Realtor Vs Real Estate Agent Vs Broker FAQ

Realtor Vs Real Estate Agent Vs Broker FAQ

Key Takeaways

  • It is a common misconception that all real estate agents are Realtors, when there are in fact key differences. 
  • In addition to agents and Realtors, it is also helpful to understand a broker’s role in the real estate profession.
  • Working autonomously is possible, but there are several advantages to working with a real estate professional that should be considered.

What is the difference between a Realtor vs real estate agent?

If you are relatively new to real estate, chances are you have asked yourself about the differences between today’s most popular real estate professions. You may have noticed various industry titles being thrown around, such as real estate agent, Realtor, broker, or salesperson. This can get very confusing, especially as some of these titles are often used interchangeably, even though there are distinct differences between each. Understanding the distinctions between “Realtor vs real estate agent,” as well as real estate broker, can provide clarity on what type of real estate professional may best suit your needs.

Difference Between Real Estate Agent And Realtor

The biggest difference between a real estate agent and a Realtor comes down to the certifications for each. You may have heard the terms used interchangeably, and perhaps you have wondered what the difference is between the two. Simply put, while they complete similar jobs they are held to different standards as established by the National Association of Realtors. To better understand “Realtor vs agent”, let’s take a closer look at the role of a real estate agent, followed by the role of a Realtor and the qualifications necessary for each.

What Is A Real Estate Agent?

A real estate agent is a professional who assists in the buying and selling of properties, and has obtained a real estate license to do so. Real estate agents can work with residential as well as commercial properties depending on their speciality. Agents can also practice with a certain focus like a listing or buyers agent, as well as a rental agent. The difference between a listing and buyers agent comes down to their primary clientele: listing agents work with sellers to list a home, while buyers agents help aspiring homeowners search for properties. Rental agents, on the other hand, work with potential tenants to find rental units within a given area.

To become a real estate agent, professionals must pass a state examination after taking the required coursework. Although licensing requirements vary by state, the average real estate agent will have completed 30 to 90 hours of coursework, and must become knowledgeable about local, state and national real estate laws and practices. Depending on the state, agents are often required to continue their education and renew their licenses every one to two years.

How To Become A Real Estate Agent

  1. Research the age and education requirements in your state.
  2. Enroll in approved real estate education courses either in person or online.
  3. Submit an application (and necessary paperwork) to take the final licensing exam.
  4. Take the real estate license exam and meet the minimum score in your state.
  5. Work with a licensed real estate broker and gain experience.
  6. Apply for your license to begin practicing as an agent.
  7. Continue your education and renew certifications as needed.

What Is A Realtor?

A Realtor is a real estate agent who is an active member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Founded in 1908, the NAR is the largest trade association in the United States. Active real estate agents who would like to join the organization must have a valid real estate license and an immaculate professional conduct record. Real estate agents have an incentive to join due to its good reputation, which may attract more clients. All Realtors are required to adhere to an extensive Code of Ethics, so consumers may feel at ease knowing that they are working with agents who are thoroughly vetted and have sworn to uphold certain professional standards.

According to the NAR, about half of all real estate agents in the United States are certified Realtors. Many real estate agents choose this path because the organization actively works to protect the interests of its members. As a trade association, the NAR has strong bargaining power in both state and federal governments. This influence can be used to obtain better legal protections and benefits for Realtors across the country. Essentially, while it is not required to become a Realtor some real estate agents will find this path to be in their best interest.

Is The Word Realtor Always Capitalized?

The word “Realtor” is always capitalized, as the term has been trademarked by the National Association of Realtors. This is one nominal difference between Realtor and agent, though it can be helpful to note. In 1916, the NAR coined the term “Realtor” as a way for members to distinguish themselves from non-members, later obtaining a copyright and trademark in 1950. The trademark is still upheld by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office today.

How To Become A Realtor

  1. Identify and join the local chapter of the NAR in your county or state.
  2. Pay your dues to be a part of the association.
  3. Take and pass an online course on the Code of Ethics.
  4. Adhere to the NAR’s standards of practice throughout your career.
  5. Retake the online course every four years to maintain the certification.

Broker Vs Realtor

To summarize a real estate agent vs Realtor, a real estate agent is a real estate professional with a valid license. Agents help people buy and sell both commercial and residential properties. Agents can also become Realtors, who are active and paying members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). In this sense, when it comes to professional duties there is generally no difference between real estate agent and Realtor, other than to distinguish between members and non-members of the NAR.

Key professional differences do, however, come into play when looking at a real estate broker vs Realtor. A broker is a professional who has taken additional education and has passed a special broker’s licensing exam. Although broker exams differ state to state, the coursework generally covers in-depth topics such as legal issues, operating brokerages, investments, construction and property management. In addition, real estate agents are often required to practice for several years before they are qualified to take the broker’s exam. Although there are a few types of real estate brokers, generally, you will find them managing real estate firms and its agents, ensuring legal compliance, and reviewing contracts.

Essentially, the difference between real estate agent and Realtor comes down to professional certifications. On the other hand, the difference between broker and Realtor is more closely related to the roles and responsibilities handled by each professional. While brokers can become Realtors, and vice versa, the two terms are not interchangeable.

Why Should I Work With A Real Estate Professional?

Any type of buyer or seller should consider working with a real estate professional, due to the unique skills and expertise they have to offer. Here are just a few of their qualifications to take into consideration:

  • Experience: A real estate professional’s sole job is to understand the inner workings of property buying and selling processes. They will inform clients so that they may navigate the process as smoothly as possible.
  • Location-specific knowledge: A professional will know the ins and outs of local markets, including comparable properties, price points, schools and crime rates. They can also help determine prices that are fair and competitive, respective to the market and property type.
  • Negotiation: Another advantage to working with a real estate professional is their ability to serve as a buffer between parties involved. Acting as the middlemen during the negotiation process, agents often help keep waters calm between buyers and sellers.
  • Professional Connections: Real estate professionals maintain a network with other professionals and previous clients they have worked with. They can provide you with references, as well as help connect you with interested buyers or sellers if so desired.

However, that all being said, it is definitely possible to work autonomously, and without the help of a real estate professional. Those who do not mind putting in a lot of time conducting research, as well as mind their due diligence, can experience success in their endeavors.


By this time, hopefully the difference between “Realtor vs real estate agent,” as well as the distinction between agents and brokers, has been clarified. The real estate industry is robust, with talented professionals taking ownership over each of its unique niches. Whether or not you decide to work with an agent or broker, or navigate buying a house on your own, it is important to acknowledge the important work done by real estate professionals.

Perhaps you have a positive experience to share from working with a professional, or your experience working with a Realtor or real estate agent. Feel free to share in the comments below: