20 October 2023

Estate agent, property broker, and property practitioner: what’s in a name?


In an increasingly international world, terminology is becoming confusing. When it comes to renting, selling, and/or buying a new home, it can be useful to know the difference (if there is any) between an estate agent, property broker, practitioner, realtor, a buyer’s agent, a seller’s agent, a managing agent, and all the other weird and wonderful variations within the profession.

In South Africa, not all of these terms apply – even though people use them. In this article, we’ll look at the terms that apply to the professionals who support you as you buy, sell, or rent property in South Africa. We’ll also look at what is involved in achieving various levels in the profession, and what that means for the respective practitioners.

What is a Property Practitioner?

The Property Practitioners Regulatory Authority is the statutory body that governs the real estate profession. It was established in February 2022 in terms of the Property Practitioners Act 2022 of 2000. The PPRA replaced the Estate Agency Affairs Board, which up until that point, had regulated the profession. It is a little confusing because some of the PPRA’s documents and web pages still refer to the EAAB. Nevertheless, the PPRA remains the main body that regulates the industry. Since their inception, everyone who works within the real estate industry falls under the umbrella term of being a property practitioner. Some of the professions that fall under this umbrella term include…

1. Intern Agent

An internship is the practical, or on-the-job training that an agent needs to complete to become an estate agent. An intern agent will be registered with the Property Practitioners Regulatory Authority (PPRA) as a candidate property practitioner. They will be employed by a registered estate agency and work under a mentor who is assigned to them. When you deal with an intern agent, you can typically expect to work with both the mentor (who is a registered real estate agent) as well as the agent-in-training.

2. Real Estate Agent

An estate agent is somebody who is registered and licensed to sell and lease property in South Africa. Like many vocations and professions, it involves an internship, studying for a qualification (theory), and passing the Professional Designation Examination (PDE4). Real estate agents can also be referred to as agents, property professionals, industry experts, suburb experts, and other related terms.

3. Real estate principal or Real Estate Broker

Qualified real estate agents whose career plan is to own and run their own agency or a big brand real estate franchise will need to achieve another certificate: a level 5 FETC in real estate. This qualifies them to both run an agency and brokerage. In other words, you can become a real estate principal and a property broker.

A property realtor versus an estate agent

The word “realtor” is a trademarked word term that applies only in the United States. To be able to call yourself a property realtor in the United States, you have to be a member of the National Association of Realtors. This means that in the US, a realtor has the same professional status as a South African Property Practitioner who is registered with the PPRA.

A managing agent versus a letting agent

Landlords often face challenges of finding quality, reliable tenants. This is where letting and management agents have a valuable role to play. The difference between the two is reflected in their names. The letting agent will simply do that: let your property by finding a suitable tenant and setting up the lease agreement. A managing agent, on the other hand, will do that and much more: they’ll fulfil an overarching management function, collecting the rent, doing regular visits to check on the property, and managing repairs and maintenance when necessary. In addition, and equally importantly, managing agents not only liaise between the owner and the tenant but will serve any relevant notices to the tenant on behalf of the owner.

Property appraiser versus a real estate agent

Every few years, local authorities will survey all the properties that fall into their municipality. The results of the survey are published in the local authority’s valuation roll and the assessed property values are used as a basis for determining municipal rates and taxes. The people who conduct these surveys, as well as the professionals who perform formal appraisals on behalf of the financial institutions that offer home finance deals, must have a bachelor’s degree to be qualified to do so. They must also be registered with the South African Council for the Property Valuers Profession (SACPVP) which is the statutory equivalent of the PPRA. Real estate agents are not required to be registered with the SACPVP but some do still choose to be.

How does an estate agent work out what my property is worth?

An estate agent who is not registered SACPVP cannot do a formal valuation. Many homeowners ask their estate agents to “value” their properties because that is what it is more commonly known as, but what an agent provides is actually called a competitive market analysis (CMA). This is based on a study of similar properties in the area, what they sold for in the current market, and a careful analysis of their findings. They will use this and their experience in real estate to provide you with a realistic indication of what your property is worth. If you decide to sell your property, they will use this as a way of helping you set the listing price and counsel you regarding the price you might realise when your property sells.

Who does “your” real estate agent work for?

In South Africa, whether you’re buying or selling a property, we tend to talk about “our” estate agents. In this country, it is the seller who pays the estate agent. They are the person who negotiates the commission that is paid (usually somewhere between 5 and 7,5%). In effect, the real estate agent “works” for the person who is selling the property. Although we don’t have “buyer” or “seller” agents per se, a professional estate agent will have the interests of both the seller and the buyer at heart.

About our agents

RE/MAX South Africa is part of a global real estate business. RE/MAX, LLC is a subsidiary of RE/MAX Holdings (NYSE: RMAX) with nearly 140,000 agents in more than 110 countries and territories. RE/MAX agents have lived, worked, and served in their local communities for decades.

Locally, RE/MAX of Southern Africa, which was founded in 1994, is regarded as the pioneer of the RE/MAX international expansion as it was the first country franchise to be sold outside of North America. Locally, RE/MAX has over 3000 agents operating from over 160 offices in 6 countries in Southern Africa.

For more information about us, download our brochure, and if you’d like to join our team, contact your nearest RE/MAX office.

Have more unanswered questions? Here are some related questions – and answers – that might help…

Do estate agents get a basic salary?

Estate agents don’t usually get a basic salary but rather earn commission based on each sale. This does, however, depend on the agreement between the individual and the agency or franchise with which they work.

How much does a property agent make in South Africa?

This will fluctuate depending on sales because it is based on the commission they earn, the number of sales, and the city or town in which they are based.

Send to a Friend