Real Estate Agents, Brokers & Realtors – 9 Considerations When Hiring The Right One for You


People in the business of home buying and selling have a variety of titles that can seem very confusing to both first time homebuyers and seasoned homeowners alike.  Each title has a very specific definition related to how much professional education that person has acquired.  Knowing the difference could be important to the process for you as a buyer or a seller.

  • A real estate agent is the catch-all term and when in doubt – use this one!
  • A Realtor simply means that agent is a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and has agreed to adhere to a code of conduct.
  • A real estate broker is the advanced education level beyond an agent.  They have passed the broker’s license exam.  Note: Brokers can work for themselves, have agents working for them, or work under another broker.

For more detail on each designation, has a great list of titles and their definitions:

  • Real estate agent: 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. State requirements vary, but in all states you must take a minimum number of classes and pass a test to earn your license.
  • REALTOR®: 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.
  • Real estate broker: A person who has taken education beyond the agent level as required by state laws and has passed a broker’s license exam. Brokers can work alone or they can hire agents to work for them.
  • Real estate salesperson: Another name for a real estate agent.
  • 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.

Interested in learning more about the National Association for Realtors’ Code of Ethics? has republished it here and denotes that it is a “legally enforceable code of ethics.”  If you work with a Realtor, he or she has take a strict pledge of 17 points which they promise to adhere to, including:

  • Disclosing all personal interests, if the Realtor (or a family member) has ownership they must disclose this to all potential buyers
  • Will ensure that “all written documents are easy-to-understand” and that everyone will get copies
  • Will engage in truth in advertising – they won’t ‘oversell’ a property
  • They won’t discriminate – for any reason

You will also hear the terms – Listing (Or Seller’s) Agent and Buyer’s Agent.  Eek – more terms and titles!  Not to complicate matters more, but you should at least be generally familiar with these two terms and what they mean too.  Mortgage Daily News clarifies the two as “a listing agent represents the seller and the buyer’s agent represents the buyer. However, any real estate agent can serve in either role depending on the client’s needs.”    To read more about the specific roles and duties of each, click here.

So, it would seem then you would want to seek out a Realtor that is a broker, huh?  Not necessarily.  While someone with the highest level of education and the professional credentials from the NAR seems to be the best person for the job, there are many more factors you will want to consider.  None the least of which are, in no particular order:

  • Personal Recommendations (From Buyers, Sellers, & Professionals)
  • Years of Experience
  • Personality
  • Knowledge of the Process and the Ability to Shepherd You Through it Effectively & Efficiently
  • Volume of Sales (and how frequently does the salesperson selling in your range?)
  • Market Knowledge
  • Affiliated Broker
  • Their Professional Network
  • Specialty in Buying or Selling has a terrific list of ‘interview’ questions for hiring the right agent for your needs.  Be sure to check it out.

And you do not need to go with the first agent you must (unless you are contractually obligated).  Meet several and see who feels right to you.  You will get quite cozy with this person over the next several weeks to months and they are going to need to act as your advocate when push comes to shove, so it is VITAL that you like and respect this person on a professional and somewhat personal level.

Hopefully, this all makes sense to you and will help guide you to a real estate agent that is a perfect fit for you.  If you were wondering, Tom Riccio is a Realtor and is affiliated with Re/Max of Wilmington.  Still have questions?  Give him a call today! 302-999-9880.