Working with a REALTOR®

A real estate professional is your partner in homeownership. Finding the right one to represent you is an important choice that you will want to make early in the process.

Agents, Brokers, and REALTORS®: What’s the Difference?

“Agent” is a catchall phrase that is used, in casual conversation, to describe the three types of professionals who buy and sell real estate: agents, brokers, and REALTORS®. Even though people use those terms interchangeably, there are key differences you should be aware of:

real estate agent is a licensed professional who helps people buy, sell, rent, or invest in homes. To become an agent, a person must take pre-licensing training from a certified institution (these vary from state to state) and pass their state’s real estate licensing exam. Once they have their license, an agent must affiliate themselves with a real estate brokerage and complete required training to keep their real estate license active.

real estate broker is a professional who has additional education beyond the agent level, as required by state law, and who has passed a broker’s exam. In some cases, brokers also have more years of experience than agents. The biggest difference between a broker and an agent is that a broker may work independently. An agent must be overseen by a broker.

REALTOR® is a broker or agent who belongs to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), the largest trade group in the country. A REALTOR® commits to following a strict Code of Ethics intended to protect buyers and sellers. Agents and brokers who are not NAR members can’t call themselves REALTORS®.

How Do You Find a REALTOR® to Work for You?

With 1.5 million REALTORS® nationwide and over 28,000 in Maryland, there are plenty to choose from. But it is important that you choose one that is right for you.  Here are some things to consider:


Does this REALTOR® know the market, your area, and current pricing trends?


These are for REALTORS® who have specialized expertise in certain types of clients or transactions. Does one of those fit your situation?


Did someone you know, like a friend, family member or coworker, have a good experience with their REALTOR®? Would that REALTOR’s® clients choose to work with them again?


Do you see yourself working well with this person? If your personalities conflict, or if you have differing communications styles, even the best agent may not be the one that works best for you.

You should always interview several REALTORS® before starting the homebuying or selling process. Our Buyer and Seller Toolkits have a list of questions that you can use during those interviews so you can find the right fit.

Download the Buyer Toolkit