5 Types of Real Estate Agents and Their Industry Specialties

According to the Association of Real Estate License Law Officials, more than 3 million people in the U.S. have real estate licenses. But not all real estate agents are equal — the top 5% of real estate agents across the U.S. sell homes for as much as 10% more than the average agent.

While there are many reasons for that, one key factor to agent success is specialization. As in any other field, real estate agents can specialize in a niche market by completing additional training courses after they obtain their license.

For insight on these specialties, we did extensive research online and spoke with top real estate agent Shawn Trapp who works with 81% more single-family homes than the average agent in New Orleans, Louisiana. Here’s everything you need to know about different types of real estate agents.

A woman who just got certified as a real estate agent and broker.
Source: (BBH Singapore / Unsplash)

1. Real estate broker

A real estate broker is a licensed real estate agent who has taken additional training and education to obtain a broker’s license, which allows them to either work independently or run a brokerage to manage other agents. All real estate agents in the U.S. are required to “hang their license” with a brokerage.

In short, a broker is the manager of a real estate company. As such, they supervise the day-to-day business duties associated with running an office, which could include HR functions like payroll and expenses. They oversee the firm’s agents, resolving issues that arise in their team’s transactions and mediating conflicts for their employees.

Brokers are held to a higher standard than agents and are typically more experienced. They often handle the most complex transaction paperwork for their agents.

2. Realtor®

A Realtor® is simply a licensed real estate agent who is a member of National Association of Realtors® (NAR). Of the approximately 3 million licensed real estate agents in this country, roughly half are NAR members.

Realtors® pay annual dues and pledge to uphold NAR’s Code of Ethics & Standards of Practice. It’s a “strict code of ethics,” Trapp emphasizes, noting that a Realtor® must always put the client’s needs first.

As members of NAR, Realtors® benefit from:

  • Access to information webinars
  • Code of ethics training
  • Market research and technology reports
  • Library and research services
  • Discounts on certification courses, conference attendance, mobile phones, car rentals, dental and health insurance, and industry literature

In addition, Realtors® have access to inventory that other real estate agents don’t. 

3. Listing agent

A listing agent, aka a seller’s agent, represents the property’s seller. A listing agent can be either a real estate agent or broker.

Listing agents have a fiduciary responsibility to protect the seller’s interest above their own. For example, a listing agent cannot tell a buyer that the seller is willing to sell at a lower price than the listing indicates.

Most listing agents enter into exclusive listing agreements with the seller, meaning the seller can’t list the property with another agent or sell himself for a specified period.

A military couple who researched different real estate types to find the one they want.
Source: (Sir Manuel / Unsplash)

4. Military Relocation Professional (MRP)

Military Relocation Professionals have completed a NAR training program to serve active and former military service members better.

Approximately 400,000 service members receive Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders every year; 70% of them choose to live in private housing, meaning they need to sell their home fast upon receiving a PCS. MRPs understand these seller’s language, needs, challenges, and deadlines.

Trapp says he will “drop everything” for his military clients because New Orleans is a military town. Thanks to having VA lenders among his contacts, Trapp knows that military clients can often get into a house with less out-of-pocket expense than would be required in a rental. He also understands the nuances of funding fees.

Some of the benefits of working with an MRP include:

5. Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES)

Senior Real Estate Specialists are Realtors® who train to meet the unique challenges and needs of clients age 50 and over.

Because many seniors have lived in their homes for 10 to 20 years or more, the thought of moving is very emotional. SRES-certified agents counsel senior clients through tough decisions. These agents also learn no-pressure methods and the guidelines and exemptions of senior housing developments and communities under the Housing for Older Persons Act.

SRES training covers many other topics relevant to seniors, such as:

  • Capital gains
  • Financing real estate purchases with pensions, IRAs, 401ks, and other retirement accounts
  • Reverse mortgages
  • Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security’s impact on property and finances
  • Senior communities resources
  • Estate planning
A woman on her computer researching the different types of real estate agents.
Source: (Herzon Carranza / Unsplash)

Qualities to look for in a real estate agent

Whether you need a real estate agent with specialty training or not, you’ll want to find the right agent for your situation.

Don’t be like 77% of sellers who hire the first real estate agent they talk to. Interview at least three candidates to find someone compatible with your style and needs, someone you can trust.

Gauge an agent’s expertise with these questions:

  1. How well does the real estate agent know your neighborhood? Local knowledge will help sell your house quickly.
  2. Do they have experience selling your property type and price point?
  3. What is their marketing strategy: open houses, social media, mailers? What is their marketing budget for your home? Will they have professional photos taken? Trapp underscores the importance of professional listing photos.
  4. What is their communication method and frequency? Do they take calls after hours? On weekends and holidays? When they’re with another client? How long will it take them to return your calls? Trapp’s version is: When I call, will you answer the phone?
  5. How many clients do they take on at one time? Will you be delegated to working with their assistant, or will you get their full attention?
  6. What do they suggest to prepare your home for sale? A good agent knows which projects net a quick return on investment and what features buyers are looking for in your area.
  7. How broad is their professional network? Can they recommend contractors, inspectors, cleaners, painters, stagers, and other tradespeople to get your home ready to sell?
  8. How did they determine your listing price? Did they prepare a comparative market analysis — a list of homes comparable in size that recently sold in your area?

Trapp’s ultimate question is: What will you do for me that other agents won’t? “An agent should always look out for the client’s best interests, regardless of the commission structure,” he adds.

Find the best real estate agent for your home sale

Nearly 90% of sellers use a real estate agent to sell their home. Of those, 41% found their agent through a personal referral. However, you’ll likely find a better agent for your unique home sale needs if you conduct your own due diligence.

For starters, you can check out an agent’s sales record at HomeLight’s agent directory. Or, you can let HomeLight do some of the legwork for you with our agent matching service. This free service analyzes more than 27 million transactions plus reviews. Our matching algorithm then helps you find a top real estate agent in your area, based on data like list-to-sale-price ratio, years of experience, local contacts, and knowledge of the area.

Header Image Source: (Amari James / Unsplash)