Real Estate Terms: Agent vs REALTOR®

Real Estate Agent Qualifications

real estate agent, or real estate salesperson, is a someone who facilitates the purchase and sale of property on behalf of customers. Every real estate agent has taken hours of coursework, has passed a state licensing exam, and passed a background check.

According to the National Association of Realtors®, there are approximately 3 million licensed real estate agents in the U.S.[1]

Not every real estate agent is a REALTOR®, but every REALTOR is a licensed real estate agent.

What’s the difference between a real estate agent and a REALTOR?

Of the approximately 3 million real estate agents, approximately half have chosen to become REALTORS,[1] joining America’s largest trade association with the promise of upholding the highest standards in the industry[2].

To become a REALTOR®, after following all state licensing requirements, agents join the National Association of Realtors, and pledge to uphold professional and ethical standards, which are designed to protect homebuyers and sellers.

Upholding professional standards requires acting within a strict code of conduct and maintaining professional development by obtaining continuing education credit in courses sanctioned by the Association.

 Always work with a REALTOR. REALTORS are professionals who have chosen to work harder, uphold a higher standard of practice, and do more to ensure they are providing the best service and knowledge to their clients.

Why do I want a REALTOR?

A REALTOR is a professional who is attentive, interested, communicative, experienced, and knowledgeable about the local area. Whether you’re listing your home to sell or searching to buy your next home, a REALTOR champions your needs every step of the way.

How do I choose a REALTOR®?

Ask friends and family for recommendations to get you started on your search. Then, search the directory at for REALTORS who work in the area where you are hoping to buy or sell. Reach out to a few with your information and choose the REALTOR that will work best for you.

Related post: Once You've Decided to Sell, Choose a REALTOR®

Related post: Real Estate Terms: Professional Roles Defined


[1] NAR Research and Statistics

[2] Ibid.

[3] NAR Fact Sheet