What’s the Difference Between a Realtor, a Real Estate Agent, and a Broker?

A relator with Clients

We have emphasized many times the need to find a Realtor in Florida who you can trust to guide you thorough the buying process. But one of the first questions we are often asked is: what’s the difference between a Realtor, a real estate agent, and a broker?

We’re aware that a lot of other countries in the world don’t necessarily have these distinctions, so we provide a guide to our clients to help them choose the type of professional they need to represent them. You can also read more in-depth information on this topic in our book Your Guide to Florida Property Investment for Global Buyers.

1) Realtor

Real estate agent helping a couple buy a Florida home

This term is trademarked by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). This means that only real estate agents registered with NAR are allowed to call themselves Realtors. And only Realtors have access to the MLS, have signed up to the association’s code of ethics, and participate in regular training and continuing education.

The majority of real estate agents in Florida are signed up to the National Association of Realtors. If you find an agent you like who isn’t signed up, we would advise asking them why not. Those who are designated Realtors, will have access to a wealth of information, support networks, and listings, that those who choose not to sign up do not.

To become a member of the NAR, you need to join your local real estate board or association. New NAR members must take an online course on the ethics code, and pass an exam. Current members are required to take an online ethics refresher course every four years and adhere to strict standards of practice.

The official ethics code is revised yearly to reflect the latest issues in real estate law and practice, and its core message is to “treat all parties honestly”. We think you’ll agree that this extra training and code of ethics is a major differentiator, and we’d always advise you to choose a Realtor over a real estate agent for this reason.

2)Real Estate Agent

This is a licensed real estate professional who has passed their real estate exam. Their job description is to assist and advise buyers and sellers in marketing and purchasing property. If they are solely a licensed real estate agent and not a designated Realtor, this person has no access to the MLS, and thus has no more access to information than you do through internet sources. Since the MLS is the most definitive and comprehensive source of real estate data, this is a big shortcoming in our opinion.

Neither real estate agents or actual Realtors can accept remuneration in a property deal, i.e. handle the cash, for this they need to be a licensed broker. Real estate agents facilitate deals on behalf of a broker. Therefore, agents can only sell property if they work for a real estate broker, or brokerage.

Agents cannot list properties for sale, only assist and advise in the buying and marketing of them. An agent’s job includes finding properties, helping to arrange inspections, structuring contracts, and negotiating for your interests, so the agent needs to be experienced and knowledgeable in all these areas.

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3) Real Estate Broker

A broker is a licensed professional who is qualified to handle all the elements already discussed above, as well as the additional financial part of real estate transactions. The broker is a real estate agent (in other words also assists in selling and marketing) that has had more formal education and higher level licensing. Real estate agents and Realtors must work under a broker’s umbrella, and that broker takes legal responsibility for any action by the agent.

Any mistakes or illegality on the agent’s part is the legal responsibility of the broker. Brokers usually earn significantly more money than agents, and very often are their own bosses with agents working under them. But also have much more legal liability and responsibility. Again, it is important to articulate here that while all brokers must have their real estate license, they may not necessarily be a Realtor. If you choose to work with a broker be sure they are also a Realtor.

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