What is the Difference Between a Real Estate Agent and a Broker?

Looking to buy or sell a house? You may work with a real estate agent, broker, or Realtor®. There are quite a few real estate professionals who are licensed to help you buy, sell, or rent a home, but what sets them apart are their qualifications and where they sit on the professional organizational structure. What you need to know:


•Real estate agents are professionals with the proper licenses to help people buy, sell, and rent real estate. Brokers or brokerage firms must sponsor them.
•Brokers are licensed real estate agents who have completed additional training and licensing requirements. They can also work independently and hire real estate agents to help them.
•Realtors are members of the National Association of Realtors, which is the national trade organization for real estate agents and brokers. Members must abide by the strict Code of Ethics of NAR.

Real Estate Agent

Real estate agents assist people in buying, selling, and renting 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 criteria for becoming a real estate agent differ by state (there’s no federal permit). As a rule, though, real estate agents must

1 Be 18 years old or older
2 Be a legal U.S. resident
3 Complete the required state pre-licensing class
4 Pass the real estate license test
5 Verify background information
6 Provide sponsorship by a licensed real estate broker

To maintain the license, completion of continuing education classes is required.

What Does a Real Estate Agent Do?

A real estate agent organize transactions between buyers and sellers, as well as those between landlords and tenants. Agents are responsible for communicating offers, counteroffers, and any queries between each party. Once an offer is accepted, an agent will help clients fill out paperwork with help from another agent. They also assure their clients are fully aware of any additional steps to finalize the sale plus home inspections, moving, and significant dates such as the closing.

Real estate agents who represent sellers are termed listing agents. These agents help set listing prices, recommend property improvements that will enhance the property’s valuation (and the likelihood of a profitable sale), assist with home staging, and market the property through the regional Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and other marketing channels. Additionally, they negotiate the sales price, closing costs, and other fees, and prepare, submit, and file all documents.

Buyer’s agents represent buyers. They find properties that meet the buyer’s wants and needs, and then help arrange appraisals and inspections. A buyer’s agent negotiates terms with the seller and prepares, submits, and files the necessary documents.

The same agent will not act as both a buyer’s and a seller’s agent, since this creates a conflict of interest.

Real Estate Broker

A real estate broker is an agent who continues learning to earn a broker license through the state. In contrast to real estate agents, brokers may be self-employed and can start their own brokerage and hire other real estate agents.

What Do Real Estate Brokers Do?

Brokers do many of the things agents do. Brokers who collaborate with buyers normally look for properties that fit the requirements set forth by their customers, conduct negotiations, prepare offers, and help the buyers with any other issues leading up to the day of closing. Seller’s brokers evaluate the market values of their clients’ properties, assist with the offer process, communicate with sellers about offers, and list and show properties.
Real estate brokers fall into three main types:

Associate brokers are licensed brokers, but usually work under another broker. Associate brokers are generally not responsible for supervising other agents.
Managing brokers supervise the day-to-day operations in the office. They are also responsible for hiring agents, training new recruits, and managing administrative staff.
Principal or designated real estate brokers supervise their agents to ensure they are in compliance with state and national real estate laws. Each brokerage has one designated broker.


A Realtor® is a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the largest trade organization in the U.S. The word “Realtor” is often mistaken for that of “real estate agent,” but it actually indicates a variety of professions within the real estate industry including:

Real estate brokers for residential and commercial properties
Sales representatives
Property managers
Real estate appraisers

Become a Realtor®

To become a Realtor, you must meet four requirements:

1 Be in possession of an active and valid real estate license
2 Actively participate in the real estate business
3 Not have any record of sanctions involving unprofessional conduct
4 Not having filed for bankruptcy recently or currently

Then, the applicant needs to join one of the local real estate associations of the National Association of Realtors, pay an application fee, and pay annual dues to maintain their Realtor status. All Realtors must subscribe to the NAR’s strict Code of Ethics.

Realtors promise to adhere to the Code of Ethics of NAR and to uphold the best interests of their clients in all transactions.