Who is considered an agent?
An agent is a person authorized to create legal relationships on behalf of another person, the client (referred to, in law, as a principal).
All agents have a legal, and ethical, duty to ensure that the legal relationships that they create for the client are in the best interest of their client. In more straight forward terms, an agent is someone who acts on the behalf of another person.
What is the difference between an agent and a realtor?
Real estate agents are a specific type of agent: real estate agents act on behalf of another person within the context of real estate dealings.
Under the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act of Ontario, only people registered with the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) may act as agents in real estate trades that are not part of some other business activity. All, and only, people registered with RECO are realtors.
That said, the law permits some people, in certain circumstances, to serve as agents in the context of a real estate trade. For example,
- trustees may trade in real estate as a part of carrying out their duties as a trustee;
- a lawyer may trade in real estate if the transaction is a legal service or arising out of a legal service.
A person serving as an agent in the context of a real estate trade is, by definition, a real estate agent. As such, in certain circumstances, lawyers, trustees, and a few others, may serve as real estate agents.
To summarize, a realtor is a person registered with RECO, and consequently, may serve as a real estate agent. Not all real estate agents are realtors, but all realtors may serve as real estate agents.