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Real Estate Agent vs. Real Estate Broker: What's the Difference?

In the world of real estate, the roles of real estate agent and real estate broker are used interchangeably, creating confusion for both buyers and sellers. While they share similarities and work within the same industry, these two professionals serve distinct functions within the real estate transaction process. 

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the key differences between a real estate agent and a real estate broker, shedding light on their roles, responsibilities, and qualifications.

Understanding Real Estate Agent

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A real estate agent, often referred to as a real estate salesperson or Realtor® is an entry-level professional in the real estate industry. Agents are licensed individuals who represent buyers and sellers in real estate transactions. Here are the primary characteristics and responsibilities of a real estate agent:

  1. Licensing Requirements:

Agents must complete pre-licensing education, which typically involves taking courses on real estate principles and practices.

After completing their education, prospective agents must pass a state-administered licensing exam.

Agents are required to renew their licenses periodically and may need to complete continuing education courses.

  1. Working Under a Broker:

Real estate agents are not independent operators but work under the supervision of a licensed real estate broker or brokerage firm.

They often belong to a real estate agency and act as representatives of that agency.

  1. Client Representation:

Agents work directly with clients, both buyers and sellers, to help them buy or sell properties.

They provide clients with property listings and showings and assist in the negotiation process.

  1. Real Estate Transactions:

Agents facilitate real estate transactions by coordinating with other professionals, such as home inspectors, appraisers, and title companies.

They prepare and present offers, counteroffers, and purchase agreements on behalf of their clients.

  1. Commission Structure:

Real estate agents are typically compensated with a commission calculated as a percentage of the final sale price of the property.

This commission is shared between the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent, with a portion going to the broker.

Understanding Real Estate Broker

Real Estate Broker

A real estate broker is a higher-level professional in the real estate industry, often with more experience and qualifications than an agent. Brokers have undergone additional training and licensing requirements, allowing them to take on greater responsibilities and operate independently. Below are the main characteristics and responsibilities of a real estate broker:

  1. Licensing Requirements:

Brokers are typically required to have a real estate agent’s license before becoming eligible to pursue a broker’s license.

To obtain a broker’s license, individuals must complete additional coursework and experience requirements, which vary by state.

Brokers must pass a more comprehensive licensing exam than real estate agents.

  1. Independent Operation:

Real estate brokers have the option to work independently and may own their brokerage firm.

They can hire and supervise real estate agents under their brokerage.

  1. Expanded Responsibilities:

Brokers can handle more complex real estate transactions, such as commercial real estate deals and property management.

They often have a deeper understanding of real estate law and the financial aspects of transactions.

  1. Supervision and Mentorship:

Some brokers choose to focus on supervising and mentoring real estate agents within their brokerage, providing guidance and support.

  1. Higher Earning Potential:

Brokers earn a higher commission percentage than agents because of their advanced qualifications and additional responsibilities.

They may also earn a portion of the commissions generated by agents under their supervision.

  1. Brokerage Ownership:

Many brokers aspire to own their real estate brokerage, where they have greater control over business operations and decisions.


In summary, while real estate agents and real estate brokers play essential roles in the real estate industry, there are significant differences in their qualifications, responsibilities, and the scope of their roles. Real estate agents typically serve as the first point of contact for clients, assisting with real estate transactions under the supervision of a licensed broker. On the other hand, real estate brokers have more extensive training, greater independence, and the ability to operate their brokerages.