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Real estate agent vs. broker: What is the difference?

broker vs. agent vs. realtor difference

What is the difference between a real estate broker vs. agent?

A real estate agent is anyone licensed to sell real estate by the state they operate in. To become a real estate agent, you must complete some set hours of classroom instruction and pass a licensing exam that covers both federal and state regulations regarding real estate sales and purchases. Massachusetts real estate agents are required to complete 40 hours of classroom instruction, while real estate agents in California are required to complete 135 hours of classroom instruction. Someone with an “agent” license cannot work independently from a real estate broker: They must work under a broker for a set period of time.

Once you have worked for a licensed broker for a period of three years, you can apply to take the broker’s exam. Becoming a real estate broker allows you to own and operate your own brokerage (real estate firm). You can also manage other real estate agents. Each real estate brokerage has a principal broker.

What can you do with a real estate license?

A salesperson (or broker) can be a listing agent, a selling agent, or both. This means that the salesperson can work in a real estate business represent the seller or buyer, or can do both (but not necessarily on the same transaction). This person is bound by the national real estate laws. He or she will earn a real estate commission for representing the seller or buyer.

How do real estate professionals keep up with current real estate laws?

Both real estate agents and brokers have a continuing education requirement in Massachusetts, which includes 12 hours of classroom instruction in order to maintain a salesperson or real estate broker license. In California, both brokers and agents are required to complete 45 hours of continuing education. Those 45 hours of continuing education consist of one 8-hour survey course covering the six mandatory subjects of Agency, Ethics, Trust Fund Handling, Fair Housing, Risk Management, and Management and Supervision, as well as 18 hours of consumer protection courses.

How often do real estate professionals renew a license?

In Massachusetts, a real estate agent renews his or her license every two years. In California, you must renew a license every four years.

Did you know that some states allow anyone who has passed a bar exam (to be able to practice law) to automatically have a broker’s license?

How much commission do real estate agents make?

We talk about how much commission a real estate agent makes in this separate post. Hint: It has a lot to do with the sale price of a home.

Is there a benefit to working with a broker or agent/salesperson?

The main difference in working with a broker vs. an agent? In most cases, the typical broker has more experience than the typical agent, because of the requirement around becoming a broker. Some real estate agents never decide to get their broker’s license, though, and may stay a real estate salesperson for 25+ years. Occasionally you will find that brokers at local real estate agencies are more like managers, with fewer brokers who work as a buyer agent or seller agent. Regardless of their title, broker or realtor or salesperson, your agent should be knowledgeable of the local market and updated on all things real estate.

Related: Read 9 Tips for First-Time Home Buyers

So, what’s a Realtor? 

Anyone with the title “Realtor” belongs to the National Association of Realtors®. NAR is the largest real estate trade organization in the United States. There are over 1.3 million members, according to the NAR website, and members can be involved in residential or commercial real estate. You will usually see the designation written as Realtor®. This designation means that the agent or broker is a member of the national trade organization and pays dues to that organization. Anyone under this organization is expected to abide by the code of ethics.

FYI: Torii is a licensed MA, NH, & CA brokerage. We have a principal broker in each state and licensed real estate salespeople, some of whom are also Realtors®. All of our agents are licensed to represent buyers and sellers in real estate transactions in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and/or California.

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