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  • Matt Linden

Broker? Agent? REALTOR®? What is the difference?

Updated: Mar 15, 2023


Have you wondered about the difference (or if there is one) between the terms Real Estate Agent, Real Estate Broker, and REALTOR®? My license from the state of Washington for this business is officially Real Estate Broker. Real Estate Agent is a commonly used term for a broker. It comes from the legal role that the broker is in. (See more below.) I find myself using both of those terms, including on this website. Just understand that they are referring to the same thing in almost any case you will be involved in when you are buying and selling a property where I work, in Washington. (In some states, Agent and Broker are names for two different levels of licensing, with Broker requiring more training and experience. In Washington, there is a Managing Broker license level above Broker, that is basically what is sounds like. I have a Managing Broker at the firm that I am associated with, Pellego.)


Agent is a specific legal term that appears in contracts that you sign with your broker. A listing agreement will have language such as "This agreement creates an agency relationship with Listing Broker...." Agency is someone acting in the interests of their client to broker the real estate transaction. Your broker, in all the areas of Washington where I work, will provide you with a pamphlet about agency law.


REALTOR® is a term that dues paying members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) trade association can use. It is not necessary to be a REALTOR® to be a broker, but some feel it is good for marketing themselves. Many brokers also feel that NAR is worth supporting because they do a lot of lobbying for the real estate brokerage industry. I have found that the training and standards of NAR are very good, so I use them. I can't be a REALTOR®, however, since my firm is not officially affiliated with them. NAR does charge a significant fee to firms and brokers.

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