Real Estate Brokers vs. Agents vs. Realtors: What’s the Difference?

Posted by Hannah Lapin on May 26, 2022 9:24:24 AM

real estate agent welcoming a couple into a house

When it comes to the real estate business, there’s a good chance you’ll work with a real estate agent, broker, or realtor at some point. These are terms and titles that get thrown around a lot, often interchangeably. However, there are distinct differences between each, and understanding what they are will improve your understanding of the industry, who to talk to in certain situations, and more.


Summary of each


To start, we’ll define each term, as well as what their primary role (or roles) in the real estate industry are. A common similarity to give us a baseline is each of these professionals is licensed to help you rent, sell, or buy a property. Now, let’s discuss in more detail:



What is a real estate agent?


Real estate agents are professionally licensed individuals who help others buy, sell, or rent real estate. While requirements vary from state to state, general criteria include:

  • Over the age of 18
  • Legal resident of the U.S.
  • Complete their state’s pre-licensing class
  • Pass their state’s real estate licensing exam
  • Undergo a background check
  • Be sponsored by a licensed real estate broker
  • Maintain their real estate license through continued education

What do they do?

Real estate agents act as a middleman between a buyer and seller for a property (and owners and renters), connecting the two parties and organizing transactions. Agents will also advise their clients about market conditions, arrange property walkthroughs, and provide guidance through the purchase process.



What is a real estate broker?

A real estate broker is an agent who has continued their education and completed additional training and license requirements to receive their state’s real estate broker license. Similar to real estate agent licenses, some general requirements for a broker license include:

  • Complete their state’s pre-licensing class
  • Meet experience requirements
  • Pass their state’s broker exam
  • Undergo a background check

Another type of broker in the real estate industry is a mortgage broker, who connects buyers and lenders (rather than buyers and sellers) to set up loan contracts. They also study credit reports, lending contracts, interest rates, and other financial information to make sure that their client gets the best deal for their situation. In most instances of residential real estate, mortgage brokers need an NMLS license, which also varies by state.

What do they do?

Brokers do many of the same things as real estate agents, but also can own their own firms and often negotiate, arrange, and oversee real estate transactions. They also have various additional responsibilities such as hiring and training agents, marketing, and writing up offers for properties.

As mentioned above, mortgage brokers focus on the financial aspects of real estate, including researching the latest interest rates, loan terms, and more. Often, mortgage brokers are seen as someone who will look out for their client's best interests, and ensure that they get the best deal or the best opportunity for their circumstances and financial needs.



What is a realtor?

A realtor is a real estate professional (not necessarily a broker or agent) that is a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Realtors can be a range of real estate professionals, including property managers, appraisers, counselors, brokers, agents, and more. By becoming a member of the NAR, individuals agree to follow the NAR’s strict Code of Ethics, which is a set of guidelines around the realtors’ duties to clients and customers, other realtors, and the public.

What do they do?

Realtors can have a wide range of responsibilities because many different types of real estate professionals can be members of the NAR. The common thread among all realtors is following the NAR’s Code of Ethics and its 17 articles, which govern members’ conduct and services to serve clients’ best interests.



So what’s the difference?

To summarize their differences, while realtors, brokers, and agents are all licensed, agents are the “base level” of real estate professionals and have to work for a broker or brokerage firm. Brokers are a step up from real estate agents, have completed supplemental training and licensing requirements, and can now own their own real estate firm (and can hire real estate agents to work for them). Lastly, realtors are simply real estate professionals who are members of the NAR (National Association of Realtors) and follow their strict Code of Ethics.



Visio can help your real estate business

If you’re a mortgage broker looking for additional revenue streams, our Broker Program is one of the best in the country. Using our program, you can earn up to 5% per closed loan and we do not require any NMLS licensing (except for in California or Arizona), making it much easier to look at opportunities across multiple states. If you’re a real estate agent or realtor, our Referral Program is also a great way to earn money with every lead you find.

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Topics: Realtors, Brokers

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