Eliza Solender: Realtor vs. Salesperson vs. Broker

Eliza Solender
Eliza Solender

I cringe whenever someone calls me a Realtor. Technically a Realtor must be a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), an organization composed primarily of residential real estate agents. I am not a member of NAR, although I am a member of the North Texas Commercial Association of Realtors (NTCAR). However, NTCAR members do not refer to themselves as Realtors.

What bothers me is that the person calling me a Realtor clearly does not see the difference between a residential or commercial real estate professional. Those of us who specialize in commercial real estate know there is a huge difference!

Likewise, I also have a problem with commercial real estate professionals who call themselves “brokers,” when they only have a real estate salesperson license. Although this may not seem like a big deal to many people, it is important. Those of us who have a Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) broker’s license must have at least four years of active experience as a licensed real estate salesperson, and under new TREC rules, applicants for a broker’s license must demonstrate 3,600 points of qualifying practical experience during four out of five years, plus take 270 classroom hours of core real estate course that include 30 classroom hours in a Real Estate Brokerage course.

TREC also requires an additional 630 classroom hours in related or core courses acceptable to the commission. Thankfully, some of those may be met with college courses. In addition, there is a big difference in renewal fees: a salesperson is $157.50 and a broker is $558.50. (Details about obtaining a broker’s license can be obtained at the Texas Real Estate Commission website www.trec.texas.gov.)

At the risk of overkill with all this information, another major difference is that brokers who supervise salespersons and other brokers or are the broker for a business entity have to take an additional six hour Broker Responsibility Course and pay an additional fee of $126.

Clearly, there is a major difference between brokers and salespersons in license requirements and fees. There are many very experienced salespersons in our commercial real estate community. However, unless they are a licensed broker, they should not casually refer to themselves as someone’s broker.

With all this being said, when I am asked for career advice by a commercial real estate professional, I almost always recommend he or she get their broker’s license, even if they never intend to have their own company. It is a big investment in their careers, both in time and money. I usually point out that you never know what might happen, and having the flexibility to be on your own, even for a short period, could prove very valuable. Overall, I believe the license adds credibility to commercial real estate professionals and might be a critical factor in their ability to rise to a senior management position in their company by serving as the company’s designated broker.

So my advice is to get that broker’s license as soon as possible—before TREC makes it any more difficult. And if you are in commercial real estate, never call yourself a Realtor.

Eliza Solender is president of Solender/Hall Inc., a commercial real estate and consulting firm. Contact her at [email protected]


  • richard

    good advice coming from a good broker!

  • Lee

    I completely disagree with the use of the word REALTOR. It is an honor to be called REALTOR. I am a CCIM and owner of a commercial real estate firm and have done business all over the US and and even some in South America. I can tell you that being a REALTOR has absolutely nothing to do with commercial vs residential. It means that you subscribe to a specific Cod of Ethics. One that just turned 100 years old.

    I am a Commercial REALTOR and very proud of it. I also hold my brokers license and at one time was licensed in more than one state.

    I capitalized the word REALTOR because it is a registered trademark by the National Association of Realtors. Anytime it is used it is to be capitalized with the (R) behind it or in all caps.

    I have also served on the Texas Association of Realtors (TAR) CID (Commercial Investment Division) as well as currently on the TAR Commercial Committee.

    Being called a REALTOR means that I subscribe to a specific Code of Ethics and I acknowledge that publicly and I am very proud to do so. It has nothing to do with whether or not you are a residential or commercial agent or broker.

    I say all of this with all due respect to your opinion, but you might want to do some more research on what a Realtor is and is not, as it has been defined by one of the most successful property rights advocates in the world.

    Respectfully Submitted,
    Lee Wheeler, CCIM
    NAI Wheeler

  • Eliza, I couldn’t disagree more. I am an experienced broker, and practice in both the commercial and high-end residential areas. I formerly served on the board of the commercial-investment division of our local board of Realtors, and currently am on the board of, and am a Realtor member of, the Central Texas Commercial Association of Realtors. I also serve as the legislative committee chair for our local CCIM chapter (another NAR affiliate). I think that you and other commercial practitioners should all join NAR, TAR and your local boards. I myself am proud to be a Realtor and am quite sure that I benefit substantially from being one. I have helped lobby for NAR in DC, and for TAR here in Austin. My company, Coldwell Banker Commercial United, Realtors, which is part of the largest Coldwell Banker franchise in the country, proudly includes the term “Realtors” in its name, and all of our agents and brokers, whether residential or commercial, are NAR members. I do understand that the public perception needs to be changed when it comes to these issues, but I think your suggestion “never call yourself a Realtor” takes us in the wrong direction.

