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Realtor Vs. Real Estate Agent: What’s The Difference?

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In this article

Often, terms like real estate agent and REALTOR® are used interchangeably by those not intimately familiar with the industry. However, while they may share similar professional environments, they are not the same. A real estate agent is a licensed professional who facilitates the buying and selling of real estate properties. On the other hand, a REALTOR® is a real estate agent who is a member of the National Association of REALTORS® and adheres to its strict Code of Ethics.

A realtor and a real estate agent stand on opposite sides of a scale, each holding a house symbolizing their respective roles. The realtor's side is weighted down with additional responsibilities and qualifications, while the real estate agent's side remains lighter

To become a real estate agent in New York, one must complete a series of educational requirements, pass a licensing examination, and become affiliated with a licensed brokerage. Upon receiving a license, agents may represent clients in real estate transactions and earn money primarily through commissions. A standout aspect of being a REALTOR® is the commitment to the Code of Ethics, which upholds higher standards of professionalism and moral conduct.

If a student is curious about reciprocity for realtors in New York, they would find that New York has reciprocity agreements with several states, allowing licensed real estate salespersons and brokers from those states to practice in New York, provided they meet certain criteria and follow the state’s regulations. It’s a way to expand their practice across state lines without having to take the full licensing exam in New York.

Key Takeaways

  • A real estate agent facilitates property transactions and requires a state license to operate.
  • REALTORS® are real estate agents who commit to a Code of Ethics as members of the National Association of REALTORS®.
  • Becoming a licensed real estate agent involves educational courses, such as those offered by online institutions, and passing a state-administered exam.

Realtor Vs. Real Estate Agent: Key Differences

A realtor and a real estate agent stand on opposite sides of a signboard, each holding their respective business cards, with a house in the background

When navigating the New York real estate market, understanding the distinction between a Realtor and a real estate agent is crucial. At a glance, every Realtor is a real estate agent, but not every real estate agent is a Realtor.

Ethics and Affiliation:

  • Realtor: A trademarked term for agents affiliated with the National Association of Realtors (NAR), bound by a strict code of ethics.
  • Real Estate Agent: May operate without NAR affiliation but must follow state laws and regulations.

Education and Licensing:

  • Realtor: Must maintain their status through continued education, which can be pursued through avenues like fully online real estate schools.
  • Real Estate Agent: Requires state licensing, but no obligation for additional NAR education.

Representation and Duties:

  • Realtor: Often goes above and beyond in fiduciary duties, due to ethical obligations.
  • Real Estate Agent: Assists clients in buying, selling, and renting properties, handling negotiations and transactions.

Commissions: Both Realtors and real estate agents earn money through commissions—a portion of the property’s sale price. Yet, being a Realtor may influence client trust, potentially impacting earnings.

In summary, while both work in similar capacities and earn through commissions, a Realtor distinguishes themselves with NAR membership and adherence to an elevated ethical standard. In New York, whether you’re dealing with a broker or an agent, recognize the added professional commitment a Realtor brings to your real estate transactions.

What Is A Real Estate Agent?

A real estate agent is a professional licensed in New York to facilitate buying and selling property. As your guide through this process, an agent performs various roles, depending on whether they work as a listing agent or a buyer’s agent.

As a listing agent, they represent the seller’s interests. Their tasks include:

  • Marketing the property effectively, ensuring it reaches potential buyers.
  • Staging and presenting the property, highlighting its best features.
  • Conducting property showings and coordinating open houses.
  • Performing negotiation with prospective buyers or their agents.
  • Handling the legal and regulatory requirements involved in selling.

In the role of a buyer’s agent, their focus is on the buyer, assisting you in:

  • Searching and identifying potential properties that meet your needs.
  • Arranging property tours and providing insights into the local real estate market.
  • Advising you on making competitive yet fair offers.
  • Negotiating with sellers or their agents to ensure your interests are maintained.
  • Helping navigate the purchase process, including the paperwork and compliance aspects.

With either type of agent, you should expect them to utilize their expertise in the real estate sector to achieve the best possible outcome for you, whether you’re buying or selling a property. If you are interested in becoming a real estate agent, consider exploring online options like Corofy, which provide the necessary education to get started in this field.

How Do Real Estate Agents Earn Money?

Real estate agents primarily earn income through commissions, which are payments made directly to agents for services rendered in buying or selling a property. These commissions are typically a percentage of the sale price of a home. When you’re involved in a transaction as a buyer or seller, understanding how commissions work can be beneficial.

  • Commission Structure: The default commission rate can vary, but it typically ranges between 5% to 6% of the property’s selling price. The total amount is usually split between the seller’s agent and the buyer’s agent.
  • Payment Flow: Commissions are paid at the closing of a transaction. A seller agrees to a commission rate with their agent when listing the home. Once the property sells, the commission is deducted from the sale proceeds, and the respective agents receive their share.

Here’s a simplified breakdown of a commission’s distribution:

Transaction Side Recipient Commission Share
Seller Listing Agent 2.5% – 3%
Buyer Buyer’s Agent 2.5% – 3%
  • Salaries & Benefits: In New York, real estate agents typically do not receive a traditional salary or benefits; their income is based on the successful closing of real estate deals.

It’s crucial to note that while commissions are the norm, some agents may work with a flat fee or alternative compensation arrangements. When choosing to work with an agent, ensure you have a clear understanding of how they get paid for their services.

