For most people, there is no distinction between a real estate broker and a real estate agent. However, if you work in the real estate industry, there is a very clear difference.
All real estate brokers were once licensed agents -- but not all agents are brokers. Brokers assume legal responsibility for the agents and the real estate transactions being managed through their brokerage.
Agents hang their licenses with a brokerage, and the broker provides oversight, consultation, and direction to ensure transactions get managed according to the letter of the law.
Real Estate Agent vs. Broker
A real estate broker is an individual with specialized expertise in the real estate industry. All real estate brokers were once licensed real estate agents -- but not all real estate agents are licensed brokers. Brokers supply the people, process, and technology for real estate agents to carry out successful transactions for their clients.
If you ask most brokers to define their role, it definitely doesn’t end at compliance. And, as with any industry, technology, the age of the customer, and market disruption has recast the role of broker in a big way.
What do Real Estate Brokers Do?
Real estate brokers are responsible for compliance, paperwork approval, lead generation, and new agent training. They even mediate agent disagreements and guide some agent transactions. Often, they are the owners of the brokerage as well. Brokers are responsible for the overall health of the brokerage and its agents.
Before understanding how successful brokers define their roles, it’s important to understand how it’s been defined, historically. The National Association of REALTORS(r) (NAR) defines brokers as individuals who wear many hats. In many cases, the broker has also been the owner of the brokerage, which meant that their responsibilities included tasks well outside of their real estate know-how.
Not only was the broker-owner responsible for compliance and paperwork approval, these Janes- and Jacks-of-all-trades found themselves responsible for everything from generating leads for agents to ordering office supplies. In a given day, it wouldn’t be uncommon for a broker to deal with recruiting and hiring agents, training new agents, guiding agent transactions, or event mediating agent disagreements.
Real Estate Broker Salary
The average national salary for real estate brokers is $75,910, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Commission is often added on top of that base salary. In 2017, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Ohio were the states offering the highest average base salary for real estate brokers -- each well above $100K annually.
While many brokers might still survive as overwhelmed generalists, many have embraced technology, lean processes, and smart hiring in order to thrive in today’s market.
The Impact of Today’s Market on Real Estate Brokers
Increasing complexities of the industry and technology have seen successful brokers define their roles more narrowly.
Just as today’s marketers cite focus in brand, content, digital, or other specializations, the best brokerage models enable infrastructure that allows a broker to focus their time, skills, and attention in fewer areas where they can make the most impact for their agents and the business.
The balance is handled efficiently by leveraging technology, minimal staff, or other resources available within their brokerage.
To be successful, brokers can no longer play the all-in-one role of compliance officer, recruiter, IT expert, and lead generation specialist. Instead, once they have the right brokerage systems in place, their ability to work smarter, not harder actually helps accelerate growth.