Realtor. Agent. Broker. What’s the difference? It’s no surprise these terms are used interchangeably. After all, they’re all licensed real estate professionals with the shared goals of helping clients sell, buy, and rent properties. However, their roles vary slightly. Read on for the key differences. 

What’s a real estate agent?

A real estate agent (also known as a real estate associate or salesperson) is someone licensed to buy, sell, and rent real estate. To earn a license, they must complete training and pass an exam, with the requirements varying by state. All agents must work under sponsoring brokers or brokerage firms. 

What’s a real estate broker?

A broker is a real estate agent with even more training and licensing. To earn a broker’s license, they must complete additional training and pass a broker’s exam, with the requirements varying by state. Thanks to their additional expertise (and broker’s license), they can oversee other agents and start their own brokerage firms. Think of them as real estate agents with more seniority and leadership experience.

What’s a realtor?

A realtor is a real estate agent or broker who has joined the largest real estate trade association in the U.S., The National Association of REALTORS (NAR). To maintain their membership, they must pay annual dues and abide by the NAR’s ethical standards. 

READ: 13 Steps of a Real Estate Closing

Types of real estate professionals

Agents, realtors, and brokers can all be described as listing, buying, or rental. Here’s what these terms mean:

  • Listing/selling/seller’s: They represent the seller, helping them price, list, market, and sell their property. Selling agents show homes to potential buyers and the buying agents who are representing them.

  • Buying/buyer’s: They represent the buyer, helping them find and purchase property. Buying agents tour homes with potential buyers, helping them decide on properties that meet their requirements. They also help them navigate the buying process, including the inspection and closing.

  • Renting/rental: They represent a landlord or tenant (or both) in a rental transaction. 

Types of brokers

Brokers can be further classified by their level of seniority. Here are the three tiers:

  • Associate/broker associate/broker-salesperson/affiliate broker: This is the most junior level of broker. Typically, associate brokers work under more senior brokers and do not supervise agents.

  • Managing: This is a mid-level broker who oversees transactions and manages agents and administrative staff.

  • Principal/designated: This is the most senior level broker who makes sure all brokers and agents under them follow state and federal real estate laws. Each brokerage has one principal broker.

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