In the real estate world, people use a lot of terms that may be unfamiliar to buyers and sellers. Some of the most common include real estate agent, REALTOR® and broker. Many people think these terms are interchangeable, all meaning the exact same thing. While all three may be involved in real estate transactions, they are not identical.


In the State of Illinois, there are two classes of brokers. The first is a standard broker who upon the completion of the required training and passage of the licensing exam is permitted to list property for sale and/or represent buyers in their home purchase. However, brokers must work in an office under the supervision of a second class of brokers, the managing broker.

Managing brokers have additional training, pass a special exam and are required to have twice the numbers of hours of continuing education in each license renewal period. These licensees can open a brokerage office, manage a brokerage office for the company owner and/or engage standard brokers to work under them.

Real Estate Agent or REALTOR® 

Two other similar, but different terms, are real estate agent and REALTOR®. A real estate agent is anyone who has completed the required State real estate licensure training, passed the exam and received their license to list and sell real estate. They can be either standard brokers, as previously described, or managing brokers who can open or run an office.  They can also be REALTORS®, but they do not have to be REALTORS®.

Not all real estate agents are REALTORS® but all REALTORS® will be real estate agents.  The major difference distinguishing them from each other is that all REALTORS® are members of the National Association of REALTORS®.  As such they agree to abide by the association’s Code of Ethics and receive ongoing required ethics training from their local or state REALTOR® associations.

Does It Matter?

Yes, it does matter. While all three – brokers, agents and/or REALTORS® – may be licensed by their State to list and sell real estate, not all of them belong to the National Association of REALTORS®. Those who have joined as members of this organization are held to a high standard of conduct. Their Code of Ethic outlines REALTOR® duties to clients and customers, the public and other REALTORS®. The Code ensures that by “Accepting this standard as their own, Realtors® pledge to observe its spirit in all of their activities whether conducted personally, through associates or others, or via technological means, and to conduct their business in accordance with the tenets set forth” in the Codes’ Articles and Standards of Practice.

So, if you are considering a home sale or new purchase, hiring a REALTOR® provides you assurances regarding that agent’s commitment to the ethical and professional practice of the real estate sales. For additional information regarding the pledges detailed in the REALTORS® Code of Ethics or the buying and selling process, please feel free to contact me today for a consultation. I will be happy to answer any questions you may have, help you to find a new home or determine the value of your existing property.


Allyson Hoffman, ABR, ACRE, CDPE, CRS, e-PRO, GRI, SFR, SRES
RE/MAX Villager
Serving Chicago's North Shore, North and Northwest Suburbs
[email protected]

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Allyson Hoffman is your ultimate real estate resource for Chicago's North Shore, North and Northwest Suburbs and surrounding areas. Visit my website for detailed information regarding today’s real estate markets.