Real estate professionals go by different names. There are agents, brokers, Realtors®, seller’s agents, buyer’s agents. The list goes on.
If you’re entering the real estate market for the first time, you may find real estate professionals’ various titles a little confusing. But you’ll benefit from knowing the difference. Other professions have managers and employees, but in this area of business, it’s a little different. People tend to use these titles interchangeably, but there are some important differences between the roles of the various professionals, as well as different requirements for using particular titles.
The real estate profession is regulated by state governments, which have different requirements for earning a license. In general, though, the titles you may come across include the following:
While you are more likely to work directly with a real estate salesperson or an associate broker when buying, selling, or renting property, some brokers provide services for buyers and sellers themselves. If you have hired a real estate agent to help you buy or sell a property, that agent typically reports to a broker. The broker handles the earnest money deposit and establishes the escrow account. They will be an invaluable resource in the whole process.
In addition, the broker bears responsibility for the actions of the real estate agents under his or her supervision. While the majority of property transactions go through without any glitches, a broker will step in if there are any problems with your home or rental property purchase or sale (e.g., issues with your mortgage or inspection).
If you are unhappy with your real estate agent and cannot resolve the issues directly, your next step should be to talk with the broker to ask for help and perhaps other real estate professionals for you to consult.
Real estate brokers not only have higher education requirements than real estate salespersons, they also must have knowledge and experience working as an agent. For example, in Virginia the license requirements are as follows:
When you are looking for real estate professionals, it is wise to work with a member of the National Association of Realtors who is committed to maintaining the professionalism of the real estate business. You can choose to work with a salesperson or a broker, but as a homeowner you should take the time to interview your agent and ask for references.
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