REALTOR® vs. Real Estate Agent

Are you considering purchasing or selling a home? Then you’ll probably be using the services of a real estate agent or a REALTOR® soon. Both of these licensed real estate professionals are qualified to help you in any of your housing-related endeavours, but their titles —contrary to what many homebuyers or sellers may think, are not interchangeable. There are important distinctions between the two terms that will have a high impact on whom you pick as your agent and who gets to have their name at the bottom of an IDX home listing page. Ready to learn the difference? Keep reading below.

Real Estate Agent vs. REALTOR® — Explained

The Real Estate Agent


The real estate agent is an individual that is licensed to handle any real estate transaction. Whether you’re looking to buy, sell, or rent a property, the real estate agent will be in charge of preparing the ground for negotiation and acting as your representative every step of the way safeguarding your interests.

Real estate agents act as intermediaries between purchasers and sellers, as well as between landlords and tenants. They are also in charge of relaying offers and counteroffers between the parties, and any inquiries they may have. When an offer is accepted, an agent works with another agent to guide clients through the paperwork-filling procedure. They also ensure that their customers are fully informed about any requirements for closing, including home inspections, relocation, and important dates like the closing. That’s why for most, real estate is difficult. That’s also why most real estate agents fail in their first 2 years.

Types of Real Estate Agents

  • Listing Agent: This agent represents the seller and provides services such as setting listing prices, suggesting home improvements that will raise the property’s value, do home stagings, hosting open houses, and marketing the home on the local MLS. They also negotiate prices, handle closing costs, and even assist in submitting, filing, and delivering paperwork.
  • Buyer’s Agent: Representing the buyer, this agent is in charge of matching houses for sale with the buyer’s needs, wants, and price range. They also negotiate terms and assist with preparing, submitting, and filing necessary papers.
  • Rental Agent: Dedicated to serving both landlords and tenants, this real estate agent can perform various duties for renters, including helping locate the ideal rental property and assisting with paperwork. They also help landlords find a desirable tenant.
  • Dual Agent: This real estate agent has the ability to work with both the seller and the buyer during a single property purchasing process.


Although “realtor” and “real estate agent” are frequently considered synonymous, there are significant differences worth clarifying. The real estate agent is any licensee actively working on buying or selling homes. On the other hand, REALTOR® is a trademarked term that refers to real estate professionals who are members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The designation is available to a variety of real estate specialists, including appraisers, property managers, commercial and residential brokers, and of course, real estate agents.

How To Become a Real Estate Agent?

Becoming an agent is usually the first rung on the real estate ladder. After getting the real estate license, an individual can apply to become a REALTOR®, or keep studying to be a real estate broker. The prerequisites to become an agent vary per state since there is no such thing as federal licensing. That’s why the process of becoming a real estate agent in Georgia is different from the process of becoming a real estate agent in California. These are the basic requirements:

  • Be 18 years old or older.
  • Be a legal United States resident.
  • Complete a certain amount of pre-licensing class hours (in-person or online).
  • Taking and passing the state real estate licensing exam.
  • Get a complete background check.
  • Activate the license.
  • Obtain real estate broker sponsorship.
  • Maintain the license by the necessary continuing education courses.

How To Become a REALTOR®?

A real estate professional can take the plunge to become a REALTOR® following these steps:

  • Have a valid (active) real estate license.
  • Be working actively in the real estate sector.
  • Have no history of professional misconduct violations.
  • Have no recent or pending bankruptcy proceedings.
  • Join the local real estate association or board of realtors.
  • Pay NAR a one-time fee and an annual membership to maintain the status.

How Are Real Estate Agents And REALTORS® Different?

Both the real estate agent and the REALTOR® are accredited to do business in the real estate market. The main difference between them is that, to use REALTOR® as their title, the person must be an active member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). As of October 2021, NAR had over 1.5M members, and 68% are licensed sales agents.

As NAR members, real estate professionals gain access to several benefits, including training opportunities to advance in their career, up-to-date real estate market reports and stats, the ability to save listings on, connect with other REALTORS®, participate in various events, and much more.

REALTORS® also must pledge to abide by a code of conduct in order to join the NAR. The principle behind this code of conduct is that REALTORS® may treat all parties honestly and put their customers’ interests first during any real estate transaction.

How Are Real Estate Agents Paid?

Real estate agents work for a brokerage company or an agency, and their income depends on commission. This means they get paid a portion of the home sale price. Commissions tend to be negotiable, but the norm is between 5% and 6% of the purchase money. However, this amount is split up between the buyer’s agent, the listing agent, and the firms the agents work for.

Now That This Difference Is Clear…

Is time to bring to the table a third title that the average home buyer or seller might also find confusing: the real estate broker.

What Is A Real Estate Broker?

A real estate broker is an agent who has completed additional education and obtained a state real estate brokerage license. Typically, the real estate agent (also called a salesperson in some states) must hold a valid and active real estate license for about three years before they start the process of becoming a real estate broker.

To get their state license, broker’s extra study topics include ethics, taxes, insurance, and contracts. The course content goes at a more detailed level than what’s covered in a real estate agent pre-licensing course.

The soon-to-be brokers also learn about legal concerns and the applied laws to running a brokerage, real estate investments, how to manage a property, and construction. Overall, they are considered to have more knowledge and experience than real estate agents. There are three distinct types of real estate brokers.

Types of Real Estate Brokers

  • Principal Designated Brokers are the head of the office. They are responsible for overseeing all licensed real estate agents at the company and ensuring that they adhere to state and national real estate regulations.
  • Managing Brokers are responsible for the agent’s supervision and the office’s daily activities and transactions. Hiring and training new salespersons and administrative management are also among their duties.
  • Associate Brokers, also called affiliate brokers, are real estate professionals that hold a broker license but decide to work under another broker. They don’t usually have management responsibilities.

How Much Profit Does A Broker Make?

Overall, brokers earn a higher income than real estate agents because their license allows them not only to work independently (and make their commissions) but also open a brokerage firm to hire and supervise real estate agents. In doing so, the broker takes a cut of the commissions their managed agents make. Brokers can also run property management companies, gaining an added revenue stream or a profitable career alternative.

Who Should I Work With? An Agent, A REALTOR®, Or A Broker?

You don’t usually sell or purchase real estate on a daily basis, so having an expert representing you is critical to obtaining the greatest possible bargain. After all, buying or selling a home is one of the most significant transactions you’ll ever be involved in. Our advice is that you hire a pro with the experience and necessary skills to handle the specific transaction you need support with. And if you’re a real estate agent, check out our free real estate online courses!

A real estate agent can perform several duties in common commercial and residential real estate transactions. However, real estate brokers are more experienced than agents, which means that they would probably be able to handle more technically complex and challenging situations. As a bonus, brokers usually have access to a broader listing base provided by various agencies.

Finally, remember that if your real estate agent or real estate broker of choice uses the REALTOR® title, they are not only experts in their field but also followers of NAR’s strict code of ethics.

Share This:



Join Our Support Team For A Live Demo

Join our support team for a live demo on the leading wordpress plugin for real estate websites.

Get Your Copy Now

Recent Posts