Real Estate Agent 101 – What Is the Difference Between a Realtor and a Broker?

Building a career in real estate can be exciting and challenging. It offers diversity from the clients you meet to the types of property you represent. Many individuals confuse the terms “real estate agent”, “realtor”, and “broker” and it can be a bit challenging to sort out.

Estate Agent

What difference do the titles make? The road to the title Realtor begins with becoming an estate agent.

Let’s start at the point where you have met the education and licensing requirements of your state. You are now an estate “agent” but you may not work independently. You must join an estate brokerage and be supervised by a broker in order to transact business with clients.

You are an estate “agent” BUT you are not a REALTOR.

REALTOR

Becoming a realtor is a choice, not a requirement. Estate agents and realtors are qualified to perform the same real estate transactions. Some real estate agents choose to become members of the National Association of REALTORS (NAR).

The NAR holds its members to a high standard, the realtor Code of Ethics and its Standards of Practice. Members agree to adhere to and uphold the 17-point code Code. NAR members may also belong to state and local trade associations. A client with any ethics complaint against a realtor may file that complaint with the local NAR board.

An estate agent who has not become an NAR member cannot use the term “realtor” or REALTOR┬«.

Broker

A property agent can become a realtor and a broker
A realtor is a property agent who can become a broker
An estate broker is a real estate agent who may choose to also be a realtor.

Becoming a broker is a lengthier process than becoming a property agent. Brokers must complete additional educational requirements and pass a broker’s license exam.

The requirements vary from state to state, but a broker must also have a specific minimum amount of working experience as a property agent (generally between one and two years).

Some of the benefits and responsibilities of a property broker:

A broker may work independently and open his or her own brokerage. (A property agent or realtor cannot legally open a brokerage.)
A broker may hire property agents or realtors to work for the brokerage.
A broker may choose to be a co-broker with another broker.
The broker supervises and oversees all property-related activities of sales persons under his or her supervision.
The broker is responsible for handling the “earnest money” deposit of the client and establishes the escrow accounts.
Clients may take concerns about their agent to the broker.
The broker often serves as an intermediary if a problem develops during the purchase or sale process of a home.

Your real estate career – moving forward

Although you may be starting your real estate career, it is never too soon to explore your career opportunities. You may choose to build a powerful career as an agent within a brokerage. Becoming a realtor and adhering to the NAR Code of Ethics is not mandatory but can help reassure clients of your commitment to providing excellent and honorable service. As a broker, you will be held to higher standards of knowledge and responsibility.

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