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

Written by Kacie Goff

If you’re considering a career in real estate, you’re probably wondering about the difference between a real estate broker and agent. And is the broker vs. realtor breakdown similar? Are real estate agents and realtors the same? 

Don’t worry. We have answers to all of those questions. To help you understand the difference between a real estate broker, a real estate agent, and a Realtor®, we built this quick and easy guide. 

What is a real estate agent?

A real estate agent is an individual who has passed their real estate exam and is licensed to handle property purchase or sale transactions in their state. Residential real estate agents help people buy or sell a home, while commercial real estate agents help with the sale or purchase of office buildings, manufacturing facilities, and other commercial spaces. 

In either case, the agent usually makes money by taking a commission from every transaction they close. 

A real estate license allows the agent to deal with real estate transactions and make commissions off them, but the agent has to work under a broker. The broker is responsible for overseeing their work. 

This, of course, begs another question. 

What is a broker?

A broker is an individual who has completed a higher level of real estate education and licensure than a real estate agent. With a real estate broker license, that person can work for themselves and they can hire real estate agents to work under them. 

Many brokers still work directly with buyers and sellers and take commissions off those transactions, just like an agent. 

What’s the difference between a real estate broker and agent?

There are two primary differences between a real estate broker and a real estate agent. The first is that the broker has a higher level of expertise denoted by their broker license. To get that license, they had to take extra real estate education and pass a more advanced exam. 

Secondly, brokers can work for themselves as independent real estate professionals or they can open a brokerage and hire agents to work for them. They don’t need anyone to oversee their work. 

What the difference between a real estate agent and a Realtor?

Now, you might think we’ve cleared up the broker vs realtor distinction, but that’s not the case. That’s because people commonly interchange real estate agents and Realtors, but they’re not the same thing. 

As we’ve mentioned before, a real estate agent is an individual who’s licensed to practice real estate in their state. To be a Realtor, though, the individual needs to join the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) and abide by their code of ethics. Real estate pros interested in joining the NAR can start the process by finding their local Realtor association. 

Any real estate professional can join the NAR. That means that technically, brokers, agents, appraisers, and property managers can all be Realtors. But only someone who’s a member of the NAR can be called a Realtor.

Now you know the difference between a real estate broker and agent, and what it takes to technically be a Realtor. Whether you’re thinking about getting into real estate yourself or just want to know the terminology for the next time you buy or sell a property, we hope this helped.