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Realtor vs Real Estate Agent: What’s the Real Difference? 

Realtor vs Real Estate Agent: What’s the Real Difference?
Nice realtor holding folder

If you recently picked up one of the more than 5 million homes sold each year, you most likely did it with help from a real estate professional. What you might not know is exactly what kind of real estate pro helped you with your home purchase.

Was it a realtor vs real estate agent? Did you work with a real estate agent vs a broker? Maybe you worked with a real estate broker vs a realtor.

While people often use terms like real estate agent and realtor as the same thing, they are distinct from each other. Keep reading to find out more about the differences and similarities.


Both realtors and real estate agents must get a real estate license from the state where they live. This process takes several steps.

The potential real estate agent or realtor must complete a certain number of classes, as decided by each state. The total number of hours varies from as little as 30 hours up to 90 hours.

Then, they must pass an exam that covers a range of material, such as state regulations, business practices, and applicable Federal laws.

Most states also impose continuing education requirements in addition to annual licensing fees.

Real Estate Agents

Real estate agents typically work for a real estate broker in a real estate firm. A broker is typically a more experienced real estate agent who has been in the business for a while.

Brokers complete extra classes that offer more training and insight into areas like contracts and insurance. Brokers must typically pass a separate and more difficult exam.

Most states require a minimum period of working as a real estate agent before you can even take the exam.

As a general rule, brokers possess much more comprehensive knowledge about real estate law and investment. They also typically possess solid working knowledge about more obscure topics, such as property management.


While sometimes used as a general term for real estate professionals, realtor is actually a copyrighted and trademarked term. It only applies to a select group of real estate professionals, like this realtor.

Specifically, it applies to members of the National Association of Realtors. Members of the NAR include real estate agents and brokers. In fact, you need a real estate license to join. 

NAR members commit to a code of ethics that governs how they interact with both clients and with other real estate agents or brokers.

Realtor vs Real Estate Agent

For the person looking to buy property, the realtor vs real estate agent or broker divide might feel trivial. After all, they all hold real estate licenses. Any of them can help you buy a property, right?

Yet, the difference isn’t entirely trivial. Since realtors must act within the code of ethics set out by the NAR, they typically enjoy more trust than other real estate agents. It also means they have something to lose by not providing you excellent, ethical service.

Looking for more real estate tips or information? Head over to our Real Estate section for more articles.

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