Couple and REALTOR<sup>®</sup> looking at a new kitchen.

What Is A REALTOR® And How Do They Differ From Real Estate Agents And Brokers?

Miranda Crace2-minute read

July 10, 2022


The real estate industry is rife with obscure terminology and tricky lingo. For example, you’ve likely heard the word REALTOR® used interchangeably with the term “real estate agent” or “real estate broker.” In fact, some dictionaries even conflate the terms. While they’re all real estate professionals, they absolutely have some key distinctions. Confusing, right?

So what is the real definition of a REALTOR® and why is it a registered term? Read on to find out once and for all, and to learn exactly how REALTORS® differ from their real estate industry counterparts.

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REALTOR® Definition

A REALTOR® is any real estate professional who is a member of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). This can include real estate agents, real estate brokers, property managers, appraisers or any other professional working in the real estate industry who holds membership in this association.

The word REALTOR® is a federally registered collective membership mark. And the designation is widely respected, as it requires adherence to the high standards and code of ethics of the association.

REALTOR® Vs. Real Estate Agent

While a REALTOR® is any member of NAR, a real estate agent is a professional who is licensed specifically to aid in the sale of real estate, under a broker. If a real estate agent is a member of NAR, they would also hold the REALTOR® designation. But it’s important to understand that not all REALTORS® are agents, and not all agents are REALTORS®.

Real Estate Agent Vs. Real Estate Broker

Like real estate agents, brokers are licensed to facilitate real estate transactions. The difference lies in their level of education and expertise. Brokers are typically required to have several years of work experience as agents before they can take the broker’s exam and obtain licensure.

As such, real estate brokers have a deep knowledge of the business, and a more comprehensive understanding of the legal issues than may arise in the process. For this reason, brokers can work as independent agents or as brokers with other agents working under them.

And again, just to be clear, a broker would be considered a REALTOR® only if they were a member of NAR.

The Bottom Line On REALTORS®

While REALTORS®, real estate agents and brokers are all real estate professionals, they are not interchangeable terms. REALTOR® is reserved solely for real estate professionals who are members of the National Association of REALTORS®, while agents and brokers are licensed professionals who specifically arrange and aid in the buying and selling of property.

For more information like this, visit our Learning Center. And if you’re looking to buy a home or investment property, talk with a mortgage expert today.  

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Miranda Crace

The Rocket Mortgage Learning Center is dedicated to bringing you articles on home buying, loan types, mortgage basics and refinancing. We also offer calculators to determine home affordability, home equity, monthly mortgage payments and the benefit of refinancing. No matter where you are in the home buying and financing process, Rocket Mortgage has the articles and resources you can rely on.