Real Estate Agents vs Brokers: The Differences Between Them

Part of the American Dream is to better oneself financially, and part of that betterment typically involves the purchase of property. It’s why you see fliers emblazoned with pictures of happy families standing in front of single-family homes. However, such improvement doesn’t stop with private ownership, and the buying and selling of commercial properties is also an important element of wealth creation. That’s why real estate professionals play such an essential role in the economic life of the country. Consumers and investors alike, though, often feel perplexed when they hear about real estate agents and real estate brokers. Aren’t they the same thing? If not, how do their duties differ? And which should they hire? 

In this post, we’ll discuss the duties and obligations of both real estate brokers and real estate agents, contrast them, and answer a number of frequently asked questions. 

Real Estate Agent

The most common type of real estate professional (and the kind that springs to mind when most people think of buying a property) is a real estate agent. These are the people whose smiling faces adorn direct-mail pieces, who show you around properties, and who help you make offers. Here are some of the distinctives regarding real estate agents.  

What is a real estate agent?

When considering the differences between a real estate agent vs broker, the first thing to remember is that an agent’s primary job is to represent retail clients in the sale or purchase of property. They can also provide property management, price evaluation (i.e., the generation of comparable sale reports), and property management services. 

Responsibilities of a Real Estate Agent

The most basic responsibilities of a real estate agent involve representing the best interests of a buyer or seller. This typically includes finding available properties or purchasers who are a good match for the client’s needs, conducting negotiations, and completing the technical steps necessary to finalize purchases. 

Types of Real Estate Agents

Though real estate agents’ duties are somewhat basic, there are many different types, including: 

  • Listing agent (represents the individual selling the property) 
  • Buyer’s agent (represents the individual purchasing the property) 
  • Dual agent (represents both the buyer and the seller) 
  • Transaction agent (serves as a neutral party that finalizes contracts and closing documents) 

As a footnote in this section, we ought to discuss the role of realtors. Sometimes people want to know the difference between a real estate agent vs broker vs Realtor. The National Association of Realtors is a professional organization that serves both a career-advancement function and as an institutor of ethical standards. Both real estate agents and brokers can be Realtors. 

Benefits of Being a Real Estate Agent

Though a real estate agent vs broker salary is substantially lower, being an agent also offers significant benefits. Flexibility is one of the most valuable. Agents can usually work their own hours and set the direction of their real estate careers.  

How to Become a Real Estate Agent

In order to become a real estate agent, you must meet certain bureaucratic requirements, take various state-required courses, and pass an exam. Real estate agents must also serve under a real estate broker. 

Real Estate Broker

Real estate brokers can perform all of the tasks of agents, but they also can operate independently or run a brokerage with additional agents beneath them.  

What Is a Real Estate Broker?

At a fundamental level, a real estate broker serves as the boss in a firm. He or she has authority over agents or can work alone, forgoing the need to work with someone else. Many brokers also run title companies or mortgage brokerage companies.  

Responsibilities of a Real Estate Broker

In addition to facilitating transactions in the same ways that agents do, brokers also have a responsibility to provide guidance to agents under their care.  

What Are the Types of Real Estate Brokers?

There are two main kinds of real estate brokers: individual brokers (who work solely for themselves) and agency brokers (who have agents working underneath them).  

Benefits of being a real estate broker

Thus far, becoming a real estate broker has likely sounded like a significantly greater amount of work — and it is, as we will discuss more down below. But it also offers significantly greater fiscal rewards. Brokers can own title companies and mortgage brokerages, and the fees levied by those entities go to brokers. They also are entitled to a cut of the commissions earned by their agents. And one of the biggest differences when comparing real estate agent vs broker commission is that brokers don’t have to pay any commission.  

How to become a real estate broker

Like agents, brokers must earn a real estate broker license. However, this license has much stricter standards than those given to agents.  

Real Estate Agent vs Broker

To sum up the differences between real estate agents and brokers, it helps to understand their focuses, client interactions, and licensing requirements. Real estate agents are by far the more common class of real estate professional. Requiring relatively simple licensing requirements, a single test, and serving under an established broker, agency offers maximum flexibility and minimal prior commitment. Becoming a broker, on the other hand, is far more stringent, requiring extensive education, vetting by state authorities, and management responsibilities. However, it also offers significantly greater financial rewards and the opportunity to enjoy passive streams of income. 

Is It Better to Be a Real Estate Agent or a Broker?

Like most “better than” questions, asking if it’s better to be a real estate agent or a broker depends primarily on your personal situation. Both are equally viable and respected real estate paths, and both can provide you with a solid career. If you value setting your own schedule, don’t mind drumming up your own work, like working directly with a client, and can navigate the niceties of facilitating individual transactions, then serving as a real estate agent would work well for you. If you aren’t daunted by extra education and testing, like managing others, find the idea of starting multiple real estate businesses compelling, want to work for yourself, and are motivated by the idea of a higher income, then you might want to consider becoming a broker. 


We run into a lot of familiar questions when discussing the differences between real estate agents and real estate brokers. Following you’ll find answers to some of the most common queries. 

Are real estate agents and brokers the same thing?

No. While real estate agents and real estate brokers can facilitate individual transactions and work one-on-one with clients, brokers alone can have agents working under them, receive shares of their income, and run complimentary title companies and mortgage brokerages. 

What are the qualifications to be a real estate agent?

Real estate agents must meet requirements set out by their states, which will invariably include taking mandated courses, passing an exam, and serving under a real estate broker. 

Can you be a part-time real estate agent?

Yes! Agents typically have great leeway in setting their schedules. 

Why do real estate agents fail?

While we mentioned the benefit of setting your own schedule in the previous question, not working hard enough is one of the primary reasons why real estate agents fail. Successful agents must learn to generate leads, market themselves, and be readily available for their clients. 

What skills do real estate agents need?

Successful real estate agents need to be creative, hardworking, detail oriented, client-focused, able to negotiate, and able to multitask. 

Anne Barer

About Ro Crawford

Ro has extensive background in several sectors of the Real Estate industry including residential and commercial assets. Ro is responsible for developing a comprehensive marketing plan for each property as well as managing the company’s social media accounts. She designs, writes and edits offering memorandums, press releases, proposals for new business, eblasts and more. For questions, comments, or suggestions related to our blog, you can contact us via our website.