What Are the Different Types of Real Estate Agents and What Are Their Roles?

October 3rd, 2023  / Author: Zachariah Peterson
Resource Library

Most people are represented by agents during real estate transactions. But not all real estate agents perform the same function – there are different real estate agent types. And if you are looking to buy or sell a home, you should familiarize yourself with the roles these agents play.

That is precisely what this article will help you with. By the end, you will understand the different types of real estate agents that exist, how the classifications work, and what their job is. You will also know what the difference between a Realtor and a real estate agent is. Most importantly, you will know what type of agent you need. So let’s get to it.

What Is a Real Estate Agent?

A real estate agent is a licensed professional that represents buyers and sellers during a real estate transaction. Real estate agents must pass exams and coursework to get their real estate license. The specific requirements to qualify for a real estate agent vary from state to state.

For example, in California, the process to become a real estate agent (officially called a real estate salesperson) is regulated by the California Department of Real Estate, and you need to:

  • Take 3 college-level pre-licensing courses (135 hours in total)
  • Pass the final exam for the courses
  • Pass a multiple-choice salesperson exam held by the CDRE

There are a few additional requirements to become a real estate agent – like passing background checks and paying certain fees. Candidates that meet all the requirements, pass the courses and exams, and pay the needed fees can get their real estate license.

What Is the Difference Between a Real Estate Agent and Realtor?

A real estate agent and a Realtor are not the same thing, although many people use the terms as synonyms. A Realtor is a real estate agent that is also a member of the (non-governmental trade association) National Association of Realtors. A Realtor needs to abide by the NAR’s Code of Ethics & Standards of Practice (and pay association dues).

Besides effectively doing the same job, one of the reasons that many people think that a Realtor and real estate agent are the same is because out of approximately 3 million licensed real estate agents in the US, over 1,600,000 are members of the NAR.

How Are Real Estate Agents and Realtors Paid?

Real estate agents and Realtors work on commission. In other words, they take a cut out of the proceeds of the sale. Typically, real estate agents take anywhere between 3%-6% of the proceeds from a real estate transaction.

Working on commission can be both good and bad for their clients – real estate agents are incentivized to get as much money as possible for their clients because they take a percentage, but they wish to move houses as fast as possible because if they don’t make a sale, they don’t get paid.

The 4 Basic Types of Real Estate Agents

When it comes to the different real estate agent types, the first classification is based on who they represent. Thus, there are:

Seller’s Agent

Seller’s agents, also called listing agents, represent the seller of a property. It is a seller’s agent’s job to get the best price for their client and sell the property as quickly as possible. A seller’s agent should:

  • Help with setting the price by researching real estate comps
  • Advertise the property through MLS services
  • Help market the property
  • Help with staging
  • Hold open houses
  • Negotiate with buyers and buyer’s agents
  • Help sellers decide what the best offer is

Buyer’s Agent

Buyer’s agents are the opposite of listing agents – they represent the buyer. It is the buyer’s agent’s job to find properties that meet their client’s requirements and represent their best interests in a real estate transaction. They should compare existing properties and negotiate with seller’s agents

Both buyer’s and seller’s agents can also help with reviewing legal documents to facilitate a real estate transaction, although that is primarily the role of attorneys and/or escrow agents

Dual Agent

A dual agent is an agent that represents both the buyer and the seller. However, dual agents are not the norm in the US and are even illegal in some states. Even where they are not, a lot of real estate agents fear a potential conflict of interest and refuse to work as dual agents.

Real Estate Broker

A real estate broker is not truly one of the types of real estate agents, but a real estate agent that has also acquired a broker’s license. Brokers can open their own brokerages, manage agents, and oversee real estate transactions. They have expanded legal and financial obligations and authority.

A broker can be the one you hire to make sure that all facets of a transaction are compliant with the applicable laws. Naturally, a real estate broker can also represent buyers and sellers, just like a regular real estate agent. In short, a real estate broker is like a real estate agent with a higher degree.

That also means that a broker needs to complete additional training to obtain a broker’s license. For example, in California, a broker must:

  • Complete eight related college-level courses
  • a) Have two years of experience as a licensed real estate salesperson or equivalent experience or
  • b) Have a four-year university degree with a major or minor in real estate
  • Pass the broker’s exam

The Different Types of Agents According to NAR Designations

Besides the general real estate agent types, the National Association of Realtors also differentiates between 5 types of agents in real estate based on their internal criteria. The NAR provides the following designations:

Sales Representative Specialist

The sales representative specialist (SRS) is a seller’s agent that has undergone additional NAR training to represent their clients. The training is supposed to teach seller’s agents methods and techniques that will improve the service they provide to their clients.

Accredited Buyer’s Representative

The accredited buyer’s representative (ABR) is the flip side of the SRS. They are buyer’s agents that undergo additional training in order to provide better services to buyers of real estate.

Certified Residential Specialist

A certified residential specialist (CRS) is another designation awarded by the NAR. A CRS can be a seller’s agent or broker that has specialized in selling residential property. Per the NAR, the CRS designation is the highest designation awarded to seller’s agents.

Seniors Real Estate Specialist

A seniors real estate specialist (SRES) is a designation awarded to Realtors that specialize in real estate transactions with seniors. All types of real estate agents that are members of the NAR can become SRES, i.e., both seller’s and buyer’s agents.

GREEN Designation

A newer NAR designation, the GREEN Designation is intended for realtors that focus on real estate transactions dealing with eco-friendly properties. The training focuses on sustainability and energy efficiency in real estate

A Quick Overview of the Different Types of Real Estate Agents

To sum it all up, there are 4 basic real estate agent types:

  1. Seller’s agents
  2. Buyer’s agents
  3. Dual agents
  4. Real estate brokers

These different types of real estate agents are classified based on who they represent.

Besides these 4 basic types of agents, there are also:

  • Non-NAR real estate agents – licensed real estate agents that are not members of the National Association of Realtors
  • Realtors – licensed real estate agents that are members of the National Association of Realtors

On top of that, the NAR issues specific designations to its members that pass certain specialized training and education.

Do You Need to Hire a Real Estate Agent to Sell Your Property?

Absolutely not. While a real estate agent can help you find buyers, they will also take a significant cut of your profits – from 3% to 6%. This is a substantial amount of money, money you can save if you can find a good buyer on your own. And that’s where we come in.

SleeveUp Homes buys properties for top dollar in Southern California. We are direct cash buyers and don’t work with realtors, so the money we pay you is the money you get to keep. SleeveUp buys all types of properties – including homes facing foreclosure, inherited homes, or any other type of distressed property

And regardless of the state of your property, you will get top dollar. Plus, we’ll take care of the closing costs and any necessary repairs in-house. But there’s no need to take us at our word – request a no-obligation cash offer and see how much you can get. We guarantee that we will pay more than the other offers you received.



If you want to sell fast and are worried about how long the traditional process takes, and the commission and fees involved, consider working with SleeveUp Homes.