Understanding Your Agent Options
The real estate world can be confusing. There are many different people with many different titles.
There are agents, inspectors, appraisers and lawyers – to name a few.
When it comes to the role of a real estate professional, the lines can blur. One reason for this is that the terms real estate agent, broker, and broker are often confused.
Although similar, these terms are not interchangeable.
Understanding the difference between a real estate agent and a real estate agent, as well as a real estate agent, can provide clarity as to which type of real estate professional best suits your needs.
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What is a real estate agent?
A real estate agent is someone who is licensed to help people buy or sell real estate.
To obtain a real estate license, agents must complete between 30 and 90 hours of classes. Applicants are also required to pass a license exam that covers local and national real estate laws, standards and practices.
All real estate agents are required to pay an annual license fee. Agents must renew their licenses every one to two years, depending on the state.
In most states, agents must complete a certain number of training courses before their licenses can be renewed.
What is a broker?
"Realtor" is a trademarked term used to refer to a real estate agent who is an active member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the largest trade association in the United States.
As part of their NAR membership, brokers get access to discounts, training materials, and other career development resources.
Brokers do not have any legal privileges or rights beyond those of a licensed real estate agent.
However, you have no legal privileges or rights beyond those of a licensed agent.
Brokers are bound by a code of ethics and promise to be transparent and honest and to protect the well-being of their customers in all transactions.
Real estate agent versus agent
The terms "broker" and "real estate agent" are sometimes used interchangeably. But they are not exactly the same.
The main difference between a real estate agent and a realtor is that brokers are active and pay members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
When it comes to helping home buyers and sellers, there is generally no difference between the roles a real estate agent or agent will perform.
However, "broker" does not just refer to someone helping you buy or sell a home.
The title can actually apply to a number of different real estate professionals including:
Real Estate AgentsReal Real Estate Agents (Commercial and Private) SellersProperty ManagerAppraisers
This means that while a realtor can perform the same tasks as a real estate agent, but not all of them. Realtors can specialize in a different part of the home buying or selling process.
But as for home buyers and sellers, they can hire a broker or real estate agent to help them complete their transaction and they both do the job.
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What is a real estate agent?
For the most part, a real estate agent is generally seen as an improvement over a real estate agent.
Realtors can perform the same duties as a real estate agent or broker. However, they are usually more experienced with a higher level of education and more stringent licensing requirements.
Unlike real estate agents, someone who holds a broker license can set up their own real estate agent to represent buyers and sellers in real estate transactions.
Brokers often work as independent brokers or set up their own brokers and hire other real estate agents and brokers to work for them.
When you work with a realtor to buy or sell your home, you are actually working with someone who works for a real estate agent.
In fact, you hire the agency to help you through the process, with the agent acting as the company's representative.
Compare real estate professionals
When the real estate market warms up, as it did in 2020, it is not uncommon for the number of licensed real estate professionals to increase.
With such a large number of brokers – and the different titles they own – it can be difficult for the average home buyer to pick one over the other.
We spoke to Atlanta Communities associate broker Wendy Gavlin Chambers to clarify how borrowers are talking about real estate agents vs. Broker vs. Realtors can think.
Chambers isn't just a licensed real estate agent. As an active member of NAR, she is also a broker. And she is a licensed broker with six accreditations and a team of buyer and seller specialists.
According to Chambers, the additional certifications don't mean your agent will have more access to information (e.g., home listings).
A higher level of education means your agent may be better equipped for any challenges or surprises that come with home purchases.
However, a higher level of education means that your agent may be better equipped for challenges or surprises. You are likely to be well versed in every stage of the home buying or selling process and able to run it all smoothly.
"Additional accreditations and working as an associate broker show my clients that this is a career for me," says Chambers.
"By investing in myself with additional training and certification, I am investing in a higher level of professionalism."
This does not mean that an agent with no brokerage or brokerage designation will do less work.
These titles may add extra confidence to customers – but at the end of the day you should be working with someone who is highly recommended and has local expertise in your area.
Does one type of agent cost more than another?
Fortunately for buyers and sellers, an agent with additional certifications doesn't mean you have to pay more to represent them.
Real estate agents work on commission and typically earn 5% to 6% of the sale price of a transaction. This is often shared between the buyer's agent and the seller's agent.
Fortunately for the buyer, the seller usually pays the broker's commission for both himself and the buyer's broker.
Commissions may vary by agent or broker, but they don't necessarily have to be higher or lower based on their title. So take a look around and find a broker who is both highly regarded and cheap when it comes to selling a home.
Real Estate Agent vs. Broker vs. Broker – what suits you?
As a home buyer, credentials can be important. But there is more to it than that.
Look for a real estate professional who is an expert in your area and the type of home you are looking to buy or sell. Make sure they are also asking the right questions, such as:
What's your timeline? What is your financial picture like? Have you already qualified for a mortgage?
Other qualities of a great agent are good listening skills and strong negotiating skills.
If in doubt, do your due diligence. Ask for recommendations, read reviews online, and just remember that you don't have to go with the first agent you find.
If you spend a little time interviewing agents, you are more likely to find just the right person who will fit your needs.
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