  • Cathy Coneway

    I am a commercial REALTOR and I hold a Broker’s license. REALTORS, whether they are commercial or residential, are held to a higher standard when it comes to the National Association of REALTORs Code of Ethics. As a commercial REALTOR, I have taken the same training as other commercial real estate agents and Brokers that are licensed within our state. However, unlike state licensees (non-REALTORS), I am bound by a strict set of ethics set out to protect the consumer’s best interest and dedicated to treating all parties fairly.
    A Proud Texas REALTOR

  • Wow – Totally Disagree. I AM a TEXAS REALTOR. I AM a TEXAS Broker. I have been in real estate for 43 years. I am a commercial REALTOR/Broker. I am also a CPM – Certified Property Manager – a designation I have held since 1980 and began working on in the early 70’s. The designation is issued through the Institute of Real Estate Management – through the National Association of REALTORS.

    I AM a member of my local association – (past President many committees) Greater Denton-Wise County Association of REALTORS. I AM a member of the North Texas Commercial Association of REALTORS. I AM a member of the Texas Association of REALTORS and currently serve as the Chairman of the Texas Association of REALTORS Commercial Committee – a committee I have been active in for many years and proud to do so.

    I AM a major investor to TREPAC – Texas Real Estate Political Action Committee. TREPAC is the largest and most successful PAC in Texas and well respected by those in the Texas legislature. We fight for the rights of those who own property in Texas – residential, commercial, land to make sure any legislation that is good – passes or if harmful – fails – and successful most of the time.

    There are approx. 140,000 licensed Texas real estate agents (per TREC). There are approx. 70,000 members of Texas Association of REALTORS. Thus – 1 out of 2 licensees are NOT REALTORS. Those who are NOT members of the REALTORS Association – do NOT have to subscribe to / adhere to / uphold / honor / respect the REALTOR Code of Ethics – now celebrating its 100th birthday!!! I have been teaching the Code of Ethics class in our board for the last few years. I am on the Professional Standards Committee and an Ombudsman for TAR.

    REALTORS have come a long way since the origins of NAR over 100 years ago and the adoption and constant modification of the Code of Ethics. Only HALF those licensed in Texas have to adhere to it.

    There are several thousand REALTORS in Texas who self identify themselves as being Commercial REALTORS. Many thousands nationwide. There is much that the TAR and the NAR have to offer to ALL REALTORS – commercial and residential. TAR goes to great lengths to provide an extensive array of benefits to all its members. A complete array of well written commercial forms are available to all members as part of their membership dues – provided by Zip Forms.

    All my extensive list of commercial – sale and lease – and land – listings are listed in the MLS. That is great exposure for all REALTORS nationwide who might be looking in the MLS for commercial properties and land and I receive lots of inquiries for my listings in that manner.

    A look on the TAR and NAR website will find lots of resources available to us commercial types.

    I DO share your thoughts on those who are licensed sales agents but feel it is ok to call themselves a broker without being one.

    You are right – there IS a big difference between those who practice residential vs commercial real estate. However, the license we have is the same. Good in all 254 counties in our great state and we all have the freedom to do with our license as we wish and practice the type of real estate we wish – residential, commercial, land, property management, appraisal, etc. – sales or leasing. I find great rewards in being a REALTOR and am proud and happy to be one.

    One CAN be a member of NTAR and not be a REALTOR but one can also be a member of NTCAR and be a REALTOR – and enjoy all the benefits of same. NTCAR after all is the North Texas Commercial Association of REALTORS. I wear a RED Commercial REALTOR pin EVERY day and proud of it.

