What is a St. Louis Realtor vs. a Real Estate Agent?

Realtor vs. Real Estate Agent

According to the National Association of Realtors, FSBO (For Sale By Owner) accounted for only 7% of home sales in 2020. That means that about 93% of sellers, along with most buyers, relied on a real estate professional. 

That means the majority of people use a realtor or real estate agent. Because the two terms are often used interchangeably, few realize that they are not exactly the same. What is a St. Louis realtor and how is it different from a St. Louis real estate agent? And where do real estate brokers fit into the mix?

Real Estate Agent or Realtor—Which is Better?

It is not surprising that most people confuse realtors and real estate agents. Either one can successfully represent a buyer or a seller in a real estate transaction. The difference is a matter of credentials and has little to do with an individual professional’s knowledge or experience.

Choosing between an agent and a realtor will not necessarily change the buyer’s or seller’s client experience either. One is not better or worse at their job than another. Real estate is a highly personal industry where finding the right person—one with a successful track record, good reputation, and who understands what their client needs—is as important as their specific credentials.

All Realtors are Agents, But Not All Agents are Realtors

Realtor meeting with clients

It takes the same training and licensing to become a real estate agent as it does to become a realtor. Realtors, however, have gone a step further and become members of the National Association of Realtors. By doing so, they receive certain benefits, and are held to certain professional standards by the organization. 

This does not mean that real estate agents do not also hold themselves to high standards of professionalism. They have simply not pursued adding a realtor designation to their credentials (though they may do so in the future).

Aside from what they call themselves, the day-to-day duties of St. Louis realtors and St. Louis real estate agents are the same. And the first step in becoming a realtor is to first become a licensed real estate agent, a process that is required for anyone wishing to buy or sell real estate in Missouri.

Becoming a Licensed Real Estate Agent

To handle real estate transactions, agents first need to obtain a license from the state. Each step typically involves a fee. The process might be different depending on the state. Following are the requirements in Missouri:

  • Applicants must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years old.
  • 72 hours of pre-licensing education must be completed. This consists of 48 hours of salesperson pre-licensing training and 24 hours of real estate practice training. The provider of the coursework must be approved by the Missouri Real Estate Commission. Providing companies may include a pre-test or practice test, but this is not required by the state.
  • The applicant then must pass the written Missouri Real Estate Exam. There are 140 questions, 100 of which cover national real estate topics, and 40 cover procedures specific to the state.
  • Upon passing the exam, the applicant must provide fingerprints and submit to a background check. Certain criminal offenses or past judgments could result in the denial of a license. 
  • Once everything is reviewed and approved by the MREC, the license is granted. The new agent may join a brokerage company and begin representing real estate clients.

What it Means to Be a REALTOR®

A realtor will sometimes be written as REALTOR®, indicating that it is a specific registration. By joining a local association of REALTORS®, an agent’s membership is automatically extended to both the state and national groups. So, by joining the St. Louis organization, the agent gets automatic membership in both Missouri REALTORS® and National Association of REALTORS®. When a real estate brokerage joins, all of the agents employed there are eligible too, if they choose.

Once designated a REALTOR®, there are certain resources available to an agent, but also some additional expectations.

  • Ethics. REALTORS® commit to following a strict 17-point Code of Ethics.They pledge to uphold various standards defined by honesty, integrity, and fairness.
  • Training. REALTORS® must continue their professional education with courses that keep them up-to-date real estate trends, best practices, and changes to real estate law.
  • Fees. In addition to keeping Missouri real estate licensure current, REALTORS® are also subject to association dues.
  • Benefits. Membership allows REALTORS® access to educational resources, special real estate market data, and other services like help with transaction management. They may also use the trademark REALTORS® logo or “badge” in their marketing materials.

Becoming a REALTOR® is seen by many as a mark of professional esteem. The NAR holds REALTORS® accountable, and should they break the rules, they may be stripped of their membership. Their reputation will suffer, and so might their business.

It must be recognized, however, that a real estate agent who is not a REALTOR® may be just as ethical, even though they have not formally agreed to be. And while any further education is voluntary and not required, they may be well-informed on the details of the current market. At Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Properties for example, we offer frequent training opportunities and encourage all of our agents to attend.

Real estate agents do not answer to anyone except themselves and the company that employs them. REALTORS® are monitored by the NAR. The difference is really that simple

What is a Real Estate Broker?

Real estate brokers are real estate agents or REALTORS® who have held a license for at least three years. To become a broker, they must take an additional 48 hours of training in topics such as ethics, contracts, taxes, and insurance. After passing a written broker’s exam, they will earn a Missouri real estate broker’s license.

Brokers can represent buyers and sellers just as agents and realtors do. Many, however, are less involved in day-to-day transactions and instead lead real estate companies with agents working for them.

Deciding Which Real Estate Professional You Need

Unless you are planning to sell a house FSBO, a real estate transaction requires a real estate professional. Both real estate agents and REALTORS® have the same job: Representing their clients throughout the process. And either one can be perfectly capable of getting a successful outcome for their clients.

A broker might be more knowledgeable about certain complex deals, for example those involving foreclosures or short sales. But many brokers do not offer services to individual clients and instead advise the agents they manage. Still, finding an agent or REALTOR® who is backed by a brokerage with a good reputation will have the broker’s resources available to them.

Credentials and licenses are important when hiring someone to help you buy or sell your home. But that should not be the only thing to look for in a real estate professional. Even more beneficial is finding someone who understands your needs and priorities to get you the results you want.

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