Realtors, brokers and agents & how to tell the difference
So, you're thinking about selling your home and buying a bigger place. Sounds like you could use a realtor…or is it a real estate agent? Wait, no, maybe it's a real estate broker? Oh well, it doesn't really matter who you call - they're all the same, right?
When it comes to choosing someone to represent your best interests, don't just assume that any real estate professional will do. Just because the terms are interchangeable, doesn't mean they're the same. So what exactly is the difference between realtors, brokers and real estate agents? Let's find out…
What is a real estate agent?
According to Sundaybell.com, a real estate agent is someone who is licensed to sell real estate. In the grand scheme of things, an agent is the very first step on the ladder of real estate services. Real estate agents are restricted in what they can and cannot do. For example, an agent cannot work independently - they must be employed by a broker. Real estate agents often do the same work as brokers, but they aren't qualified to run their own firm.
In order to qualify as a real estate agent, you must:
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Complete a course and pass an exam that tests your knowledge of basic real estate transactions and property sales laws
What is a real estate broker?
A broker is a real estate agent who has completed additional training and a more detailed coursework load. The information that they learn during this training qualifies them to run their own brokerage firm.
As such, a real estate broker normally has a more complete knowledge of real estate law. Furthermore, brokers are often awarded more power and responsibility than agents within a brokerage firm. Brokers normally manage a team of real estate agents and are in charge of ensuring that any transactions are completed without error.
It's worth noting that not every broker runs his or her own brokerage firm. Many real estate brokers choose to work for other real estate companies or franchises, such as Royal LePage or RE/MAX. Working for these larger companies enables the brokers to increase their knowledge and expertise, as well as grow their professional networks.
What's a realtor?
Realtors are members of the National Association of REALTOR® (NAR) in the United States or the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) in Canada. As such, they must subscribe to the REALTOR® Code of Ethics, a strictly enforced program consisting of articles that govern the standards of real estate practice. This code of ethics doesn't apply to every real estate professional, agent or broker — only those that are members of their respective associations.
When working with a realtor, you can expect honesty, integrity and the highest level of service. Practitioners, lawyers and consumers now accept the NAR code of ethics as the standard of professionalism in the real estate industry.
To qualify as a realtor, you must complete their ethics training when joining the association. You must also complete ongoing training on a regular basis.
Qualified realtors are entitled to use the REALTOR® registered trademark on any promotional materials.
Can an agent be a realtor?
Yes, a real estate agent can be a realtor. Real estate agents that are members of the NAR or CREA are bound by the realtor code of ethics and are considered to be realtors.
However, it's important to note that not every real estate agent is a realtor. If you're having difficulty discerning whether or not the agent you're talking to is a realtor or not, simply ask to see their business card. A realtor will proudly display the REALTOR® registered trademark on his or her card.
When in doubt, always ask your real estate professional for information on their training and background. It's important to know who you're dealing with when buying or selling a property.