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Outer Banks Buying Ideas


People often interchange the terms agent, realtor, and broker when referring to real estate professionals. But what do these terms really mean, and how do their responsibilities differ from each other?

Before you purchase a home in the Outer Banks, here are the main differences between a realtor, agent, and broker, plus tips on how to choose the right professional for your real estate journey.

First Things First: North Carolina and Brokers

In general, a real estate agent is a trained and licensed individual who helps clients buy, sell, or rent residential and commercial real estate depending on their specialization.

It’s different in North Carolina, however. It’s a broker-only state, which means that every real estate license holder in North Carolina is called a broker, not a real estate agent. More importantly, there are several types of brokers depending on their license.

A licensee refers to an individual who holds a valid real estate license in North Carolina. The licensee can be a provisional broker, full broker, broker-in-charge, broker associate, and so on. It can also refer to a licensed real estate brokerage firm or entity.

This refers to an individual who has completed 75 hours of pre-licensing education, passed the state exam, and earned their real estate license. This is the entry-level title for all real estate professionals in the state.

To be eligible for a real estate license in North Carolina, an individual must meet the following criteria:

A provisional broker is qualified to handle real estate transactions like any broker. They can only do this, however, when they’re under the supervision of a broker-in-charge. They cannot work independently because their broker license is on provisional status. Think of a provisional broker as an intern working under a mentor.

To remove the provisional status of their license, they must complete the aforementioned 90 hours of post-licensing education within 18 months as deemed necessary by the NCREC to keep their real estate license active. Once they’ve successfully completed all requirements, a provisional broker becomes a full broker or, simply, broker.

The second level to the broker hierarchy, a full broker already has more training and experience under their belt. They are no longer an intern but a full-fledged employee of a licensed real estate brokerage firm.

If they want to, a broker can also become the sole proprietor of a brokerage, but only if their business doesn’t engage in activities that require a broker-in-charge.

A broker-in-charge (BIC) is a professional who has obtained the highest level of real estate license in North Carolina. And to become one, a broker must:

Brokers don’t automatically become brokers-in-charge once completing the requirements. Instead, they achieve BIC eligibility, which basically means they can become designated brokers-in-charge.

A real estate brokerage in North Carolina must have a designated broker-in-charge in each of their offices. They are the ones responsible for running and managing the brokerage firm, as well as supervising provisional brokers.

As you explore real estate brokerage firms, you may also encounter these two titles: branch office broker-in-charge and associate broker.

A branch office broker-in-charge is basically what you call the designated broker-in-charge for a brokerage firm’s branch office. Meanwhile, an associate broker is essentially a full broker working under that real estate brokerage firm.

A real estate brokerage firm in North Carolina may also have the following:


When does a broker become a Realtor?

A Realtor is a real estate professional who is a member of the National Association of REALTORS®, and/or its local chapter, the Outer Banks Association of REALTORS® (OBAR). Realtor is capitalized because it has been trademarked by NAR, which coined the term to distinguish members from non-members.

NAR was founded in 1908 and is the largest trade association in the nation. Real estate agents and provisional brokers who want to join NAR must have an active real estate license and an excellent record of professional conduct.

Realtors adhere to the NAR Code of Ethics, giving clients the assurance that they are working with a professional who has been thoroughly vetted and who upholds high standards. NAR also works to protect Realtors’ interests through its influence and strong bargaining power with state and federal governments. This affords Realtors more benefits and better legal protections.

Additionally, OBAR handles dispute resolution between clients and Realtors, acting as a mediator in the event of conflict. To be eligible as an Outer Banks Realtor, real estate professionals must meet the following requirements:

There are several membership types and titles within OBAR:

A Secondary Realtor Member refers to a Realtor or broker-in-charge who has a primary membership with another association in North Carolina or another state.

Community Partner-Local Business refers to a local business that is involved in real estate transactions, supports OBAR, and helps in keeping member dues low.

Community Partner-Local Real Estate Company refers to a local real estate company that supports OBAR and helps in keeping member dues low.

Broker vs. Realtor: Which one should you work with?

Now that you know the difference between a broker and a Realtor, it’s time to determine which professional better suits your real estate needs. Here are a few things to consider as you make your decision.


All brokers in North Carolina, whether provisional or not, have received adequate training and education to help clients with the home buying process. They will provide access to listings, help buyers make a strong offer, and organize the paperwork needed to finalize the sale.


An Outer Banks Realtor will have the same qualifications and experience as a non-member. The main difference is that they have been vetted by OBAR and are in good standing in the community. They adhere to a stricter code of ethics and are accountable to OBAR for misconduct. This gives the assurance that Realtors will maintain a higher level of service and professionalism.

Top qualities to look for in an Outer Banks Realtor

All Realtors in North Carolina are brokers, but not all brokers are Realtors. If working with an Outer Banks Realtor is something you’re seriously considering, the following qualities will guide you to the right person:

Learn more about NAR designations and certifications here.

Surfside Realty is your trusted partner in the Outer Banks, NC

Surfside Realty delivers exceptional service through innovative technologies and practices in contemporary real estate, making property searches more efficient for buyers and real estate investors.

Led by Michael, Surfside Realty and their team of associate brokers each have over 20 years of experience in real estate on the Outer Banks. They specialize in beachfront homes, condos, luxury real estate, gated communities, and commercial and investment properties. Call them at 252.599.2300 or send them a message here.

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