Realtor vs Real Estate Agent: What Sets Them Apart?

Buying a home is hard enough without having to navigate all the complex language and industry jargon that exists. One of the first issues that might have confused you is the difference between Realtors and real estate agents — do they mean the same thing? In this article, we’ll explain the Realtor vs. real estate agent debate. How to Become a Real Estate Agent Understanding the difference between Realtor and real estate agent will become obvious when you look at the differences in the process to becoming each type of person. The process to become a real estate agent isn’t as complicated as one might think. The first step is to find a location that offers real estate agent classes. This location should be state-certified, as each state has certain requirements for these real estate agent classes. Once the classes are complete, the students take a certification exam, which they must receive passing marks on to receive their certification. The exam is not limited to state requirements, but also is held to national requirements. The total classroom hours to become a real estate agent is typically between 30 and 90 hours. Alabama, for example, is 60 hours. The class length will vary depending on your state. Real estate agents have to maintain their license with an annual license fee incurred by the state. Some states even require that the maintenance process include maintenance classes to ensure agents are kept up to date in the industry. How to Become a Realtor The debate of real estate agent vs. Realtor is put to rest when you look at what the Realtor has to do to gain Realtor status. A Realtor has to first do everything that a real estate agent has to do. What is not widely known by the public is that “Realtor” is a trademarked term. The term has been trademarked (hence the capitalization) by the NAR, or the National Association of Realtors. This foundation was created in the early 1900’s, and has trademarked the Realtor term for the past four decades. Although challenges to the Realtor trademark have been levied, the US patent office has upheld the legality of the trademarking each time. Membership to the NAR requires that real estate agents have no negative factors on their record (no bankruptcy, and no state-imposed sanctions for inappropriate conduct). In addition, the real estate agent must join a local NAR chapter (over 1400 exist), and pay a fee. Why Be a Realtor? Besides receiving recognition as a Realtor and membership to a local NAR chapter where the Realtor can network and collaborate with peers, being a Realtor has multiple benefits. Many training resources on better house selling, real estate agent etiquette, and more are made available to members, as well as access to post listings on Other international listing opportunities are also available. Realtor vs. Real Estate Agent, Settled With the Realtor vs. real estate agent debate settled, you know have a clearer picture of the house buying/selling industry’s jargon. For more insight into the real estate industry, be sure to check out other articles on our blog! Subscribe to ensure you never miss out on juicy house selling and buying tips!   Writer profile: Alexander is a writer and admin at

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