A real estate agent is a professional who is licensed by the state to help with the purchase, sale, or rental of property. Real estate salesperson or real estate broker are other names used for real estate agents depending on the state.
The buyer, seller, or renter in each transaction is the agent’s client. Agents typically represent the buyer or seller in a transaction. When they represent both sides, it is called dual agency.
These terms are often the same but can vary by state. Sometimes brokers have more experience and pass additional exams. Other times they are the same as agents and salespersons. For example, when you receive a real estate license in Pennsylvania, you become a real estate salesperson. In Illinois, the entry level agent name is real estate broker. Think of agents, salesperson, and brokers as licensed agents who can help with real estate transactions. But typically, they are not allowed to manage a real estate brokerage without additional qualifications.
A realtor is a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Most active agents join NAR. This requires an application along with taking an ethics course and oath. Not all agents are realtors. That said, agents are commonly referred to by the public as realtors even when they’re not technically a part of NAR.
An agent is required by the state to work for a real estate brokerage. This is known as “hanging a license” at the brokerage. Over 85% of agents are employed as independent contractors. They are typically paid on commission. They do not receive guaranteed salaries or benefits like health insurance.
A managing broker or broker of record is licensed by the state to manage a real estate brokerage. Often an agent who is licensed to be a managing broker but is not acting as one is called an associate broker or simply a broker. In some markets, only managing brokers are called brokers. Typically a managing broker must have additional experience in real estate, take more coursework, and pass an exam.