What’s the Difference Between a Realtor and Real Estate Agent?

Realtor shows couple the interior of a home.

If you’re trying to buy or sell a home, then you’ll want to look for an experienced real estate professional to help guide you through the process. Because the terms are often used interchangeably, you might not be sure about the difference between a Realtor versus a real estate agent. Here’s a look at what sets each role apart.

What Is a Real Estate Agent?

A real estate agent is a person licensed by the state to conduct various real estate transactions, including buying, selling, and renting a home.

To get that license, the agent had to complete a set amount of training, with the required number of hours of work varying by state. After training, they had to pass a two-part written exam — one covering federal lows, and the other covering state laws. Once they passed, they received their license and began working in that state.

What Is a Realtor?

Not all real estate agents are Realtors. One can only call themselves a Realtor if they are a member of the National Association of Realtors, which holds its members to certain rules, standards, and a code of ethics, all designed to ensure that the Realtor is working in the client’s best interest. NAR membership also comes with access to certain perks, including real estate market insights like research reports and housing statistics.

How To Decide Between a Realtor and a Real Estate Agent

Both a Realtor and real estate agent are trained and licensed to guide you through real estate transactions. Both can walk you through the process of buying a home, and advise you on key decisions that will help you make sure you’re getting a good deal.

The biggest difference is that a Realtor follows the code of ethics set by NAR, so you can rest assured that they’ll be looking out for your best interests.

However, if you have a good relationship with a real estate agent you trust, then it may not be that important to you whether they belong to NAR and pay dues.

Whether you use a Realtor or real estate agent, the commission they earn on a sale is generally the same, and will be included in the closing costs. It’s customary for the seller to pay the commission for both agents, which typically comes out to 6% of the sale price. The agents usually split the commission equally. If the buyer does have to pay their agent’s commission, then they can expect to pay about 3% of the sale price.

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