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Real Estate Agent vs. Real Estate Broker
Learn what the difference is between a real estate agent and a real estate broker and which profession makes more money and which you should choose.
PUBLISHED: DECEMBER 18, 2020
LAST UPDATED: AUGUST 19, 2021
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Real Estate Agent vs. Real Estate Broker - What’s the Difference?
If you are new to the industry or are considering starting a career in real estate, you may have wondered what the difference is between a real estate agent and a real estate broker.
The terms “real estate agent” and “real estate broker” are often used interchangeably. It is easy to confuse the two terms when both an agent and a broker are licensed to sell property. The basis of both roles is the same. However, an agent and a broker in the real estate industry hold two completely different jobs.
The jargon used within the real estate industry often seems like a foreign language. But, the differences between the two positions are easy to distinguish. They differ through their specific responsibilities and educational requirements.
What Is the Difference Between a Real Estate Agent and a Broker?
A real estate agent is an industry professional who facilitates real estate transactions under a brokerage. A broker may work independently to facilitate real estate transactions or start their own brokerage and employ real estate agents to work for them.
Real Estate Agent
Ultimately, a real estate agent is responsible for connecting buyers and sellers to facilitate the sale of the real estate or real property. Agents are industry professionals who take and pass all state-specific courses and fulfill licensing requirements. An agent is capable of representing both buyers and sellers for real estate transactions. Additionally, an agent works under a brokerage and cannot work independently.
Responsibilities of a Real Estate Agent
Match a Buyer’s wishlist to Available Properties on the Market
Real estate agents listen to what a buyer is looking for and attempt to find a match by targeting specific neighborhoods and evaluating the features of a property.
Submit Offers and Negotiate
After a buyer finds a property they are interested in buying, the agent submits and offer and is capable of negotiating until terms are agreed upon by both parties.
Real estate agents are responsible for guiding clients through the finalization of purchases. They complete tasks such as finalizing paperwork, facilitating repairs and inspections, and navigating the closing of the sale.
Types of Real Estate Agents
Type of Agent Job Description
Seller's Agent (Listing Agent)
When you decide to sell your home, you will need to work with a seller's agent.
A seller's agent or listing agent is responsible for representing the person who is selling a property in the real estate transaction. These agents are industry professionals who have exstensive knowledge of local housing markets and are excellent at negotiating and moving quickly throughout the selling process.
A seller's agent has the following responsibilities.
List the home or property on a variety of listing services
Negotiate prices and conditions for the seller
Coordinate and shedule showings of the property
Price the home or property being sold
Advertise and market the propery to potential buyers
Help the seller with closing paperwork
Buyer's Agent (Selling Agent)
When you decide to buy a new home, you will need to work with a buyer's agent.
A buyer's agent or selling agent works with the individual who is purchasing real estate or real property – the buyer. Buyer's agents are industry professionals who understand the complex transaction process and who have in-depth knowledge of local housing markets so that they can present the buyer with properties that match what they might be looking for.
A buyer's agent has the following responsibilities.
Locate unique properties that meet the needs of the buyer
Help buyers with financing
Price the home or property being sold
Works to negotiate fair pricing of properties
Help the buyer with closing paperwork
Real Estate Broker
Brokers typically complete more training than real estate agents. Their training allows them to independently facilitate property transactions or own a brokerage, supervising other agents. A brokerage company's primary duty is to act as a middleman who assists or represents buyers and sellers in the transaction process. A broker who owns a brokerage employs other real estate agents to work under them. Brokers are capable of overseeing more technical parts of real estate transactions.
Responsibilities of a Real Estate Broker
Can Do Everything Real Estate Agents Can Do
Before someone can become a broker, they must first pass the real estate licensing required in their state. They are capable of completing each step of the real estate purchasing process.
Supervise and Guide Other Agents
Brokers who oversee a brokerage manage the day-to-day of running a firm, providing support to agents in the form of technology, marketing, mentoring, and listings. Many go through advanced training courses in order to become a broker and can help with complicated real estate transaction.
Real Estate Agent vs. Broker: What's the Difference?
Real estate agents and brokers both help clients navigate the tricky process of selling, buying or renting homes. Here's how they differ.
