To most Canadians, the term real estate agent just means the person that helps you buy and sell your house. But that’s a simplistic view of the term, which is often used to describe two types of real estate professionals: salespeople or brokers. In fact, there are big differences between these two types of real estate professionals, the services they provide, and how they serve you as a customer. Keep reading to learn the role each of these two professionals play in your real estate purchases and a bonus term that is also often used incorrectly.
When Canadians say “real estate agent,” what they usually mean is real estate salesperson. For example, if you’re looking at Toronto townhouses, and you search for a real estate agent in your area, chances are you’ll come across a real estate salesperson. A real estate salesperson acts as an intermediary between buyers and sellers, and their job is to match you with potential sellers to help you find your dream home. They perform traditional tasks like taking you to open houses, walking you through viewings, and explaining your buyer representation agreement and listing agreement.
A real estate salesperson must work for a brokerage – they can’t act alone. The brokerage will ensure the real estate salesperson operates according to the rules and regulations established by RECO, and the brokerage is responsible for the actions of their salespeople.
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A real estate broker is similar to a real estate salesperson but has acquired the additional education and licensing required to call themselves a broker. This extra education also gives a real estate broker more knowledge and experience with regards to real estate law than the average salesperson.
A real estate broker often has additional power and responsibility, and may manage a team of real estate salespeople within a brokerage, or they may run their own brokerage. In this capacity, a real estate broker may be less involved in customer-facing activities like open houses or showing properties and is instead responsible for ensuring all transactions are completed error-free.
This term is often used interchangeably with real estate agent, real estate salesperson, or real estate broker, but has another meaning altogether. Not every salesperson or broker is a Realtor, although they can still be licensed to help you buy and sell property without this designation. A Realtor is a real estate salesperson or broker who has registered with the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA).
As a Realtor, they must adhere to a strict code of ethics that is administered and enforced by CREA. This code is not mandatory for all real estate salespeople or real estate brokers – just those that are registered Realtors. If you aren’t sure whether the real estate salesperson or broker you’re working with is registered with CREA – just ask them.
Using a Realtor is always a good idea – especially if you have to find a real estate professional for a remote property search. For example, if you are looking for condos in Hamilton, but you are based in Toronto, you’ll need a Realtor in Hamilton to help you with your transaction. Choosing a Realtor ensures they will always act in your best interests, even though you are almost one hundred kilometers away.
Whether you choose to work with a real estate salesperson or a broker, the most important thing is to read your buyer representation agreement or listing agreement carefully. These documents will spell out your relationship with your broker or salesperson, as well as your responsibilities towards them, and their responsibilities towards you.