  • Take a pre-licensing course required by the state they plan on working in
  • Pass a real estate exam
  • Pass a background check
  • Acquire sponsorship from a local real estate brokerage
  • Maintain the licensure by taking additional classes periodically

Once an agent has taken the necessary steps, their daily responsibilities will vary depending on the type of client they’re working with.

When working as a buyer’s agent, a real estate agent will:

  • Pull properties based on their client’s desired criteria
  • Show properties of interest
  • Answer client questions regarding the property
  • Facilitate negotiations between the buyer and seller
  • Work with the listing agent if an offer is accepted
  • Help clients fill out paperwork
  • Guide clients through the final stages of the sale (e.g., appraisal, inspections)

When working as a listing agent, the real estate agent will:

  • Help their client set a price for the property
  • Offer guidance about home updates that will potentially increase the value of the home prior to selling
  • Assist with the staging process before showings
  • Market the property via the MLS, social media, direct marketing, etc.
  • Negotiate prices as offers come in
  • Work with paperwork related to the sale
  • Assist with closing

What is a REALTOR®?

While the terms “real estate agent” and “REALTOR®" are often used interchangeably, these titles are actually different.

While real estate agents perform the duties listed above, REALTORS® are members of the NAR (National Association of Realtors). REALTORS® can be real estate agents. However, they can also be brokers, property managers, appraisers, or other types of professionals in the real estate industry.

To become a REALTOR®, one must:

  • Have a valid real estate license
  • Be working hands-on in the real estate industry
  • Have a record free of unprofessional real estate conduct
  • Have a record that’s free of bankruptcy 

If these criteria are met, a real estate professional can join a local NAR association. Joining this association will require a one-time application fee and an annual fee to maintain membership.

Lastly, REALTORS® must follow a strict code of conduct laid out by the NAR to maintain the status of “REALTOR®."

What is a Real Estate Broker?

While a real estate broker starts as an agent, they must continue their real estate education past initial licensure to become a broker.

As we mentioned, a broker can also pay membership dues and join the NAR if they fit the criteria to add the “REALTOR®" title to their portfolio.

To become a broker, a real estate agent must have relevant experience practicing as an agent. With the necessary experience, they can take a state test to get their broker’s license.

Many agents choose to become brokers because it allows them to work independently. While agents must operate under a brokerage, a broker can open their own brokerage and hire additional agents to work with them.

Types of Brokers

There are three different types of brokers:

  1. Managing Brokers: As the name suggests, managing brokers perform more managerial functions. These functions include:
  • Supervising real estate transactions carried out by agents
  • Hiring agents to join the brokerage
  • Training new hires
  • Managing the administrative staff (e.g., assistants, receptionists)
  1. Associate Brokers: An associate broker has their own broker’s license. However, they choose to work under another broker.
  2. Designated Brokers: Also known as “principal brokers,” designated brokers oversee real estate agents to ensure they follow the necessary real estate laws. Typically, a brokerage will have one designated broker.

If a broker chooses to, they can continue performing many of the tasks agents do, such as helping clients find a home, going to showings, working with a seller to list, etc. Some brokers choose to step back and allow their team of agents to handle these tasks while they manage and oversee all operations within the brokerage.

How Are Agents, Brokers, and REALTORS® Different?

Each title represents a different tier within the real estate industry.

Real estate agents are the starting point. If agents want to work independently, hire other agents, and continue their education, they can receive their broker’s license.

“REALTOR®" is a title based on a real estate professional’s relationship to the NAR and can be given to either an agent or a broker.

Free Educational Resources For Any Real Estate Professional

Real estate agents, brokers, and REALTORS® all serve as valuable members of the real estate industry, as each job and title comes with its own expertise and responsibilities.

No matter what type of real estate professional you are, PropStream has free Academy courses to help you excel in your niche!

Some of our most popular courses include:

  • Real Estate Direct Marketing 101
  • PropStream for Agents: Landing New Leads and Listings
  • The Art and Science of Sales Comps

Additionally, we have a weekly webinar called Lunch and Listings for agents, brokers, and REALTORS® to get actionable advice about finding new leads. Webinars are live every Wednesday at noon PT.

Sign up for free and take an Academy course or attend a webinar today!

Published by PropStream July 25, 2022