What’s the Difference Between a Real Estate Agent and a Broker?
November 28, 2021 • 4 min read
By Brianna McGurran
In this article:
What Does a Real Estate Agent Do?
What Does a Real Estate Broker Do?
How Are Real Estate Agents and Brokers Paid?
The Bottom Line
Real estate agents and brokers are both specialists adept at helping their clients navigate the tricky process of selling, buying or renting homes. But brokers typically have more in-depth training than real estate agents, and they often operate in supervisory roles, overseeing agents who work for them.
It's most important to work with an expert who has your best interests in mind and who will help you reach your individual goals with skill and compassion. That means either an agent or a broker could be best for you. But as you embark on the journey to sell, rent or buy a home, the differences between real estate agents and brokers are useful to know.
What Does a Real Estate Agent Do?
Real estate agents must complete certain licensing requirements and pass an exam in their state, which then allows them to represent clients who want to buy, sell or rent a home. An agent with a real estate license typically must work on behalf of a brokerage, which supports and supervises them.
The steps required to get a real estate license and become an agent depend largely on the state of residence. But in general, a prospective agent must have legal U.S. residency, be at least 18 or 19 years old, take specific courses and pass a licensing exam. They must then find a brokerage that will sponsor them as a newly licensed agent, where they can begin to take on clients.
There are several different types of real estate agents. During the homebuying process, you may come across buyer's agents and seller's agents, also called listing agents. A buyer's agent works with a homebuyer to find and tour potential homes, make an offer, negotiate the contract and make referrals to mortgage lenders and home inspectors.
A listing agent represents the seller and helps list the property at the right price, find interested buyers, set up home tours and make sure the final contract takes into account the seller's wishes. Some agents represent both the buyer and seller. Agents are paid on commission, meaning they only earn money on the sale when it closes.
What Does a Real Estate Broker Do?
Real estate brokers must typically have a few years of experience as agents before beginning training as a broker. They complete additional education requirements and pass a separate licensing exam, making their preparation deeper and more well-rounded than that of agents. Brokers learn about insurance, taxes, legal and ethical issues, as well as business management, since they run larger-scale businesses and oversee others as part of their work.
Unlike agents, brokers can work on their own without sponsorship, which means they can start their own firms or work as independent contractors. Their duties include managing the brokerage and supervising agents plus developing and negotiating contracts and serving as expert-level agents during real estate transactions.
There are three main types of brokers:Associate brokers: These perform similar duties to real estate agents, but they have the licensing level of a broker and may receive a higher commission than an agent would. They do not have to be supervised by a broker, but they work at a brokerage that may help them find clients and deal with administrative tasks.Managing brokers: These brokers work in a supervisory role at the brokerage, though they may also work directly with clients on a home purchase or sale.Principal brokers: Also called designated brokers, this type of broker is the person who applies for and holds the brokerage's state license. They are the top manager, supervising the real estate agents at the brokerage, and they may take a salary instead of a commission.
How Are Real Estate Agents and Brokers Paid?
In the real estate world, agents and brokers (other than those who take a salary) receive a commission when a sale is complete. The seller of the home pays the agent's fee, which is typically 5% or 6% of the home's sale price. The supervising brokerage the agent works for will keep a cut of that commission and pay the rest to the agent. Brokers who work on behalf of sellers or buyers, however, can earn commissions without having to split it with the brokerage they work for.
Here's an example of how it works. Let's say a home sells for $400,000, and the buyer and seller each had a separate real estate agent. The two agents will take, all together, a 6% commission, which gets subtracted from the seller's earnings on the home. The commission in this case is $24,000 total.
The seller will split that $24,000 between the buyer's agent and the seller's agent. Each agent's commission payment—in this case, $12,000—will go to the brokerage where they work. The brokerage will then pay the agent based on their agreement. If the agents keep 60% of the commission and the brokerages they work for keep the rest, each agent will receive $7,200 as their fee for the sale.
Real Estate Agent vs. Broker vs. Realtor: What's the Difference?
Real estate professionals go by different names. Here's how to tell the difference between agents, brokers, Realtors, and more.
