Real Estate Buying 101: Agents, Realtors, Brokers

Buying

What is the difference between a real estate agent, a Realtor, and a broker?

When buying a home, especially before the process has even begun and you’re looking for a real estate agent, you’ll come across the terms agent, Realtor, and broker. So what’s the difference, and how are you supposed to know which one to choose?

A real estate agent is anyone that is licensed to accommodate the sale or purchase of real estate, land or property, to any individual or business. To earn a real estate agent license an individual must undergo a number of courses and training pertaining to real estate transactions and the law surrounding them, and then pass a final exam. The requirements and coursework vary from state to state but it typically consists of 40-90 hours of study time. All states also require that real estate agents are at least 18 years of age. Once the individual has completed the training and passed the exam, they cannot operate independently even though they now have their real estate license. They must work for a real estate broker.

A Realtor is a real estate agent that has undergone extensive training past the minimum amount required, is a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), and subscribes to the Realtor Code of Ethics. The ethics training undergone by potential Realtors must be completed within one year of the agent becoming a member of the NAR and they must also update their training and examinations once every two years. While all Realtors are real estate agents, not all real estate agents are Realtors, and only those that are can use the registered Realtor trademark on their promotional materials.

A real estate broker is an individual that has completed even more extensive training beyond the real estate agent level and is educated and licensed to run their own brokerage. Once this training has been completed, the broker can then work independently or can hire real estate agents to work for them.

NOTE: On this island of Oahu, the terminology differs slightly:
*A real estate agent who has completed the required real estate salesperson training and continuing education, is a member of the National Association of Realtors, and subscribes to the Realtor Code of Ethics us known as a "Realtor Associate". 

*A real estate agent who has completed the required broker training and continuing education (even if they do not run their own brokerage firm), is a member of the National Association of Realtors, and subscribes to the Realtor Code of Ethics is known as a "Realtor".