As a prerequisite to selling real estate, a person must be licensed by the state in which they work, either as an agent/salesperson or as a broker. Before a license is issued, minimum standards for education, examinations and experience, which are determined on a state by state basis, must be met. After receiving a real estate license, most agents go on to join their local board or association of REALTORS® and the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, the world's largest professional trade association. They can then call themselves REALTORS®.

The term "REALTOR®" is a registered collective membership mark that identifies a real estate professional who is a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics (which in many cases goes beyond state law).  In most areas, it is the REALTOR® who shares information on the homes they are marketing, through a Multiple Listing Service (MLS).  Working with a REALTOR® who belongs to an MLS will give you access to the greatest number of homes. 


Using an agent and the obligations that are owed to you

An agent is bound by certain legal obligations.  Traditionally, they are: Put the client's interests above anyone else's; Keep the client's information confidential; Obey the client's lawful instructions; Report to the client anything that would be useful; and Account to the client for any money involved.

NOTE: A REALTOR® is held to an even higher standard of conduct under the NAR's Code of Ethics.  In recent years, state laws have been passed setting up various duties for different types of agents.  As you start working with a REALTOR® in North Carolina, the REALTOR® will discuss the current regulations.


The difference between a buyer's and a seller's broker 

In North Carolina, as in many other states, REALTORS® adhere to the laws of agency.  Clients may be represented by a seller's agent, a buyer's agent, or a dual agent.  The goal of the seller's agent is to obtain for the seller the most desirable price and terms possible while at the same time dealing honestly with prospective buyers.  The goal of the buyer's agent is to effect a purchase of property for the buyer at the lowest possible price and most desireable terms possible while at the same time dealing honestly with prospective sellers.  The dual agent takes on the task of owing the agency duties discussed above to both seller and buyer while at the same time not acting in any way to harm or compromise either seller or buyer.  It is advisable to enter into a buyer or seller agreement with your REALTOR® early in the process to assure optimum representation.


How to evaluate an agent  

In making your decision to work with an agent, there are certain questions you may want to ask when evaluating an agent.  The first question you should ask is whether the agent is a REALTOR®.  You should then ask:

  • Does the agent have an active real estate license in good standing?  You can also check with the NC Real Estate Commission.
  • Does the agent belong to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS)?  Multiple Listing Services are cooperative information networks of REALTORS® that provide descriptions of most of the houses for sale in a particular region.  
  • Is real estate their full-time career?
  • What real estate designations does the agent hold?
  • Which party is the agent representing?  This discussion should occur early on, at "first substantial contact" with you.  The agent should discuss North Carolina's definitions of agency so you'll know where you stand.
  • How will the agent help you accomplish your goal?



*Some material from


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Karen Johnson
Mobile Phone: 919-605-6981
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7721 Six Forks Road, Suite 110
Raleigh, NC 27615
Office: 919-518-8100

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