Realtor Vs. Real Estate Agent: Unraveling the Differences and Similarities

Introduction: Have you ever wondered about the distinctions between a Realtor and a real estate agent? In the world of real estate, these terms may seem interchangeable, but there are key differences that can impact...

Introduction: Have you ever wondered about the distinctions between a Realtor and a real estate agent? In the world of real estate, these terms may seem interchangeable, but there are key differences that can impact your decision-making process. Understanding these differences will help you identify the type of professional that best suits your needs. In this article, we will delve into the disparities between Realtors and real estate agents, shedding light on their roles, qualifications, and the benefits they offer.

Realtor Vs. Real Estate Agent: Key Differences

The biggest disparity between a real estate agent and a Realtor lies in the certifications they hold. While they perform similar tasks, they are held to different standards set by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Let's take a closer look at the roles of a real estate agent and a Realtor, as well as the qualifications required for each. So, what sets them apart?

Real estate agent vs Realtor Image: Real estate agent vs Realtor

What Is a Real Estate Agent?

A real estate agent is a professional who helps individuals buy and sell properties. They hold a real estate license that allows them to practice in the field. Real estate agents can specialize in residential or commercial properties and may focus on specific areas such as listing, buying, or rentals. To become a real estate agent, one must pass a state examination after completing the required coursework. Licensing requirements vary by state, but agents typically complete 30 to 90 hours of coursework and become well-versed in local, state, and national real estate laws and practices. Continuing education and license renewal are often required every one to two years.

How to Become a Real Estate Agent

  1. Research the age and education requirements in your state.
  2. Enroll in approved real estate education courses, either offline or online.
  3. Submit an application and necessary paperwork to take the final licensing exam.
  4. Take the real estate license exam and achieve the minimum score required in your state.
  5. Work with a licensed real estate broker to gain experience.
  6. Apply for your license to begin practicing as an agent.
  7. Continue your education and renew certifications as needed.

How Do Real Estate Agents Earn Money?

Real estate agents earn money through commissions. Each time they assist clients in buying or selling a home, they receive a percentage of the sale price as a commission. Typically, the commission ranges from four to six percent and is divided between the agent and the broker involved in the transaction. For example, if a property sells for $350,000 with a six percent commission, each side (listing agent, buyer's agent, and their respective brokers) would receive approximately $5,250. Working with multiple clients simultaneously allows agents to maintain a stable income stream.

What Is a Realtor?

A Realtor is a real estate agent who is an active member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the largest trade association in the United States. To join the organization, real estate agents must hold a valid license and maintain an impeccable professional conduct record. Realtors adhere to an extensive Code of Ethics, providing clients with peace of mind knowing they are working with agents who uphold high professional standards. Although it is not mandatory to become a Realtor, many agents choose this path to benefit from the NAR's reputation and the legal protections and benefits it provides.

Code of Ethics

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has established a Code of Ethics, comprising 17 articles that realtors must adhere to. These articles cover various areas of professional standards, including responsibilities towards clients, the public, and other realtors. Realtors are committed to promoting their clients' interests, providing honest and transparent service, cooperating with other brokers, and avoiding discrimination based on various factors. The Code of Ethics ensures that Realtors consistently maintain the highest ethical standards throughout their practice.

Is the Word Realtor Always Capitalized?

Yes, the word "Realtor" is always capitalized as it has been trademarked by the National Association of Realtors. The term was coined in 1916 to differentiate NAR members from non-members, and the trademark is still upheld by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office today. This simple capitalization serves as a nominal difference between Realtors and real estate agents.

How to Become a Realtor

To become a Realtor, one must follow these steps:

  1. Identify and join the local chapter of the NAR in your county or state.
  2. Pay the required dues to become a member.
  3. Take and pass an online course on the Code of Ethics.
  4. Adhere to the NAR's standards of practice throughout your career.
  5. Retake the online course every four years to maintain your certification.

Broker Vs. Realtor

When it comes to differentiating between a real estate agent and a Realtor, the disparity lies primarily in professional certifications. However, the contrast between a broker and a Realtor is much more significant. A broker, who has undergone additional education and passed a broker's licensing exam, holds a broader set of responsibilities. Brokers manage real estate firms, ensure legal compliance, review contracts, and oversee real estate agents and Realtors. While agents can become brokers and vice versa, the two terms are not interchangeable.

How Do Brokers Earn Money?

Brokers earn money through commissions from their own deals or a portion of their agents' deals. They typically split commissions with the agents who work under them. Additionally, brokers have the advantage of closing their own deals, allowing them to maximize their income as they are not required to share the commission with their team.

Working With a Broker vs. Real Estate Agent

Whether you choose to work with a broker or a real estate agent, your experience will likely be similar. Independent brokers may have access to a wider range of properties, and they can adjust their fees as they don't need to share them with an agency. However, apart from these minor differences, the experience of working with a broker or a real estate agent is largely the same.

Why Should I Work With a Real Estate Professional?

Working with a real estate professional offers several advantages that can greatly benefit buyers and sellers. Here are a few reasons why you should consider working with a real estate professional:

  • Experience: Real estate professionals possess in-depth knowledge of property buying and selling processes, ensuring a smoother experience for clients.
  • Location-specific knowledge: Professionals have a deep understanding of local markets, including comparable properties, price points, schools, crime rates, and market trends. They can guide you towards fair and competitive prices.
  • Negotiation skills: Real estate professionals act as valuable mediators during the negotiation process, maintaining a calm environment and advocating for their clients' interests.
  • Professional connections: Real estate professionals maintain networks with other professionals and previous clients, offering references and connections to interested buyers or sellers.

Can You Sell Your Home On Your Own?

Yes, you can sell your home on your own by creating a For Sale By Owner (FSBO) listing. This approach requires significant time and effort on your part, as you will be responsible for marketing your property, handling negotiations, and navigating the intricacies of the selling process. While selling on your own can save you from paying commission fees, it may be more complicated due to potential commission obligations to the buyer's agent. Be sure to educate yourself on closing costs and other factors involved in the process.


By now, you should have a clear understanding of the differences between Realtors and real estate agents, as well as the disparities between agents and brokers. The real estate industry boasts a wide array of talented professionals who excel in their respective niches. Whether you decide to work with an agent, a broker, or venture into buying a home on your own, it is essential to recognize the valuable work done by real estate professionals.

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