What Is the Difference Between a Realtor and a Real Estate Agent?
A real estate agent, realtor, and broker are three separate individuals with differing levels of education, experience, and affiliation. In terms of their qualifications and the services they offer, you might be best suited with a realtor VS a real estate agent, or vice versa.
Are you working with a Realtor or a real estate agent? Often, people use the words interchangeably to refer to any individual who handles real estate transactions, but that’s not correct.
A real estate professional can be classified as a real estate agent, realtor, and/or broker. The difference between these titles are the levels of education, experience, and affiliation. So, who are these individuals and what do they offer? Are all real estate agents realtors or is there more required to be one or the other? We’ve got the inside scoop.
Real Estate Agent
A real estate agent is a person who is licensed to represent buyers and sellers in a real estate transaction. The steps to becoming licensed vary by state but typically include a minimum number of instructional hours and the passing of a real estate licensing exam. Additionally, many real estate agents have also passed a state background check and have business insurance.
Agents are the most common real estate professionals that you’ll run across. All real estate brokers and realtors are real estate agents, but not all real estate agents are brokers or realtors.
Real Estate Broker
The differences between a real estate agent and broker have to do with education. A real estate broker has pursued a higher level of licensing after working in the industry for a set amount of time. In addition, to become a broker you should be verified by a principal broker and pass a broker exam specific to your state.
In the end, the most telling differences between a real estate agent and broker are their level of experience. A broker has at least worked in the industry buying and selling homes for a few years.
The final title is that of a realtor. A real estate agent and a real estate broker can both be realtors. The key to being a realtor vs. a real estate agent is belonging to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Only members of this association can be identified as a realtor.
What makes a realtor unique? members of the NAR have all taken a pledge to follow a set of ethics and guidelines that ensure their integrity. These codes of ethics carry weight for a realtor in their day-to-day business practices and cover a wide range of pledges:
- Shall put the interests of buyers and sellers ahead of their own.
- Shall cooperate with other brokers and agents if it’s in the best interest of the client.
- Shall refuse fees from more than one party without consent.
- Shall not discriminate in any fashion.
- Shall always present the truth in advertising.
All in all, the REALTOR® Code of Ethics offers a very specific outline for how an agent or broker should think, act, and perform their duties. This is not to say that the main broker and realtor difference is the type of individual—an ethical or non-ethical person. A broker can follow these same ethics guidelines without being a member of the National Association of Realtors. However, being a member of the NAR does offer a course of action if you have a complaint; you can contact your local board of realtors.
Choosing Your Real Estate Professional
So, how do you choose the right real estate professional for you? The right individual will be different for every transaction, homebuyer, and seller. You need to decide if having a few extra years of experience and education or adherence to a specific code of ethics makes you feel more comfortable hiring one person over another.
No matter whom you decide, we recommend carefully vetting all your candidates and reviewing their qualifications before making your choice. A realtor isn’t necessarily better than a broker, and an agent isn’t necessarily less experienced than a broker. It all depends on their qualifications. Vet wisely.
Victoria Keichinger is the Director, Brand Marketing for Coldwell Banker Real Estate. When she's not managing national media and advertising for the Coldwell Banker brand at work, she finds herself most at home in Jersey City, NJ with her pre-school crush turned spouse (and baby on the way). A true francophile, she loves to travel and will go anywhere there are ski slopes.