What’s the Difference Between a Real Estate Agent, a Broker, and a REALTOR®?

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"Mom, the ree-li-ter is at the door!" - a phrase often heard when real estate agents show up at listing appointments. "Ree-li-ter" is not too surprising a mispronunciation, considering that many people also do not realize that not all agents are "REALTORs®", and many "REALTORs®" are not agents. To add to the confusion, some agents are also brokers, and many brokers are also agents. The terminology on some things can vary from state to state - this list of terms was written with Arizona in mind:

Licensed Real Estate Agent: This is what the Arizona Department of Real Estate calls a "Salesperson", regardless of whether their primary occupation is representing buyers or sellers, selling commercial property, or doing Property Management. Salespersons represent the Broker, not the client. The client is actually represented by the Salesperson's Broker, although the Salesperson is the one the client usually sees face-to-face. To become a licenced Salesperson, one must be at least 18, take a 90 hour course, pass federal and state exams, take a contract writing course, and hang their license with a Brokerage. Salespersons are licensed to practise law in Arizona, but only in the capacity of writing Real Estate Contracts.

Licensed Real Estate Broker: To become a Broker, one must have worked 3 out of the last 5 years as a licensed Salesperson, take an additional 90 hour course, pass Federal and State exams, and hang their Broker license with a Brokerage.

Associate Broker: This is a licensed Broker that is not the Designated Broker of the Brokerage for which they work. They report to the Designated Broker. Many agents become an Associated Broker to show they more have experience and extra training, but have no desire to take on the extra responsibility of being a Designated Broker.

Designated Broker: This is a licensed Broker that the owner of a Brokerage hires to oversee the Salespersons and Associated Brokers that work for the Brokerage. The Designated Broker reports to the Arizona Real Estate Commissioner and the Arizona Department of Real Estate. Designated Brokers are responsible for supervision, maintaining records, hiring and severing, and most importantly, representing clients. Some Designated Brokers work as Real Estate agents (as does the author of this blog) as well as manage the Brokerage.

REALTOR®: A real estate agent or other real estate professional becomes a REALTOR® when they are a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and abide by its strict Code of Ethics. Most Salespersons and Brokers in the Phoenix area are also REALTORS®, especially because of the way the local Multiple Listing Service membership is set up. Elsewhere in AZ, there are many licensed Salespersons who are not members of any association, and therefore are not REALTORS®. Appraisers and other professionals may also be called REALTORS® depending on their level of association membership. If you wonder why "REALTORS®" is always capitalized, it is because it is a trademark requirement. By the way, REALTOR® is pronounced "ree-al-tor" - not "ree-li-ter" (although even many REALTORS® are guilty of mispronouncing it!)

I actually don't really care whether people call me a "ree-li-tor", "REALTOR®", "real estate agent", or "Broker", as long as they are calling on me to assist with their real estate needs.