What's the Difference?: Real Estate Agents, Brokers, and Realtors

When you’re ready to buy or sell a home, you may wonder what it means when someone is a real estate agent, or a broker, or a realtor. Aren’t they the same thing? Nope, they can all show you homes, but can't all manage every step of the home buying process on their own. 

Here's how they differ:

Real estate agent

This is a person who is licensed in the state where they practice, and can help you find a home and negotiate the purchase. Real estate agents can show you homes on their own, but need the supervision of a broker in order to complete the sale. Your real estate agent will likely work with a brokerage in order to complete your deal, so you shouldn't feel like you need to go straight to a broker. 

Real estate broker

A broker is an agent who has further education and has taken additional licensure exams. A real estate broker can work alone or hire other agents to work for him or her. A broker in charge is the designated broker in any particular office who is responsible for supervising the agents.


A Realtor is a licensed agent or broker who is a member of the National Association of Realtors and has pledged to adhere to its standards and code of ethics. Realtor is a designation on a national level, whereas the agent or broker designations are usually determined by the state.

Which one is right for you?

With each designation, you’ll find a wide range of skill levels, experience, and personalities.

Try to think less about what a person's title is and more about what they can offer you. Do they know the neighborhoods you're interested in? How is their communication style? Do you mind spending hours with them every weekend (because you will). Only you can decide what's important to you. The best person to work with is the one who makes you feel comfortable, informed and confident. 

Remember, even if you hire a real estate agent, they'll work seamlessly with a broker to get your deal completed. 

Think you need a Realtor? Learn how to find the right one.