    A lawyer is a lawyer – many of whom practice in a special area of interest or expertise. A Dr. is a Dr. – many of whom practice in a special area of expertise. A teacher is a teacher licensed to teach – many of whom choose an area of expertise. All are bound by the basic license they obtained and then go on to pursue an area of their chosen interest.. A Texas real estate licensee can do just that as well. Become a REALTOR and practice commercial, residential real estate. Specialize in sales or leasing. Office, industrial, land, retail, condos, farms, ranches, etc., etc., etc. and still enjoy the benefits of belonging to an organization over 100 years old that has a world of resources available to its members for a small amount of $$$ per year.

    You GET out of an organization what you put IN to the organization. Proud to be an involved member of the GDWCAR, the TAR and the NAR and the NTCAR and the IREM…… and so forth.

  • Well Eliza;

    Looks like you’ve stepped in it now 🙂 As a friend, fellow commercial broker and commercial Realtor, I too take exception to your comments and thinking. We all work hard and I am on your side 100% regarding people who loosley use the term “broker” to refer to anyone practicing real estate. We all hear it every day. I also am the first to correct people who pronounce it Realator or that they work for a Realaty company. This drives me crazy. As a CCIM designee, I am a Realtor and practice in the commercial arena and too am proud to be a broker, CCIM designee and a Realtor. The Realtor and CCIM Code of Ethics closely mirror each other for a reason. The Code is not only a good way to conduct yourself, but also, when adhered to, will set Realtors above an ordinary salesperson or broker alike.


    Conner Ivy, CCIM

  • Eliza;
    I also have to strongly disagree with your position on REALTORS.
    While I congratulate you on being a licensed broker along with the education and experience required, the next level of Real Professionalism is to be bound by a code of ethics like REALTORS.
    I am a second generation CCIM, my father # 424 and I am # 2043. The designation is recognized as being held by the top 5% of the commercial practitioners in the world and is part of the National Association of REALTORS, which our company has been members for 50 years.
    As past chair of the Texas Association of REALTORS- Commercial Division we proudly educated and strived towards further professionalism within our membership of thousands, along with using our strength to fight for laws like Commercial Lien and preventing Tax on services to protect ours and your earned commissions for our industry.
    You and others with your position would Grow and Learn from membership in the Local, State and National Association of REALTORS. I hope you will explore the real benefits of being a Commercial REALTOR and see why we are proud to wear the “R” and serve the public as recognized professionals around the Globe. Come join us so we can all walk together under the CODE.
    Senter, REALTORS Commercial
    Scott Senter, CCIM, GRI, ABR
    Member NAR, TAR and Abilene Association of REALTORS

  • I respectfully disagree. I am a Texas licensed Broker practicing commercial real estate in South Texas as Bates Commercial LLC and a proud REALTOR. Being a member of the National Association of REALTORS proves I care about my industry and my clients. NAR is the largest advocate for private property rights in the US and many of its advocacy efforts are solely commercial issues, while it also advocates for residential issues. The main difference between a REALTOR and those that are only licensees is REALTORS hold themselves to a higher standard of ethics protecting our clients as well as treating all parties to a transaction at a higher standard and fairly. Being a REALTOR is not a residential membership but a membership including professionals practicing all types of real estate transactions passionate for maintaining our rights to own private property.

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  • Leslie Smith

    I’m PROUD to be a REALTOR!!! As long
    as I’m practicing real estate, I will always
    be a REALTOR! My referral business has,
    and ALWAYS will go to Commercial and
    Residential REALTORS!! A non REALTOR
    does not have to adhere to our Code of Ethics!
    I would love to meet with you to share the value
    of being a REALTOR!

  • Great explanation of the differences. Thank you for clearing that up for your readers!

  • Jim Cockrill

    The person who wrote this article does not take into consideration the benefits that they enjoy from the past efforts of NAR, TAR, and local chapter members. Look at all the bills that have come before the Texas state legislature attempting to generate new streams of revenue from taxes on commissions, transfer taxes on sales, taxes on automobiles used for our business, etc. Members of NAR and TAR have lobbied to prevent these taxes from becoming a reality with their local elected officials, and with trips to Austin on REALTOR Day in April, thus lowering your cost of doing business. Your efforts to dissuade readers from becoming members of NAR could be better served by encouraging them and yourself to join NAR, TAR, and their local chapters to continue the fight on behalf of all REALTORS. Something to think about.

