Real Estate Terms: Professional Roles Defined

Whether you’re moving out on your own for the first time, upsizing your living arrangements for your extended family, or selling your empty nest for your next big adventure, real estate jargon can be confusing. When buying or selling a home, emotions are intensified by a feeling of the unknown, especially if you have (understandably) limited experience in the industry.

As you enter the real estate market, getting familiar with these professionals and their responsibilities will ease your journey.

Real Estate Agent

A real estate agent is a person who has taken classes and is state-licensed to assist in the buying and selling of property. According to the National Association of Realtors® there are approximately 3 million licensed real estate agents in the U.S. [1]

To be a Realtor®, after following all state licensing requirements, agents join the National Association of Realtors, and agree to abide by professional standards and ethics requirements that look out for buyers’ and sellers’ interests. Not every real estate agent is a REALTOR®, but every Realtor is a licensed real estate agent. Always choose a Realtor.

What do I want in a Realtor? Look for a professional who is attentive, interested, communicative, experienced, and knowledgeable about the local area. They will champion your needs every step of the way. Learn more about how to choose a Realtor® on the OneKey MLS Real Estate Advice Blog.


Real estate agents generally work for and with brokers to complete sales. Every broker is a licensed real estate agent who has taken additional classes to be able to negotiate and navigate financial transactions, draft offering documents, and determine the market value of a property. Brokers accept liability for avoiding conflicts of interest, disclosing relevant information, keeping confidential matters confidential, and safeguarding financial transactions.

There are different types of brokers. Associate brokers will typically work with clients who have more unique situations. Managing brokers typically oversee transactions in addition to daily office operations, hiring, training, and managing new agents and administrative staff. Principal or Designated brokers supervise agents to ensure compliance with state and federal law, in addition to everything listed above. Every office has one designated broker.

The Realtor® you choose to work with will have a Broker with whom they work closely.


A licensed, certified appraiser determines fair market value for a property by accounting for the home inspection results, curb appeal, quality and condition of the home, location and nearby comparable sales (or comps). Appraisers have no personal interest in the sale and are bound by professional ethics to be fair, unbiased, and independent in their appraisal.

The appraisal is typically paid and arranged for by the buyer after an offer is made and an inspection is complete. The appraisal may be higher or lower than the contract price. If the contract has an appraisal contingency clause and the appraisal is lower than the contract price, the buyer may be able to walk away from the offer they’ve made or negotiate a lower sale price. A seller may negotiate for a higher appraisal based on comps and documented, recently upgraded home features that the appraiser may not have considered. The seller can also agree to the lower valuation, make up the difference further in the sale process, or walk away from the sale completely. The appraisal is good for 3-6 months, but any new prospective buyer may insist on their own appraisal, which may have favorable or unfavorable outcomes.

The Realtor® will explain the appraisal to you, and how the appraiser arrived at their valuation, typically reported in a 10-page document for a single-family residence.

Mortgage Broker

A mortgage broker (or loan officer) is a professional who has reached certain educational, training and state-licensing requirements, with a strong focus in financial services.  Some mortgage brokers are also real estate brokers, but the training and licensing are different. Their primary role is to help clients secure financing for a mortgage, by contacting financial institutions, analyzing loan structures and interest rates, and negotiating on the buyer’s behalf.

From the moment you decide to buy a house, it’s a good idea to contact a mortgage broker. They work with many different lenders, and help clients to understand and repair credit, secure a down payment, and advise a realistic buying strategy and timeline. They help you get pre-approved for a mortgage so when the right house is found, the buying process is that much easier.

If the process of buying seems overwhelming, take comfort in knowing you are not alone. Find a Realtor® that you feel comfortable working with who will advise you in the process from start to finish, and bookmark the OneKey® MLS Real Estate Advice blog for more information on homeownership.


[1] National Association of Realtors Quick Statistics