What are the differences between Realtor, broker and salesperson?

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 22:  A sale pending... 

What are the differences between Realtor ®, sales person and broker? This is a very common question, to many each of the terms are interchangeable. There are differences and can mean many different things to consumers.

From the Massachusetts Real Estate Brokers and Salespeople Consumer Fact Sheet found here:

Licensed Brokers and Salespersons

Only licensed real estate brokers and salespersons can assist you with the purchase, sale, lease or exchange of real property. The license must be current and in an Active status. This assistance includes a number of services, such as examining property for basic valuations (not to be confused with the services of a licensed appraiser), negotiating purchase, sale or lease agreements, maintaining escrow accounts, and advertising.

To become licensed, an applicant must satisfactorily complete the agent curriculum in real estate approved by the Board and pass a written examination conducted by the Board's testing service.

A real estate broker negotiates agreements to sell, exchange, purchase, rent or lease interests in real property for a fee, commission or other valuable consideration for another person. A broker is responsible for accepting and escrowing all funds, such as a deposit placed on the purchase of a home, and for finalizing transactions. A real estate broker must supervise any transactions conducted by a salesperson.

A real estate salesperson engages in the same activities as a broker, except completing the negotiation of any agreement or transaction. A salesperson also has no authority or control over escrow funds.

A salesperson must be affiliated with a broker, either as an employee or as an independent contractor, and work under the supervision of the broker. A salesperson can not operate his own real estate business.

What Is a REALTOR®? - From REALTOR.com: What Is a REALTOR®?

A real estate agent is a REALTOR® when he or she is a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, The Voice for Real Estate® -- the world's largest professional association.

The term REALTOR® is a registered collective membership mark that identifies a real estate professional who is a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics.

Founded in 1908, NAR has grown from its original nucleus of 120 to today's 720,000 members. NAR is composed of residential and commercial REALTORS®, who are brokers, salespeople, property managers, appraisers, counselors and others engaged in all aspects of the real estate industry. Members belong to one or more of some 1,700 local associations/boards and 54 state and territory associations of REALTORS®. They can join one of our many institutes, societies and councils. Additionally, NAR offers members the opportunity to be active in our appraisal and international real estate specialty sections.

REALTORS® are pledged to a strict Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice. Working for America's property owners, the National Association provides a facility for professional development, research and exchange of information among its members and to the public and government for the purpose of preserving the free enterprise system and the right to own real property.

Knowing these differences can assist you in your dealings with different real estate professionals. Each has different skill sets and can offer different or similar services. Ask them to clarify their professional and licensing status and how it can benefit you. For example a broker may have more flexibility in their services because of their position within their brokerage if they are the owner or manager. This is not to discount the hard work that a sales person can accomplish. Just be aware of these sometimes slight differences. In addition to these 3 titles ask how the real estate professional works within their brokerage. Do they have additional responsibilities that might assist you or distract them? Ask about additional education, advanced studies in addition to their sales history and experience in working with the market you are in or interested in.

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