You hear the terms “real estate agent” and “Realtor” used frequently, and some people use them interchangeably, but it’s essential to unders
tand that they’re not the same thing. In the Realtor vs real estate agent debate, we’ll look at the differences between the two and w
hether or not one is “better” than the other.
This guide will explain everything you need to know about Realtor vs agent so you can understand how you become one and whether or not it’s necessary for your career.
What Is a Realtor vs a Real Estate Agent?
Let’s look at the differences. First, most people use real estate agent and Realtor interchangeably, and I think it’s for two different reasons.
First, they don’t realize that they’re not the same thing. Second, the phrase “real estate agent” sounds a bit clunky to say for people who don’t understand the differences.
You need to understand that all Realtors are not real estate agents, and not all real estate agents are Realtors. There are specific requirements to becoming a Realtor that separate the two from each other.
To understand the Realtor vs real estate agent debate, let’s break down the two.
What Is a Real Estate Agent?
A real estate agent is someone who is licensed to help people buy and sell property. The agent can act as a salesperson, associate broker, or broker.
How to Become a Real Estate Agent?
Becoming a real estate agent requires you to get a real estate license in the state that you’re looking to practice. You’ll need to complete a certain number of classes, pass exams, and follow state licensing requirements. If you’re trying to become a real estate agent in PA, check out my complete guide.
Applicants trying to become a real estate agent will complete as much as 90 hours of instruction from an institution or university. They’ll then have to pass an exam covering real estate law, practices, and standards.
Keep in mind that being a real estate agent also requires you to complete continuing education every one to two years based on your state. In many states, you can’t renew your license until you complete the continuing education.
What Is a Realtor?
Realtors are active members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). This is the largest trade association in the United States, and everyone who possesses the title of “Realtor” is a member of this association. That’s the main difference between the two. To be a Realtor, you must be a member of the NAR. If you’re not a member of the NAR, then you’re not a realtor.
Is a Realtor the Same as a Real Estate Agent?
By this point, I think we all understand that a Realtor is not the same as a real estate agent. Even though the NAR was founded over 100 years ago, the title has only been used since the 1950s.
Around this time is when they eventually trademarked the term “Realtor” to describe everyone who meets their specific requirements. They did this to prevent people from misusing the word, but we clearly still see that the two are used interchangeably to this day.
What Does It Take to Become a Realtor?
So, if you’re reading this and you understand the Realtor vs real estate agent comparison now, you might be wondering how you can become a Realtor. The NAR has more than one million members all throughout the country, and anyone involved in real estate transactions can become one.
This includes property managers, appraisers, counselors, and other investors involved in the industry.
To join the NAR, you need to join one of their associations, which are scattered across the country. You’ll pay a one-time application fee that varies based on the location, and you’ll then pay membership dues when you’re approved.
There are some requirements, and this is what prevents many people from joining. First, you need to have an active real estate license and be engaged in the business. You need to have no records of sanctions involving unprofessional conduct. Also, you cannot have any recent or pending bankruptcies.
Another unique requirement is that the principals of the agency you work for must join as well. If the firm is not a member of the association, then none of the individuals within the firm can become members. The firm itself needs a designated Realtor to represent the whole agency.
Does It Cost to Become a Realtor?
As with joining most labor organizations, there are dues and fees that go along with membership. Annual NAR membership is $120 per member, and brokers are assessed due times for the people working in their office.
42% of that money goes to the NAR’s lobbying efforts. In fact, their political action committee is considered one of the most powerful lobbying organizations in the country, working on members behalf for changes that benefit the NAR.
There are other smaller fees, such as a “Special Assignment” fee for different advertising campaigns and such, but they’re minuscule and only charged on a year-to-year basis.
Essentially what you’re paying for when you become a Realtor is to become a member of an organization that provides support, training, and other resources such as Realtor.com that help increase exposure. Members also receive discounts on certain conferences, car rentals, phones, insurance, and prescriptions as well.
If you’re on the fence about whether or not becoming a Realtor is something valuable to you, just know that you never have to do it. You can remain a real estate agent without ever becoming a Realtor, and it doesn’t mean anything. If you’re looking for more information about Realtors and the NAR, you can read about it and figure it out for yourself.
Regardless of which option you choose, follow the steps to becoming a successful agent, and it won’t matter what title you have next to your name!