Knowing what type of real estate professional you need for your situation will pay dividends when the time comes to finalize a real estate transaction. 

In this article, we will teach you the differences between Real Estate Brokers and Real Estate Agents and everything in between!  Some agents add titles and certificates after their names to help them stand out in a crowd. They might be associates, property advisers, salespersons, independent brokers, or REALTORs® – however they are all licensed to sell property in different capacities.

What is the Difference Between a Real Estate Broker and an Agent? 

There is some nuance! For instance, Real estate brokers can function as agents, however, agents can not function as brokers, at least not with a broker’s license.  Agents who give property information must also have a real estate license. What are the major distinctions between these names and what are the similarities?  

Most states maintain an internet website where customers can look up an agent’s name, get a permit number, and assess on any violations filed against him.

What Is a Real Estate Broker?

A real estate broker is a step above a real estate agent.  A broker generally has more instruction and subject-matter training than an agent, but not always.  A real estate broker can work independently or hire property salespersons to operate beneath them. The exact rules can differ from state to state, but most have somewhat similar conditions. 

In Maryland for instance, a broker’s license is needed to work on your own.  Agents need to work for brokers, but a broker can run her own business.  

Most states require certain levels of education, a specific number of years as a real estate agent, credit reports and even business plans to qualify to become a broker! Truly a step above an agent that just has to pass a single exam.

The broker’s examination is usually longer and harder compared to an agent’s exam. And Brokers are held to higher standards of knowledge and ethics. 

What Is a Real Estate Broker Associate?

A broker associate or broker partner is a real estate broker who works for a different real estate brokerage or for a broker firm.  Even though the broker could work for himself, some choose to join a bigger real estate community. Some pay a flat fee to the broker and a few earn a percentage of each transaction.

What Is a Real Estate Agent?

Agents are licensed salespersons. They’re not real estate brokers and this is an important distinction. A real estate agent should work for an employing broker and cannot work independently. Their sponsoring Broker is responsible for their property agents’ actions.

Requirements for a real estate salesperson license can differ from state to state too.

In Maryland, applicants should be at least 18 years old and must have completed 60 hours of approved pre-licensing education courses in real estate. Their final exam consists of 110 questions and must be taken in the presence of a proctor, whereas their 60-hour pre-licensing education can be taken online through a web app. Once this is completed, agents have 1 year to take and pass both portions of the Maryland salesperson licensing exam. The National portion of this exam consists of 80 questions and a 90-minute time allowance. The State portion consists of 30 questions and a 30-minute time allowance.

After earning their license, they must choose a sponsoring broker.

What Is a REALTOR®?

A REALTOR® may be real estate broker or an agent. All REALTORS® are brokers or agents, but not all of brokers or agents are REALTORS®.  It is a title that means the individual belongs to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), subscribes to its extensive Code of Ethics, and pays annual dues.  Not every real estate agent belongs to NAR.

Members of NAR also belong to state and local trade associations.  Complaints against a REALTOR® could be filed with this board. 

What Is a List Agent?

Listing agents are also known as seller’s agents since they represent the seller of a home or property.  A listing agent can be a real estate agent or a broker. These types of agents owe a fiduciary duty to the seller under a listing agreement and have to safeguard that interest.

What’s a Buyer’s Agent?

A buyer’s agent is known as a selling agent, not be mistaken with a seller’s agent, a buying agent or, in certain states, an exclusive buyer’s agent.

Exclusive buyer’s agents never work for sellers.  Many agents, however, work with both buyers and sellers, although not usually in the same real estate transaction.  Buyer’s agents may or may not require a purchaser to sign a buyer’s broker agreement, based on local law and custom.

What’s a Dual Agent?

Agents enter dual agency when they take on representation for both the buyer and the seller. Double Agency can happen even though there are two agents involved–a buyer’s agent and a listing broker–if the two agents work for the exact same brokerage because the broker creates the agency.  Dual agency is not legal in all states. Dual Agent is not legal in Maryland, but Dual Agency is and refers to the broker that the selling and buying agent belongs. Dual Agency must also be disclosed to both the buyer and the seller as a special disclosure form that must be executed by all parties involved.

What’s a Transaction Agent?

In states where dual agency is not allowed, listing agents might find themselves in the position of writing an offer for the real property purchaser. These agents can elect to become transaction agents.  (S)He doesn’t represent either party but simply facilitates the transaction in an ethical way to protect all parties involved.