  • Brandon

    Actually – most people don’t care. Some of the most successful “brokers” in Dallas only have a salesperson license. Having an official broker’s license doesn’t help you win any business.

  • Jennifer Gray, CCIM

    Eliza, I agree with you on the Broker vs. Salesperson comment BUT it is an additional step towards professionalism in the Commercial Real Estate industry when we brokers (or salespersons) take the time & make the commitment to become a REALTOR®.

    Real Estate 101: All real estate licensees are not the same. Only real estate licensees who are members of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® are properly called REALTORS®. REALTORS® are committed to treat all parties to a transaction honestly. REALTORS® subscribe to a strict code of ethics and are expected to maintain a higher level of knowledge of the process of buying and selling real estate. An independent survey reports that 84% of buyers would use the same REALTOR® again vs. non-REALTOR® agents.

    Real estate transactions involve huge financial investments – Commercial Real Estate transactions easily exceed a total value of $100,000. If you had a $100,000 income tax problem, would you attempt to deal with it without the help of a CPA? If you had a $100,000 legal question, would you deal with it without the help of an attorney? Considering the small upside cost and the large downside risk, it would be foolish to consider a deal in Commercial Real Estate without the professional assistance of a REALTOR®.

    If you’re not convinced of the value of a REALTOR®, here are a dozen more reasons to use one:

    1. Your REALTOR® can help you determine your buying power — that is, your financial reserves plus your borrowing capacity. If you give a REALTOR® some basic information about your available savings, income and current debt, he or she can refer you to lenders best qualified to help you. Most lenders — banks and other commercial lenders — work with Commercial Real Estate REALTORS® in order to assist their clients with financing.

    2. Your REALTOR® has many resources to assist you in your search for commercial property. Commercial Real Estate does not have a single Multiple Listing Service – there are more than 7 as of this writing – so you need an agent who has access to them all to truly show you the entire market of available commercial properties.

    3. Your REALTOR® can assist you in the selection process by providing objective information about each property. Agents who are REALTORS® have access to a variety of informational resources. REALTORS® can provide market information, sales and lease comparables, financial analysis, Broker Opinion of Value & more. There are two things you’ll want to know. First, will the property provide the environment I want for a my business or investment? Second, will the property have resale value when I am ready to sell – what is the exit strategy?

    4. Your REALTOR® can help you negotiate. There are myriad negotiating factors, including but not limited to price, financing, terms, date of possession and often the inclusion or exclusion of repairs and Business Personal Property or equipment. The purchase agreement should provide a period of time for you to complete appropriate inspections and investigations of the property before you are bound to complete the purchase. Your agent can advise you as to which investigations and inspections are recommended or required.

    5. Your REALTOR® provides due diligence during the evaluation of the property. Depending on the area and property, this could include inspections for deferred maintenance, asbestos, faulty structure, roof condition, environmental or zoning issues, just to name a few. Your REALTOR® can assist you in finding qualified responsible professionals to do most of these investigations and provide you with written reports. You will also want to see a preliminary report on the title of the property. Title indicates ownership of property and can be mired in confusing status of past owners or rights of access or use. The title to most properties will have some limitations; for example, easements-cross access or cross parking rights are one example. Your REALTOR®, title company or attorney can help you resolve issues that might cause problems at a later date.

    6. Your REALTOR® can help you in understanding different financing options and in identifying qualified lenders.

    7. Your REALTOR® can guide you through the closing process and make sure everything flows together smoothly.

    8. When selling your Commercial Property, your REALTOR® can give you up-to-date information on what is happening in the marketplace and the price, financing, terms and condition of competing properties. These are key factors in getting your property sold at the best price, quickly and with minimum hassle.

    9. Your REALTOR® markets your property to other commercial real estate agents and the public. Often, your REALTOR® can recommend repairs or cosmetic work that will significantly enhance the salability of your commercial property. In many markets across the country, over 50% of real estate sales are cooperative sales; that is, a real estate agent other than yours brings in the buyer or tenant. Your REALTOR® acts as the marketing coordinator, disbursing information about your property to other real estate agents through the several Commercial Multiple Listing Services and other cooperative marketing networks, “Broker Parties” for agents, etc. The REALTOR® Code of Ethics requires REALTORS® to utilize these cooperative relationships when they benefit their commercial real estate clients.

