Real Estate Agent vs. Real Estate Broker vs. Realtor – Main Differences

Are you planning to buy or sell a house and have difficulties with the real estate jargon? You’ve done your homework and read as much as you could but came across terms that sound similar but have to be different, right? Real estate agent, realtor, real estate broker?

Their qualifications differ from one another, along with which part of the real estate industry they cover. There’s a good chance you’ll need one of these in your quest of buying or selling a home, so let’s get down with the lingo first before you decide what your action steps are. 

Real estate agent

Real Estate Agent

Real estate agents are those carrying a license to sell, buy or rent a real estate property. They receive a commission after bringing together buyers and sellers. The commission is most commonly a percentage of the property’s sale price. Other names you might come across for real estate agents are real estate salespeople and real estate associates. 

The list of requirements for beginning a real estate agent career differs, depending on the state, because there’s no federal license. Generally, these rules are usually applied:

  • Be at least 18
  • Have legal residence in the U.S.
  • Complete the state-required pre-licensing class
  • Pass the state’s real estate license exam
  • Do a background check
  • Get sponsorship from a licensed real estate broker
  • Keep completing the required education classes needed for maintaining the license over time
Real estate broker

Real Estate Broker

A real estate broker is a person who simply continues his education after receiving the title of a real estate agent. After obtaining the required knowledge, the agent gets a real estate broker license from the state. Agents cannot work alone, but real estate brokers can work independently and even start their brokerage, after which they can hire other agents.

To simplify, a real estate broker is one step above a real estate agent and can have more freedom when it comes to buying and selling real estate property. Real estate brokers do many things as agents do; they conduct negotiations, prepare client offers, match the client criteria with their available listings, along with helping potential buyers with any issue that might occur prior to the closing date

Three main types of real estate brokers exist, with various degrees of responsibility:

  • Associate brokers: they work under other brokers and do not supervise other agents.
  • Managing brokers: they supervise, hire, and train other agents, oversee daily office operations and transactions, and manage administration. 
  • Principal or designated brokers: handle and supervise agents to make sure that they comply with a specific set of state rules and regulations. Every real estate office should have one designated broker. 


Finally, we’ve come to the last part of our definition list. Realtor is often used for a professional who has a membership with the National Association of Realtors, or NAR for short. Realtors are commonly confused with real estate agents, but the truth of the matter is that they can be related to several different professions within the industry:

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

Becoming a realtor means answering all four requirements with a positive answer:

  1. An active and valid real estate license
  2. An active engagement in the real estate business
  3. Not having a record of official sanctions related to unprofessional conduct
  4. No recent or pending filings of bankruptcy

After this, the next step is joining the NAR s’ local real estate association, pay an application fee, and later keep paying the annual membership fee in order to maintain your Realtor status.