What are the Differences Among a Real Estate Agent, a Broker and a Realtor?

Many people unfamiliar with the real estate industry use the terms real estate agent, broker and realtor interchangeably. There are differences among the three titles, however, the most important being the services each real estate professional offers to those in need of real estate services.

A real estate agent is a real estate professional who has taken and passed all required real estate classes and passed the real estate licensing exam in the state in which he or she intends to work. It is the most encompassing of the titles since it is the starting point for most real estate professionals. Agents are also referred to as real estate associates.

A real estate broker has continued his or her education past the real estate agent level and has passed the real estate broker license exam. Real estate brokers can work as independent real estate agents or have other agents working for them. A real estate associate broker is a professional who has passed the broker licensing exam but chooses to work for another broker. An associate broker may share in the brokerage profits above and beyond the typical agent commission.

A realtor is a real estate professional who is a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). To become a member, a real estate professional has to agree to abide by the association's standards and uphold its code of ethics.

The biggest distinction among the three is that a broker can work on his or her own, while an agent has to work under a licensed broker.