REALTOR, Agent, Broker – What’s the difference?

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Confused by titles: real estate agent, Broker, Principal Broker? Not sure who to hire? If you’re new to the Portland real estate market, don’t worry – it’s not as confusing as it seems.

Broker vs. Real Estate Agent

All real estate agents are Brokers in Oregon. There is only once license in Oregon for real estate agents (those helping clients buy and sell real estate) and that is Broker. Real estate agents still use this term because it is national common vernacular – people understand the term real estate agent quicker and more frequently than that term Broker. Broker is the official term, the license title, of all the real estate agents in Oregon. Within Oregon there are only two types of Brokers, regular Brokers and Principal Brokers, which will explain in a minute.

REALTOR® vs. Broker

What’s the difference? To become a Broker in the state of Oregon, applicants complete 150+ hours of training, which covers everything from real estate law and finance to property management and negotiation skills. Read our comprehensive guide on getting your Oregon real estate broker’s license here. Once licensed they must also keep up with continuing education. Only Brokers can then become REALTORS. The vast majority of Brokers in Oregon are REALTORS.

How many Realtors are there?
How much to Realtors make?
How do you pick a Realtor?

A REALTOR® is anyone who’s a member of the National Association of Realtors, the trade association that governs real estate agent education and employs the branded, all-caps title for its members.
That title is important because it separates the professionals from the rest of the herd, requiring members to adhere to a strict Code of Ethics.

In Portland, Brokers who are REALTORS® are a part of either the Portland Metropolitan Association of Realtors (PMAR) or the East Metro Association of Realtors (EMAR), which by default makes them part of both the state of Oregon Association of Realtors (OAR) and the overarching National Association of Realtors. There are roughly 7,000 REALTORS® in the Portland area at last count — Brokers and Principal Brokers. (When this article was first written anyway. Go here to see the current count of Oregon, Portland and U.S. based Realtors.) The NAR or National Association of REALTORS works hard to promote home-ownership across the country and provides education and support to all its members.

Broker vs. Principal Broker

In Oregon, Brokers are required work under a Principal Broker for at least three years before they are allowed to earn their own Principal Broker’s license, if that’s the direction they want to head. Principal Brokers can take on the legal responsibility for their own set of Brokers (or they may work independently). A licensed Realty company in Oregon may consist of one single Broker, long as that person is a Principal Broker. A Principal Broker’s license does not mean that they will sell your home better or faster than a regular Broker, the Principal Broker’s license exists for supervision over other Brokers. If a real estate agent has little desire to be an administrator over other Brokers and has more desire to focus on helping clients buy and sell homes, they may never pursue a Principal Broker’s license. Typically, team leaders over other Brokers, as well as the heads of licensed Realty companies, are required to hold a Principal Broker’s license.

The most important thing is that you trust your real estate agent, they have a proven track record with written, verifiable, reviews and referrals by former clients, and that they are in good standing with the Oregon Real Estate Agency (the state regulatory board) and are a member of the National Association of REALTORS.

How do you tell? It’s quick to look up an agent by first and last name by going to the Oregon Real Estate Agency government website. Look to see if the agent or Broker’s license is current, which Principal Broker they work with if they’re a Broker, and for any disciplinary actions on their records.

Other Names for Real Estate Agents

In some states there are real estate salespersons, or real estate sales associates, which can be a different license designation (doesn’t exist in Oregon or Washington).

In different states there are different names for Brokers. For example in Washington state, all real estate agents are Brokers, just like in Oregon, but the supervising Broker’s license is called Managing Broker in Washington instead of Principal Broker in Oregon.

There are no alternative terms for Realtors, a Realtor is a Realtor, is a Realtor. A person is either a member of this national association and adheres to its code of ethics, or they’re not a Realtor.

Worked with an Experienced Principal Broker

Licensed since 2003, I’ve completed over 2,000 home sales. Our top selling Realtors (sellers agents) charge less than average commission and pay more to market our client’s homes so they sell faster and for more. Our top buying Realtors (buyers agents) have helped hundreds of local home buyers find their next best match and are laser focused on buyer’s needs. We’d love to connect with you! Whether you’re thinking of buying or selling a home, chat with the bot on this site or give us a call today at 503-714-1111.

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What My Clients Are Saying

I am so grateful for my choice in Stephen. Being able to have total confidence in him made the experience of selling my house stress free. He is friendly, focused, professional, and to the point. Best Realtor I have ever used, period.