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Real Estate 101: The Difference Between an Agent & Broker

Nov 3, 2007
Many people mistakenly believe that a real estate agent and a broker are the same, but this is actually untrue. While both an agent and a broker must undergo schooling and must pass a state real estate exam, there are some very significant differences between the two.

Considering Licensing

From a technical standpoint, the difference between an agent and a real estate broker is the fact that they hold different licenses. In order to obtain the different licensing, a broker must actually complete additional coursework beyond what an agent must complete.

Although many people use the terms real estate agent and broker interchangeably, a broker actually has more schooling and bears more responsibilities throughout the transaction.

Since a broker has more education and experience, real estate agents work beneath the broker. Therefore, a person that works as an independent Realtor must be a broker as well. A real estate agency with multiple agents, however, may have only one licensed broker and several agents (and associate brokers.) While the agents will perform many of the same functions as the broker, the broker is the one that is ultimately responsible for ensuring the transaction is completed properly. In exchange for taking on this added responsibility, the broker receives a percentage of the commission the agent earns when selling a home.

The Personal Touch

When it comes to working with a real estate broker versus a real estate agent, you will probably notice little difference if you notice a difference at all. This is because agents are licensed and capable of performing the basic tasks that most buyers and sellers are interested in having completed for them. For example, if you are looking for a home, an agent can easily take you to see a variety of homes and can help you reach a deal with the seller. Similarly, if you are selling a home, a real estate agent will have access to all of the same connections as the broker he or she works for.

If you are working with an agent rather than directly with the broker, you should expect to receive the same level of service you would receive from the broker. If you are unhappy with the agent's service, however, you can contact the broker and request that another agent be assigned to you. Similarly, if you have any questions or concerns that your agent cannot seem to address, you should contact the broker in order to make sure you are on the right track with the selling or purchase of your home.

The fact that every real estate agent is backed up by a broker is somewhat of a safety net for you as a consumer. In fact, if a crisis situation arises, the success of your transaction may come down to the abilities of the broker. Therefore, when hiring an agent, be sure you are comfortable with both the agent and the broker if they are not the same person. That way, you will be guaranteed the best experience possible.
About the Author
Eric Bramlett is the broker & co-owner of One Source Realty in Austin, Texas. Eric currently manages his Austin Real Estate Broker Guide, his Austin Real Estate Broker company's website, & his Downtown Austin real estate Guide.
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