If you are thinking about purchasing property, you likely want some help from an expert. For most people, this means calling up some type of real estate agent, either on a recommendation or from a business card, and hoping for the best. The smart shopper, though, will research the real estate professionals and determine who is the best candidate for the job. Before beginning this search, you need to know the difference between an agent and a broker so that you can make an informed decision.
The differences between a broker and agent can vary depending upon on state regulations, but generally, a broker has more training and education in real estate. In most states, a broker can work independently, so they may not be affiliated with a specific real estate agency. Often, brokers have agents or associate brokers that work under them, with the broker overseeing everyone else and earning a portion of their commissions.
The extra training can come with a higher cost to you since brokers often charge a higher commission than an agent. This higher cost also pays for some benefits. For example, a broker can also manage a property that you buy. They may also have more access to the market, which can mean that they may be better suited to finding your specific property types. Brokers can also handle mediation and conflict resolution in the event of a tricky transaction.
As a general rule, you may want a broker over an agent if you are purchasing an investment property — either one to rent out or one to flip — or if you are looking for a highly specialized commercial property. The benefits of using a broker for a standard home purchase may not be great enough to justify the increased commission.
Agents do not work independently; they will work beneath the banner of either an agency or a brokerage. Their commission level tends to be lower than brokers, which makes them the most cost-effective option for most traditional buyers. Much like a broker, they will have access to the real estate databases as well as basic training to help you with initial property assessments and finding the best property for your needs.
Agents are the best choice for many buyers that are looking at typical family homes. Many agents specialize in certain areas, so you can also find a suitable agent for slightly more specific needs, such as if you are looking for a commercial or rural property. An agent is the best option if you are looking for a cost-effective alternative to brokers and if you don't anticipate any issues with your transaction.
Contact an agency or full-service brokerage firm for more help.