Realtor Vs. Real Estate Agent: Differences & Similarities

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The terms realtor and real estate agent are often used interchangeably but they actually refer to different professional roles in the real estate industry. Though realtors and real estate agents share some commonalities in their work, there are also key distinctions between the two positions. Understanding the differences and similarities between realtors and agents can help you know what to expect when working with these real estate professionals.

Defining Realtors And Real Estate Agents

What exactly is a realtor versus a real estate agent? At the most basic level, realtors are licensed real estate agents who are members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). It is the largest trade association for real estate professionals in the U.S. and has over 1.5 million members. In order to call themselves a realtor, an agent must belong to the NAR and abide by its code of ethics. So, all realtors are real estate agents, but not all agents are realtors.

Real estate agents are licensed professionals who represent clients in real estate transactions. They help buyers purchase or rent properties and assist sellers in listing and marketing their homes or other real estate. Agents have knowledge of the local real estate market, negotiation skills, and expertise guiding their clients through the complex transactions involved in real estate deals.

In Tampa real estate and other markets across the country, realtors and agents provide many of the same services to their clients. However, realtors must adhere to the NAR’s professional standards and code of ethics. The code covers duties to clients and customers, responsibilities to the public, and obligations to fellow realtors. Realtors also have access to the NAR’s resources, professional development programs, lobbying efforts, trademarked forms, and membership benefits.

Licensing Requirements

To work as a real estate agent or realtor, proper licensing by the state is required. Each state has its own real estate licensing regulations, but most require agents to meet certain criteria:

  • Minimum age requirement (18 or 19 years old typically)
  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Passing scores on the real estate license exam
  • Completion of state-required real estate courses

Background Checks

Additionally, most states require real estate agents and realtors to complete a certain number of continuing education hours to renew their licenses every 1-2 years. These educational requirements help real estate professionals stay up to date on the latest laws, regulations, and best practices in the industry.

Though the initial and ongoing licensing requirements are essentially the same for agents and realtors, realtors must also pay annual dues to be members of the NAR. Membership can provide realtors with continuing education discounts, professional resources, networking events, and more.

Roles And Responsibilities

While realtors and real estate agents both work with clients to buy, sell, or rent properties, their day-to-day duties may differ somewhat:

Realtors:

  • Advise clients on local real estate markets and conditions
  • Help clients determine their needs and find suitable properties
  • Market client’s properties to potential buyers
  • Represent buyers looking to purchase properties
  • Mediate negotiations between buyers and sellers
  • Ensure transactions adhere to laws and regulations
  • Provide advice and complete paperwork related to real estate transactions
  • Follow the NAR’s Code of Ethics

Real Estate Agents:

  • List and market properties for sale or rent
  • Show available homes or rental units to buyers or tenants
  • Disclose information to clients about properties, neighborhoods, transactions, etc.
  • Represent buyers or tenants seeking to purchase or lease properties
  • Assist with real estate financing options
  • Draw up contracts and other agreements
  • Facilitate communications between buyers and sellers
  • Guide clients through the transaction process

There can be a great deal of overlap between the typical duties of real estate agents and realtors. But realtors’ membership in NAR distinguishes them through their commitment to professional standards and ethics.

Similarities Between Realtors And Agents

Though there are some differences between realtors and real estate agents, their roles share many commonalities:

Working with clients: Both realtors and agents directly serve clients who are looking to buy, sell, or lease properties. This involves understanding each client’s unique needs, goals, and financial situation.

Marketing expertise: Realtors and agents alike use their industry knowledge and marketing savvy to advertise and promote real estate listings. This can involve hosting open houses, staging homes, coordinating listing photos, placing ads, and utilizing social media. 

Negotiation skills: Successfully facilitating real estate deals requires strong negotiation abilities. Realtors and agents act as mediators between sometimes disparate interests and help reach agreements that satisfy both buyers and sellers.

Local market knowledge: Keeping a pulse on local market conditions is key for realtors and agents in providing clients with the best counsel. They stay up to date on home prices, inventory, neighborhoods, new developments, and trends.

Paperwork proficiency: Realtors and agents must handle a lot of complex paperwork, including purchase agreements, disclosures, inspection reports, lease contracts, deeds, and more. They must have the ability to effectively complete these required documents.

Licensing and training: As mentioned previously, realtors and agents both must meet state licensing requirements with continuing education. Their real estate education provides similar knowledge and skills.

Potential for specialty: Some realtors and agents choose to specialize in a certain niche like commercial real estate, distressed properties, or luxury homes. But their basic work with clients takes a similar shape.

 Access to resources: Through organizations like the National Association of Realtors or local associations, realtors and agents can access professional development resources, market research, legal forms, listing tools, and more.


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Biplab Chakraborty is a dynamic Digital Marketing specialist with a passion for driving online success. With a keen understanding of market trends and a strategic approach, he excels in creating impactful digital campaigns. Biplab is dedicated to maximizing brand visibility and engagement through innovative digital strategies.