How To Become A Real Estate Agent

To embark on a career as a real estate agent in New York, you must fulfill specific education requirements and obtain your real estate license. The process is straightforward but requires dedication and adherence to ethical standards.

Education Requirements: You’re required to complete a 77-hour pre-licensing course from an accredited institution like Corofy, which offers a comprehensive, fully online program.

Licensing Exam: Following your education, you’ll need to pass the New York State licensing exam. The exam tests your knowledge of real estate principles, practices, and laws. To ensure you’re prepared, consider taking practice exams and revising course materials.

  • Apply for License: Once you’ve passed the exam, you can apply for your state license. In your application, include proof of your education, exam results, and any required fees.
  • Ethical Practice: As a real estate professional, it’s imperative to conduct business ethically. The New York State Board requires adherence to a set of ethical guidelines aimed at protecting consumers.

Insurance: Maintaining Errors and Omissions (E&O) insurance is essential. This insurance guards against potential legal claims, ensuring you and your clients have peace of mind during transactions.

By completing these steps with diligence, you lay the groundwork for a successful career in the real estate industry. Remember, ongoing education will be a part of your career to maintain your license and stay updated on current real estate laws and practices.

What Is A Realtor?

A Realtor is a licensed real estate professional who is a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). As a member, a Realtor adheres to a strict Code of Ethics and upholds the standards set by this organization, distinguishing them from non-member agents.

Code of Ethics

As a Realtor, you subscribe to the NAR’s Code of Ethics, a comprehensive set of policies governing professional conduct. This includes commitments to serve the best interests of clients and to cooperate with other Realtors in a truthful manner. The Code of Ethics reflects the level of commitment a Realtor has to maintain integrity and fairness in all real estate transactions.

17 Articles

The NAR Code of Ethics is composed of 17 Articles that outline the duties and responsibilities of a Realtor. These cover a range of issues from client confidentiality to nondiscrimination. Within these Articles are various Standards of Practice that provide guidelines on how these ethical principles should be applied in daily real estate practice. Your adherence to these Articles demonstrates a dedication to upholding the professional standards expected of a Realtor.


When choosing representation for your real estate needs in New York, understanding the distinction between a Realtor and a Real Estate Agent provides clarity and allows you to select an individual aligned with your expectations.

  • Credibility: Realtors are members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and adhere to a strict code of ethics. Engaging with a Realtor assures you of a professional bound by a higher ethical standard, which may offer additional peace of mind.
  • Guidance: Both Realtors and real estate agents can offer guidance on market trends, yet Realtors often have access to exclusive market data through the NAR, potentially providing deeper insight.
  • Insight & Market Trends: Realtors and agents can assist in navigating the complexities of buying, selling, or renting. However, Realtors may have more up-to-date information on market trends, beneficial in today’s dynamic market.
  • Word of Mouth: Referrals and word of mouth strengthen both groups’ reputations, but Realtors may benefit from the collective branding of the NAR.

Leveraging this knowledge, you can make an informed decision and effectively utilize the resources available through professionals within New York’s real estate industry. Opting for a Realtor might give you an edge thanks to their bound commitment to the NAR’s standards, but both agents and Realtors aim to facilitate successful real estate transactions. Your choice should reflect your comfort level with their expertise, the services they offer, and their understanding of the New York real estate environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Before embarking on a real estate career or working with a property professional, it’s essential to understand the specific roles and distinctions between a Realtor and a real estate agent.

What distinguishes a Realtor from a real estate agent in terms of job responsibilities?

A Realtor, while performing many of the same duties as a real estate agent—such as assisting in the buying and selling of homes—also adheres to the National Association of Realtors’ strict Code of Ethics. Realtors must maintain a high degree of professional conduct, which can involve additional responsibilities in their transactions.

What are the differences in education and licensing requirements between Realtors and real estate agents?

In New York, both Realtors and real estate agents are required to be licensed to conduct real estate transactions, and this involves taking pre-licensing courses from a reliable real estate school like Corofy, which offers comprehensive online education. The additional distinction for Realtors is membership in the National Association of Realtors, which comes with its own requirements.

Can you explain the differences in professional affiliations for Realtors and real estate agents?

Real estate agents may be affiliated with various real estate brokerages or agencies. In contrast, Realtors are specifically affiliated with the National Association of Realtors and must comply with its standards to use the Realtor title.

How do commission structures typically vary between Realtors and real estate agents?

Commission structures for Realtors and real estate agents in New York are typically based on a percentage of the sales price of the property and are negotiable by law. However, there is no standard or legally defined commission structure that distinguishes Realtors from real estate agents.

What legal or ethical standards differentiate a Realtor from a real estate agent?

The notable difference in standards is that Realtors are bound by the National Association of Realtors’ Code of Ethics, which includes 17 Articles that outline higher standards of practice and duties to clients, the public, and other Realtors, as compared to the state’s legal requirements for real estate agents.

Are there specific market privileges or access differences between Realtors and real estate agents?

In terms of market privileges, Realtors have access to a range of resources provided by the National Association of Realtors, including extensive market data, educational opportunities, and real estate forms and publications that may not be available to non-member real estate agents.

Who is Corofy?

Before being a school, Corofy is a community. Our founder, Eddy Boccara, started his real estate career as a real estate salesperson looking for a side hustle.

Since then, he’s had a passion for New York real estate and specifically the talented individuals that take the leap to get their real estate license and help this industry progress.

Eddy created Corofy with one goal in mind: to provide people with quality real estate education that actually helps them build a career they can be proud of.

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