What’s the difference between a REALTOR, broker and a real estate agent?

The real estate industry has a language all its own, not only about houses and contracts, but about the practitioners itself. Here’s a quick rundown of who’s who in the home buying and selling field:

  • Real estate agent (aka real estate salesperson): Anyone who earns a real estate license can be called a real estate agent, whether that license is as a sales professional, an associate broker or a broker. In Virginia, you must take a minimum of 60 hours of classes and pass both national and state-level tests to earn your license. These licenses are typically valid for two years; agents must take continuing education courses to renew their licenses.
  • REALTOR® (a trademarked name): A real estate agent who is a member of the National Association of REALTORS®, which means that he or she must uphold the standards of the association and its code of ethics. All REALTORS are real estate agents, but not all agents are REALTORS. In essence, agents must pay an additional fee and agree to hold themselves to a higher level standard of practice to call themselves REALTORS.
  • Real estate broker: A person who has taken 180 credit hours of education beyond the agent level as required by state laws, has passed a broker’s license exam and has actively worked as a real estate salesperson for 36 of the previous 48 months. Brokers can work alone or they can hire agents to work for them. Real estate agents operate under a managing broker, who overseas transactions, signs agreements and helps agents when issues arise — basically, the boss of the office.
  • Real estate associate broker: Someone who has taken additional education classes and earned a broker’s license, but chooses to work under the management of a broker.

“Real Estate Titles Explained: Agent, Broker, REALTOR®”