Real Estate Agent vs. Broker vs. Realtor: What’s the Difference?By Daniel Bortz
May 19, 2022 Envelope Facebook Twitter Linkedin Pinterest
Whether you want to buy or sell a home, you’ll want some help. So who should you hire? Real estate professionals go by various names, including real estate agent, real estate broker, or Realtor®.
So what’s the difference between a Realtor, real estate agent, and broker?
Sometimes these titles are used interchangeably, but rest assured, there are some important differences, as well as varying requirements for using particular titles.
Here’s a rundown of the real estate professional titles you’ll come across, and what they mean.
What Is a Real Estate Broker vs Real Estate Agent—and Who Should You Hire?
10 Questions to Ask a Real Estate Agent Before the Pro Helps You Buy a Home
5 Types of Real Estate Agents You'll Meet: Which One Is Right for You?
Difference between a real estate agent and broker: What is a real estate agent?
A real estate agent is someone who has a professional license to help people buy, sell, or rent all sorts of housing and real estate.
To get that license, states require individuals to have prelicensing training. The required number of training hours can vary significantly by jurisdiction. In Virginia, for example, real estate agents must take 60 hours of prelicensing training, while in California they need 135 hours of license coursework.
Once that training is done, aspiring agents take a written licensing exam. This exam is typically divided into two portions: one on federal real estate laws and general real estate principles, the second on state-specific laws.
Once they pass their exam, they’ve earned a license, the title of a “real estate agent,” and they might join a brokerage where they can begin working with home buyers, sellers, and renters.
———Watch: Buying a Home? Here’s What Real Estate Agents Wish You Knew
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Broker vs. Realtor, explained
A real estate broker is someone who has taken education beyond the agent level as required by state laws and passed a broker’s license exam.
Similar to real estate agent exams, each state sets its own broker education and exam requirements. The extra coursework covers topics such as ethics, contracts, taxes, and insurance—at a more in-depth level than what’s taught in a real estate agent prelicensing course.
Prospective brokers also learn about real estate legal issues and how the law applies to operating a brokerage, real estate investments, construction, and property management.
As a result, “brokers have in-depth knowledge of the real estate business,” says Jennifer Baxter, associate broker at Re/Max Regency in Suwanee, GA.
To sit for the broker’s exam and obtain licensure, real estate agents must already have a certain level of experience under their belt—typically, three years as a licensed real estate agent.
There are three types of real estate brokers, each with subtle differences in the role they perform:Principal/designated broker: Each real estate office has a principal/designated broker. This person oversees all licensed real estate agents at the firm and ensures that agents are operating in compliance with state and national real estate law. Like real estate agents, principal brokers get paid on commission—taking a cut of the commissions of the sales agents they supervise (although many principal brokers receive an annual base salary).Managing broker: This person oversees the day-to-day operation and transactions of the office and typically takes a hands-on approach to hiring agents, training new agents, and managing administrative staff. (Some principal/designated brokers also serve as managing brokers.)Associate broker: This real estate professional—sometimes called a broker associate, broker-salesperson, or affiliate broker—has a broker’s license but is working under a managing broker. This person typically is not responsible for supervising other agents.
What is a Realtor?
In order to become a Realtor—a licensed agent with the ability to use that widely respected title—an agent needs to be a member of the National Association of Realtors®.
As a member, a person subscribes to the standards of the association and its code of ethics.
“Essentially, the NAR holds us to a higher standard,” says Peggy Yee, a Realtor in Falls Church, VA. Membership in the NAR also comes with access to real estate market data and transaction management services, among other benefits.
A listing agent is a real estate agent who represents a home seller. These professionals help clients who are selling with a wide range of tasks, including pricing their home, recommending home improvements or staging, marketing their home, holding open houses, coordinating showings with home buyers, negotiating with buyers, and overseeing the home inspection process and closing procedures.
True to their name, buyer’s agents represent home buyers and assist their clients through every step of the home-buying process, including finding the right home, negotiating an offer, recommending other professionals (e.g., mortgage brokers, real estate attorneys, settlement companies), and troubleshooting problems (e.g., home inspection or appraisal issues).