Real Estate Agent Broker or Realtor – you may work with one of these professionals when buying or selling a home. Though all of these real estate pros are licensed to help you buy, sell, or rent a home, they are distinct from one another, especially when it comes to their qualifications and which rung of the professional ladder they occupy. What is the difference between these agents? Which should you choose to protect your interests?

Real Estate Agent Broker or Realtor Compared

Real Estate Agent Broker or Realtor compared Real estate agents are individuals who are licensed to help people buy, sell, and rent real estate. They are ultimately responsible for bringing buyers and sellers together and are paid a commission—usually a percentage of the property’s sale price. Real estate agents are also called real estate associates and real estate salespeople.

The requirements for becoming a licensed real estate agent vary by state (there’s no federal license). Mosr states require that a real estate agent:



  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be a legal resident of the U.S.
  • Complete their state’s required pre-licensing class
  • Take and pass the state real estate license exam
  • Complete a background check
  • Be sponsored by a licensed real estate broker
  • Complete the continuing education classes required to maintain the license.

A real estate agent must be affiliated with a real estate company and must work under the supervision of a broker.  In fact, a real estate agent can not work for him or herself.  A Realtor can be a real estate agent or a Broker because it is reflects an individual’s commitment to a professional organization’s code of ethics.

Real Estate Broker Explained

A real estate broker is a real estate agent who continues their education and successfully receives a state real estate broker license. Unlike real estate agents, brokers can work independently and start their own brokerage and hire other real estate agents.

What do real estate brokers do?

Real estate brokers do many of the same things that agents do and may or may not also supervise other agents.

There are three main tiers of real estate brokers, with varying degrees of responsibility:

  1. Associate brokers have broker licenses but choose to work under another broker. In general, associate brokers do not supervise other agents.
  2. Managing brokers oversee transactions and daily operations in the office. They also hire agents, train new hires, and manage administrative staff.
  3. Principal/designated brokers supervise real estate agents to make sure they are in compliance with state and national real estate laws. Each real estate office has one designated broker.

Some people take the extra training to become brokers but then decide not to become the principal or designated broker because they don’t want to be responsible for supervision of other agents. Those brokers become associate brokers.  Other brokers decide to become managing brokers because they don’t want the ultimate responsibility of being the principal broker – the one on point when issues arise.

Realtor versus Salesperson or Broker

A Realtor is a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the largest trade association in the U.S. As a condition of membership, a Realtor agrees to abide by the Code of Ethics of the National Association of Realtors, the oldest professional code of ethics.  Although the term “Realtor” is commonly confused with that of “real estate agent,” they are different.  A real estate agent (either a broker or salesperson) may decide to join the NAR and become a Realtor or not.  The decision is separate from the category of licensing available as a result of the educational level achieved by the individual.  In addition,  the designation is open to a variety of professions within the real estate industry, including:

  • Residential and commercial real estate brokers
  • Salespeople
  • Property managers
  • Appraisers

How to become a Realtor

Anyone who wants to become a Realtor must meet four requirements:

  1. Have an active real estate license.
  2. Be actively engaged in the real estate business
  3. Not have filed for any recent or pending bankruptcy.
  4. Not have a record of official sanctions involving unprofessional conduc

Next, the person needs to join one of the National Association of Realtors’ local real estate associations, pay a one-time application fee, and pay annual membership dues to maintain their Realtor status. All Realtors must adhere to the National Association of Realtors’ strict Code of Ethics.  This latter commitment to adhere to the NAR Code of Ethics is what distinguishes Realtors from other salespeople and brokers.

Bottom LIne on Real Estate Agent Broker or Realtor

If you have any more questions about the differences between Realtors and real estate agents or sales agents and brokers, I would be happy to talk further with you.  Just as a point of reference, I have been an associate broker for over 34 years, licensed in DC, Maryland and Virginia.  I look forward to speaking with you at 240-401-5577 or by email at  After we talk, we can start looking for a new home for you.  If you are impatient to start, just click here.

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