What Is an Agent?

Am I an agent?
Am I a broker?
Am I a realtor?
Am I a salesperson?
Am I a sales agent?
Am I all of those things?
Or just some of them?

How we tend to define ourselves often creates some confusion among the public.

For example, when you say the word "real estate agent", technically you are talking about a real estate salesperson employed by and representing a real estate broker.

However, when was the last time you heard somebody say, "Wow, what a great real estate salesperson"? Real estate salespersons rarely refer to themselves as sales agents, and a broker never does.

Instead, they frequently call themselves "real estate agents" or "realtors", especially if they are affiliated with a local trade union. The public calls licensees "realtors", the generic term for the trade, much like the term "Kleenex"-even though the license is a "salesperson's license", not an "agent" license.

Here is the catch: even though many people use the word realtor as a generic term, saying that you are a realtor means you are part of that designated organization known as "the board of realtors". Therefore if you are not a realtor, you cannot say you are.

An agent is an individual or corporation who represents another. That other is known as the principal. The representation of others undertaken by a real estate broker is called an agency. Three parties are referred to in agency law: a principal, an agent, and third persons.

In real estate transactions:

1. The agent is the real estate broker retained to represent a client for the purposes hired.

2. The principal is the client, such as a seller, buyer, landlord, tenant, lender, or borrower, who has retained a broker to sell or lease property, locate a buyer or tenant, or arrange a real estate loan with other persons.

3. Third persons are individuals or associations (corporations, limited partnerships, and limited liability companies) other than the broker's client, with whom the broker has contact as an agent acting on behalf of his client.