Agents, Brokers, and Realtors®: What’s the Difference?

“Real Estate Agent” is a catchall phrase used, in casual conversation, to describe the three types of professionals who buy and sell real estate: agents, brokers, and Realtors®. No, they’re not really the same. Yes, you should care about what makes them different. Here’s a breakdown:

A real estate agent is a licensed professional who helps people buy, sell, rent, or invest in homes. To become an agent, a person must take pre-licensing training from a certified institution (these vary from state to state) and pass their state’s real estate licensing exam. Once they have their license, an agent must affiliate themselves with a real estate brokerage. Technically, in Washington State, real estate agents’ official titles are real estate brokers. Agent/Broker titles differ by state.

A Realtor®is a broker who belongs to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), the largest trade association in the country. While many people know a Realtor® helps buy and sell homes, what they may not know is only a Realtor®commits to following a strict Code of Ethics intended to protect buyers and sellers. For example, Realtor® pledge themselves to protect and promote the interests of their client. Realtor® act as an advocate for their clients. Real estate brokers, who are not NAR members, cannot call themselves Realtor®. There are more than one million Realtor® in the United States. You can use®’s “Find a Realtor®” tool to connect with one in your area.

“The Realtor Code of Ethics® isn’t just words on a page, but is a pledge of honesty, integrity, professionalism, and community service,” said Denise McDonald, President of the Snohomish County Camano Association of Realtors®. “Partnering with a Realtor® delivers the peace of mind which comes from working with a real person, a real advocate, and real and trusted professional who is committed to their clients’ futures and neighborhoods just as much as they are.”

In most cases, using a broker or a Realtor® will not cost you a penny because the seller typically pays both the listing broker’s and buyer’s broker’s commissions. However, some buyers’ brokers request a representation fee from the buyer. That’s rare.

For more information about buying or selling a home, be sure to work with a Realtor®, a member of the National Association of Realtors®. Snohomish County Camano Association of Realtors® is the voice for real estate in Snohomish County. If you have questions for The Expert about Real Estate email us at, or by visiting

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