Real Estate Professionals Explained: Agent, Broker, REALTOR®
Real estate professionals go by different names. There are agents. Brokers. Realtors. Associate brokers. Seller's agents. Buyer's agents. The list goes on.
If you’re entering the real estate market for the first time, you may find real estate professionals' various titles a little confusing. Sometimes consumers use these titles interchangeably, but there are some important differences between the roles of the various professionals, as well as different requirements for using particular titles.
Titles for real estate professionals
The real estate profession is regulated by state governments, which have different requirements for earning a license. In general, though, the titles you may come across include:
Working with a real estate professional
While you are more likely to work directly with a real estate salesperson or an associate broker, some brokers provide services for buyers and sellers themselves. If you have hired a real estate agent to help you buy or sell a home, that agent typically reports to a broker. The broker handles the earnest money deposit and establishes the escrow account.
In addition, the broker bears responsibility for the actions of the real estate agents under his or her supervision. While the majority of real estate transactions go through without any glitches, a broker will step in if there are any problems with your home purchase or sale.
If you are unhappy with your real estate agent and cannot resolve the issues directly, your next step should be to talk with the broker to ask for help and perhaps another agent for you to consult.
Experience and education
Real estate brokers not only have higher education requirements than real estate salespersons, they also must have experience working as an agent. For example, in Virginia the license requirements are as follows:
When you are looking for a real estate professional, it is wise to work with a member of the National Association of REALTORS® who is committed to maintaining the professionalism of the real estate business. You can choose to work with a salesperson or a broker, but in any case you should take the time to interview your agent and ask for references.
If you want to work with someone new to the profession, you may want to ask to meet the broker as well so you can feel comfortable that someone with experience will be representing your interests.