What are the differences between real estate agents and brokers?


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Real estate transactions often involve significant amounts of money. As a result, it’s common for both buyers and sellers to enlist the services of a host of professionals with real estate experience. 

Both buyers and sellers may work with real estate agents and/or real estate brokers en route to buying or selling their homes. Agents and brokers are not one and the same, and there are some important distinctions between the two.

Real estate agent

According to Realtor.com, real estate agents are professionally licensed individuals who can help both buyers and sellers. Agents also may help property owners rent their homes. The amount of training real estate agents need to earn their licenses varies by state. Once individuals finish their required training, they must take a written exam that tests their knowledge of federal real estate laws and general principles as well as the laws specific to the state in which they want to become licensed. Only after passing this exam do individuals become recognized real estate agents. Investopedia notes that achieving agent status is the starting point for most real estate professionals.

Real estate broker

Real estate brokers are those professionals who have continued their education past the agent level and obtained a broker’s license. Each state has its own requirements in regard to becoming a licensed broker, but education and examinations are necessary regardless of where a person lives. 

Realtor.com notes that the extra coursework to earn a broker’s license focuses on various topics, including ethics, contracts, taxes, and insurance. Agents may learn about these topics as well, but coursework for prospective brokers goes into more depth than it does at the agent level.

Brokers also will study and learn about legal issues in regard to real estate. The legal issues brokers may learn about include brokerage operations, real estate investments, construction, and property management. Requirements vary, but Realtor.com notes that brokers often must work as licensed real estate agents for no less than three years before they can earn their broker’s license.

There is more than one type of real estate broker. Principal/designated brokers oversee all agents at a given firm and ensure the agents act in compliance with all real estate laws. Managing brokers tend to focus on the hiring and training of agents. Associate brokers have their broker’s license but work directly under a managing broker.

Real estate agents and brokers can help buyers, sellers and investors successfully navigate real estate transactions, and each can serve their clients in different ways. 

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