It looks like Cookies are disabled in your browser. For the best experience, please enable cookies when using our site.

Real Estate Professionals Explained: Agent, Broker, Realtor

Real estate professionals go by different names. There are agents, brokers, Realtors®, sellers agents, buyers agents. The list goes on.

If youre entering the real estate market for thefirst time, you may find real estate professionals various titles a little confusing. But youll benefit from knowing the difference. Other professions have managers and employees, but in this area of business, its a little different. People tend to use these titles interchangeably, but there are some important differences between the roles of the various professionals, as well as different requirements for using particular titles.

The real estate profession is regulated by state governments, which have different requirements for earning a license. In general, though, the titles you may come across include the following:

Learning the Lingo: Mortgages Explained, From ARMs to Points

Anyone who earns a real estate license can be called areal estate agent, whether that license is as a sales professional or an associate broker. They look at listings on the multiple listing service and help you buy or sell your house. State requirements vary, but in all states you must take a minimum number of classes and pass a test to earn your license.

A real estate agent who is a member of the National Association of Realtors®, which means that he or she must uphold the standards of the association and its code of ethics.

A person who has taken education beyond the agent level as required by state laws and has passed a brokers license exam. Brokers can work alone or can hire agents to work for them.

Someone who has taken additional education classes and earned a brokers license but chooses to work under the management of a broker.

While you are more likely to work directly with a real estate salesperson or an associate broker when buying, selling, or renting property, some brokers provide services for buyers and sellers themselves. If you have hired a realestate agentto help youbuyor sell a property, that agent typically reports to a broker. The broker handles theearnest money depositand establishes theescrowaccount. They will be an invaluable resource in the whole process.

In addition, the broker bears responsibility for the actions of the real estate agents under his or her supervision. While the majority of property transactions go through without any glitches, a broker will step in if there are any problems with your home or rental property purchase or sale (e.g., issues with your mortgage or inspection).

If you are unhappy with your realestate agentand cannot resolve the issues directly, your next step should be to talk with the broker to ask for help and perhaps other real estate professionals for you to consult.

Real estate brokers not only have higher education requirements than real estate salespersons, they also must have knowledge and experience working as an agent. For example, in Virginia the license requirements are as follows:

A salesperson must take 60 hours of classes and pass an exam with both state and national sections.

A broker must take 180 hours of broker-specific classes, pass an exam with both state and national sections, and have actively worked as a real estate salesperson for 36 of the previous 48 months.

When you are looking for real estate professionals, it is wise to work with a member of the National Association of Realtors who is committed to maintaining the professionalism of thereal estate business. You can choose to work with a salesperson or a broker, but as a homeowner you should take the time to interview your agent and ask for references.

Michele Lerner writes about real estate, personal finance, and business news. She is the author of two books about home buying.

editorial team highlights a curated selection of product recommendations for your consideration; clicking a link to the retailer that sells the product may earn us a commission.

Launching Pads: Americas 10 Best Starter Cities for New College Grads

Donald Trump Jr. Almost Didnt Buy This Mansion Because It Didnt Have a Gun Room

House Party Podcast: Secrets of the Brady Bunch Home Restoration; Are You Washing Things Wrong?

Expert Home-Buying Advice for Our Nations Veterans

6 Ways Your Bathroom Is Secretly Stressing You Out

Subscribe for weekly real estate news and advice from ®