The difference between real estate agents and brokers

October 21, 2014

For simplicity’s sake, a real estate agent could also be referred to as a real estate salesperson. A licensed agent is employed by a real estate broker in a registered real estate agency or brokerage. He or she works as an intermediary and marketing specialist for clients who wish to buy some real estate or sell a property. When looking at the difference between real estate agents and brokers, you might say this is the entry-level position in the real estate profession.

Real estate agents may be recruited and trained by brokers, or they may be graduates of a number of universities and vocational colleges that offer training programs. You can also prepare for the real estate agent’s registration exam through a distance-learning program offered by one of the provincial regulatory associations or a private college. After they’ve fulfilled the basic educational requirements and written the licensing exam, real estate agents in Canada “article” for up to two years; this supervised period ensures that all new agents properly learn the ethics and practices of the profession.

In Quebec, all real estate agents are now legally referred to as real estate brokers. They have received the same training and practice with the same permits, it’s just the name that’s changed.

The difference between real estate agents and brokers

A real estate broker

A real estate broker could also be referred to as a real estate boss. A broker is typically an owner or manager of a real estate agency or brokerage firm; a real estate broker employs and supervises real estate agents. The provincial real estate associations issue broker’s licences to agents who have taken advanced training courses that prepare them for the added responsibilities of their role.

A realtor

Although they’re often used interchangeably, the words “realtor” and “real estate agent” aren’t synonyms. The term “realtor” is a registered collective membership mark—a proprietary term—that real estate salespeople can use to describe themselves only if they’re members of the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) or the U.S.’s National Association of Realtors. CREA members must follow strict guidelines about how to use the title of realtor and its logo. They are also expected to adhere to a code of ethics that guarantees a certain quality of service.

5 questions you should ask an agent/broker/realtor before you sign a contract

Now that you know the difference between real estate agents and brokers, you may feel comfortable going with either one. You’ll get more expertise with a broker, but agents are also highly motivated to make sales. No matter which you choose, ask these questions at your initial meeting so you know what to expect:

  • What is your marketing strategy for the selling of our home?
  • What’s your policy about exclusivity agreements for us as buyers or sellers?
  • What’s your commission? (Remember that these fees are negotiable.)
  • What’s your sale-to-list ratio? (This is the agent’s record of actual sales prices compared to initial asking prices.)
  • What changes to our home should we make in order to sell it quickly and at our asking price?
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