What is the difference between a real estate agent, a broker and a realtor?

There is some confusion in the real estate industry regarding the roles and names of agents, brokers, realtors and salespeople. These roles are different from each other and clients should expect different services from each one.

  • Real estate salesperson - anyone who took real estate classes, passed the qualifying examination and got licensed in their state (see how to become a real estate agent). You should take formal real estate advice only from a licensed real estate salesperson. A licensed salesperson can work for a broker, under his supervision.

  • Broker - Once a licensed salesperson has several years of experience (depending on the state), and once he completeted additional classes and passed the qualifying examination administered by the Department of State, he can be licensed as a broker. A broker can apply for a license on behalf of a brokerage business and he is responsible for the conduct of the business. A broker can accept listings and be hired by a client to represent them and act on their behalf.

  • Agent - this is where the confusion begins. Both salespeople and brokers are often being referred to as “agents” but a salesperson is not a broker. A salesperson can act as the broker’s agent and negotiate listings and transactions but only the broker can accept listing and he is liable for them.

  • Realtor - REALTOR is a registered trademark of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). A realtor is a member that belongs to one of the affiliated NAR associations and can be a broker, salesperson or even property manager, appraiser, counselor or anyone engaged in all aspects of the real estate industry. To become a realtor you will need to join the realtors association, choosing a brokerage firm that is associated with it and attend a number of meetings designated by your local chapter.