When people begin to learn about professions in real estate, they will encounter the terms “Realtor” and “real estate agent,” often used interchangeably as if those two titles possess the exact same meaning. However, they do not. If you’re exploring a possible career in real estate, whether in buy-sell or rentals, commercial or residential, you need to know what these titles mean so that you can make informed decisions about how to move forward. Do you plan to become a real estate agent, or commit one step further to become a Realtor?
First, you’ll need to know the definitions of each title and the responsibilities associated with each role. You might also want to learn about salary as well as where and how to get further information. This article will get you started on that journey and point to additional resources for you to learn more
Once you understand the differences between a Realtor vs. a real estate agent, you’ll want to learn more about real estate brokers in case you envision yourself owning your own company at some point down the road.
The Main Difference Between Realtors Vs. Real Estate Agents
What’s the difference between a Realtor vs. a real estate agent? The short answer is the credentials that they hold. All real estate agents must earn a real estate license in the state they plan to work in. To then become a Realtor, a real estate agent must become a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), America’s largest trade association for the real estate industry.
Real Estate Agent: A Definition
A traditional real estate agent helps people buy and/or sell homes, but they can also pursue other related careers in the industry as well, such as apartment locating, or helping clients buy, sell, or lease commercial properties.
All real estate agents must possess a license in the state they work in, which requires special schooling, testing, and fees. Additionally, agents must work for a brokerage, but can, over time, earn their own broker’s license and operate independently or start a new brokerage of their own. While you can earn your license without a college degree, a bachelor’s in one of many relevant disciplines will give you an advantage because you will enter the profession with many necessary skills and professional connections already under your belt, especially with a specialty in business, marketing, accounting, or other related fields.
Many people enjoy real estate because of the independence it affords, flexible scheduling, and the opportunity to support people through a major life decision. Entrepreneurially-minded professionals who enjoy marketing, networking, customer service, business operations, and living the HGTV dream will love this job. Nevertheless, keep in mind that it demands serious commitment, hard work, and a fair amount of paperwork as well. You also need to prepare yourself financially for the time it takes to earn a license and then build your business into a lucrative operation. In other words, plan for all of those initial expenses and to receive little to no income at first.
As for salary, real estate agents earn their income via commissions, typically 5-6% of the selling price of a home, or, for apartment locators, the equivalent of the first month’s rent. You will need to plan and budget for an income that will vary with the number of transactions you make. Also, for each sale, it will take a handful of months for the paycheck from that deal to appear in your account, particularly for buy-sell deals. Because real estate does tend to experience seasons, you will likely close more deals in the spring and summer months when people move more often.
Resources for further career exploration:
Should You Become a Real Estate Agent? by the Harvard Business Review
What Does a Real Estate Agent Do? by Nerdwallet
Best Real Estate Books for Beginners by AptAmigo
Best College Majors for a Career in Real Estate by AptAmigo
How to Find the Best Real Estate Mentor by AptAmigo
Are Real Estate Agents Becoming Obsolete? by AptAmigo
Best Entry-Level Jobs in Real Estate by AptAmigo
Realtor: A Definition
When an agent, or other licensed real estate professional, becomes a member of the National Association of Realtors, they become a Realtor. In order to join this professional organization, agents apply for membership, complete an orientation course, commit to a strict code of ethics, and pay annual dues.
Upon becoming a member of the NAR, agents receive a whole slew of benefits, including opportunities to earn certifications, continuing education courses, discounts on major expenses like insurance and technology, access to the latest industry research, the use of trademarked Realtor logos, and a job title that conveys your values and practices to consumers. In other words, you gain a wide range of tools to grow your business and personal brand as well as a way to identify yourself as trustworthy and service-oriented to clients.
Joining the NAR takes your career one step further by ensuring that you can stay abreast of industry news & trends, grow your skills with further education, network with like-minded professionals, and participate in a wider professional community.
More information about Realtors:
What Is a Realtor? by realtor.com
What Is the National Association of Realtors? by AptAmigo
Realtor: Who They Are? What They Do? FAQ by Investopedia
Do They Get Paid the Same?
Both real estate agents and Realtors earn their income via commissions on the sales they complete. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the nationwide median salary for brokers and agents in 2021 as $48,770. However, Indeed.com lists the average base salary as $96,471. Different data sets as well as the numerous factors that can affect an individual agent’s earning potential likely account for these dramatically different numbers. Additionally, as an agent working under a broker, you will split your commission with the broker, according to a predetermined percentage.
However, your paycheck will vary depending on the stage you’re at in your career, with new agents making considerably less as they work to establish themselves. After working hard for a few years (or faster for apartment locators), real estate agents tend to see their annual income blossom into a more sustainable number.
Your location will also affect pay because housing tends to cost significantly more in metropolitan areas and less in rural locales. A 5% commission on a million-dollar home will be much higher than the same percentage of a $200,000 home.
Shifts in the housing market can also cause challenges as, for instance, fewer people buy homes or start businesses during times of financial crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic representing one extreme example of this type of instability.
The number of hours you put in also impacts your earnings. Part-time agents tend to make considerably less, and the more hours per week an agent puts in, the higher the paychecks they bring home.
AptAmigo: The Best Place for Real Estate Agents AND Realtors
At AptAmigo, our apartment locators, mostly licensed real estate agents, guide apartment hunters to the luxury apartment buildings that best fit their lifestyle, needs, and preferences, performing much the same role as traditional real estate agents, but for clients aiming to rent instead of buy.
AptAmigo accepts applications for apartment locating positions from both seasoned professionals and agents just starting out in real estate. Apartment locating jobs differ from traditional buy-sell careers in that leasing leads to smaller, but much more frequent commissions. Many people who switch from buy-sell to rentals, or use apartment locating as a way to supplement their buy-sell business, find that the overall earning potential is as high or higher than their buy-sell transactions. As Apartment Locator Keisha Pettway points out, “An apartment commission may not be as high as a home commission, but you’ll likely be closing SO many more deals in rentals.” Likewise, for more perspective, Crystal Jaramillo provides an in-depth testimonial about her journey from traditional real estate to apartment locating.
When you join AptAmigo’s team, you get instant leads, active mentorship, continual training, marketing support, a custom CRM to move clients through the pipeline quickly and efficiently, and additional help from operations and touring agents. We also work with a large portfolio of building partners, hundreds, in fact, who benefit from the qualified candidates we bring them when we vet and recommend our clients to them. These buildings pay the commissions on closed deals, typically 100% of the first month’s rent, but sometimes a flat rate or a different percentage.
If this type of work appeals to you, you can learn more about this role on our career blog, or with the resources linked to below.
Resources about and for apartment locators:
How to Become an Apartment Locator by AptAmigo
Advice for Apartment Locators by AptAmigo
Apartment Locator Jobs by AptAmigo
Apartment Locator Salary by AptAmigo
Best Tech Tools for Apartment Locators by AptAmigo
Apply to AptAmigo Now
Our job board updates regularly, so you can check out our current open positions anytime for the latest available opportunities. If you feel like this role would be a good fit for you, we would love to hear from you. Reach out and apply today!
AptAmigo is proud to be an equal opportunity workplace and does not discriminate based on race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, genetic information, physical or mental disability, medical condition, marital status, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by applicable law, in connection with any aspect of employment at AptAmigo.
Karrie Fuller earned her PhD in English from the University of Notre Dame. After a decade of teaching college-level writing and English courses, she brings a wealth of expertise about writing, editing, and content management to AptAmigo's marketing team.