Realtor Or Real Estate Agent: Which Is Right For You?

Realtor with a client
Property buyers can benefit more by hiring a Realtor, whose industry affiliation requires their services to meet high standards. (Photo by RDNE Stock project | Pexels)

The home-buying process generally begins with finding a Realtor. It can be confusing to find one, as many believe that Realtors and real estate agents are the same.

Realtors and real estate agents have become interchangeable names in the industry, but there are specific distinctions.

In North America, Realtors set themselves apart from real estate agents by becoming members of the National Association of REALTORS (NAR).

What is a Realtor?

A Realtor (or REALTOR) is NAR’s registered trademark name for industry professionals who meet the organization’s standards.

You can distinguish real estate agents from Realtors by checking if the former are members of local real estate associations.

NAR requires aspiring members to join a local REALTOR association. Local membership instantly elevates their affiliation to a state and national level. As of April 2023, NAR recorded almost 1.54 million members.

What is the difference between a Realtor and a real estate agent?

While real estate agents and Realtors are licensed professionals, a Realtor goes through extra steps to achieve their distinction.

Realtors must pass a state exam like real estate agents. In addition, a Realtor must also pass NAR’s strict course on its code of ethics and standards of practice.

Realtors comply with the code of ethics that upholds consumers’ rights and NAR’s reputation. The code of ethics lists 17 rules for members, including full disclosure of compensation amounts.

What is a Realtor’s typical commission?

A Realtor’s commission can involve a 100% commission structure or the typical broker-agent split, according to NAR.

Many Realtors, though, earn commissions through a fixed broker-agent split agreement. Some Realtors may also earn their commissions by negotiating a graduated split.

Regardless of the compensation structure, a realtor must disclose the full terms to their clients as per NAR’s code of ethics.

Why should I hire a Realtor?

Property buyers or sellers hire a Realtor with the expectation of experiencing as few problems as possible during the transaction.

Since Realtors abide by NAR’s stringent industry rules, a real estate buyer or seller can expect more competent service.

If you value honest marketing, then a Realtor is a better option. They are restricted from engaging in misleading marketing campaigns and even making false statements about competitors.

Where can I find a Realtor?

Realtors are often listed on a local or state association of REALTORS. Some property transactions such as luxury home purchases need more than just industry certification.

While you can buy luxury real estate without a Realtor, an elite agent or broker is necessary. You can browse this directory to find luxury real estate agencies and brokerages from around the world.


Randolf Santos has covered different segments of the real estate industry since 2014. He worked at S&P Global Market Intelligence before joining Forbes Global Properties as a contributor.

Properties You Might Also Like