Q: What is the difference between a Realtor, an agent and a broker? Or are they one in the same?
A: GREAT question! It can be confusing, can’t it?
The real estate profession is regulated by state governments, which have different requirements for earning a license. In general, though, the titles you may come across include:
Real estate agent: Anyone who earns a real estate license can be called a real estate agent. State requirements vary, but in all states you must take a minimum number of classes and pass a test to earn your license. In Florida, we have to pass a 63 hour pre-licensing course and a state exam.
REALTOR®: A real estate licensee who is also a member of the National Association of REALTORS®, which means that he or she must uphold the standards of the association and its code of ethics.
Real estate broker: A person who has taken education beyond the basic real estate agent level as required by state laws and has passed a state broker’s license exam. Brokers can work alone or they can hire agents to work for them. In Florida, a 72 hour broker licensing course is required to become a broker as well as passing a state exam. You must have been an active sales associate for at least 24 months within the past 5 years as well.
Broker Associate: Someone who has earned a broker’s license but chooses to work under the management of another broker. This person could open their own brokerage if they so choose, but they prefer to work under another broker at an existing brokerage. (This is what I am. I like to think of it as the same as having a PhD in real estate – the highest level of education.)
Recently, FREC (Florida Real Estate Commission) has been stewing about some new rules for real estate teams because they say that the general public is confused about the difference between real estate agents, real estate teams and brokers. You may sometimes see a real estate sign that says something like “Joe Blow Real Estate Group”.
Well – is Joe Blow a broker or an agent?
The answer is – it depends. And yes, maybe it should be clearer. Currently – the rules are a little loose about how big and where on a real estate sign an agent’s name and his or her brokerage’s name have to appear. Maybe Joe Blow works for ABC Realty. ABC Realty is the brokerage. Joe Blow Realty Group is Joe’s team name. Therefore, ABC Realty should be somewhere on the sign but it does make it a little confusing to consumers to know if Joe is the broker or not. The only real way to know for sure is to ask – or to verify his license online if you really want to know.
Here’s how to do that.
Go to MyFloridaLicense.com
Click Search By Name – and select Real Estate as the Category. Click Search.
Ta-Da! You’ll be able to see if the licensee in question is a real estate agent or broker. In this case – I am a broker associate. I have a broker’s license, but I choose to work under broker Amy Seeks at Smith & Associates Real Estate rather than open up my own company. You can see that my license is active and in good standing (but coming up for renewal, better get on that continuing education!)
I may be a little biased here, but I would think as a consumer trying to choose a licensee to turn over their most precious financial asset to (their home!), it makes sense to go with someone who’s gone above and beyond the basic level of real estate education. I have been in the business for 11 years now and pursued my broker’s license as a means to further my knowledge in real estate.