    10. Your REALTOR® will know when, where and how to advertise your property. There is a misconception that advertising sells real estate. The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® studies show that 82% of real estate sales are the result of agent contacts through previous clients, referrals, business associates, professional organization contacts. When a commercial property is marketed with the help of your REALTOR®, you do not have to show your own space or building. Your REALTOR® will set up a meeting with the cooperating agent or the commercial buyer, tenant or investor or other qualified prospects through your commercial property actually “selling” the attributes of the commercial space or building.

    11. Your REALTOR® can help you objectively evaluate every proposal, letter of intent or contract without compromising your marketing position. Further, once an agreement is reached for the sale of a commercial property the initial contract is only the beginning of a process of appraisals, inspections and financing — with a lot of possible pitfalls. Your REALTOR® can help you draft a legally binding, win-win agreement that will be more likely to make it through the process and close. The same is true for Commercial leases, once they are signed, the REALTORS® work is not done. Your REALTOR® will work with the architect or spaceplanner, the general contractor, and other vendors to ensure any Tenant finish out, remodeling of repairs are completed prior to or as soon as possible after Closing.

    12. Your REALTOR® will help close the lease or sale of your ommercial property. Between the initial sales agreement and closing (or settlement), questions may arise. For example, unexpected repairs are required to obtain financing or a cloud in the title is discovered. The required paperwork alone is overwhelming for most sellers. Your REALTOR® is the best person to objectively help you resolve these issues and move the transaction to closing (or settlement).

    Finally as a Commercial REALTOR®, you can join the Texas Association of REALTORS® and the North Texas Association of REALTORS® (NTCAR). You cannot be a member of either unless you are a REALTOR®. There are all sorts of educational opportunities thru both organizations in addition to the National Association of REALTORS®. NTCAR had to establish a secondary membership for those commercial real estate agents who did not want to participate in NTCAR for financial reasons (to avoid the additional dues) or to avoid adherence to the Professional Standards of both organizations. I submit the additional dues are well worth the investment.

    Further, it is a lack of Professional Standards of many in our profession that make it difficult for the general public to view Commercial Brokers and REALTORS® as professionals. Until there is a strict adherence to Professional Standards in the Commercial Real Estate Industry, we will continue to get a push back from the public on treating us as they do CPA’s, attorneys, and other professions where you pay for the services of such profession on an hourly or project basis versus commission only if a lease or sales contract closes. But that is an entirely new article which I will submit at a later time…….

  • Jerry Tolbert

    One does not have to be a broker to sell.
    One does not have to be professional to call themselves professional.
    And, one does not have to be a Realtor to sell residential or commercial
    Properties. However, the benefits both public and private far outweigh the cost.
    So, why walk when you can ride!

  • Eliza;
    I have to fully disagree with your statements, although I do congratulate you on being a licensed Broker and the education & experience required to acheive this. The next level of Professionalism is operating under a Code of Ethics, which all REALTORS are to abide by.
    Being a second generation CCIM, my father # 467 and I am #2043 considered the respected designation of excellance in commercial real estate field world wide and under the National Association of REALTORS, we are proud of our long professionalism and living by the CODE.
    As a past chair of the Texas Associations of REALTORS Commercial Division we taught and encouraged further education and professionalism to our thousands of members about the Code and its protection to the consumer. I hope you will explore further the Real Benefits of Being a Realto and see why we are Proud to wear the “R” and like to welcome you to our family of Professionals as well.
    Senter, REALTORS
    Scott Senter, CCIM
    Proud Member NAR, TAR and Abilene Association of REALTORS

  • BobG

    Eliza, all I can say is you clearly hit a nerve with your comments on REALTOR.

    What is most interesting is what you wrote is accurate- any real estate professional who is not a memeber of NAR is not allowed, nor should they refer to themselves, as a REALTOR. Also, if one looks at the membership of NAR, the vast majority are not commerical specialist but residential specialist.

    There is a professional code of ethics in holding a license in Texas, be it a Salesperson or a Broker, that TREC holds the licensee to conduct themselves by not unlike the REATOR Code the posters mention.

    What I can say as a 3 decade real estate professional in DFW, any person who fails to embrace the ethical conduct rules of TREC will not last long in this business.