North Carolina Real Estate License Guide

Quick Facts

north carolina real estate commission logo

North Carolina Real Estate Governing Body:

North Carolina Real Estate Commission (NCREC)

PreLicensing Requirements:

90 Hours

СЕ Requirements:

8 Hours

Read more below

How to Get a North Carolina Real Estate License

shaking handsStarting a real estate career in North Carolina is quite stressful but if you are well-informed about the necessary procedures, you won’t make the same mistake that others will.

We have compiled the steps you need to follow on how to get a North Carolina real estate license. Check them out below.

Step 1: Understand the qualifications 

For you to be eligible to take your real estate license examination in North Carolina, you must fulfill the following prerequisites.

  1. You are must be eighteen years or older- If you are aspiring to be a licensed real estate agent someday in North Carolina, you must have celebrated your eighteenth birthday.
  2. You are required to have a United States citizenship- If you are not a US citizen, you must either be a qualified alien under the federal law in the U.S. or you must be a non-citizen national or you must have the authorization to work in the real estate brokerage industry in the United States.
  3. You need to have a social security number- If you don’t have a social security number, you should do your best to get it before you begin the application process for a real estate license in North Carolina.

After fulfilling all of these prerequisites, you can then go-ahead and start the application process for a real estate license.

Step 2: Get your real estate license education

Start and finish the North Carolina recommended seventy-five hour pre-licensing course

Some of the content you’ll cover in the pre-licensing courses are:

  • Real estate law
  • The law of contracts
  • The law of agency
  • Real estate principles

You can complete your pre-licensing course either in an online classroom or in person. There are many certified private real estate schools and community colleges in North Carolina that provide this pre-licensing course. The school you select can determine if you will be successful when you take the real estate exam. So, ensure you select a school carefully so you don’t end up in the wrong place.

Go for a school that is intentional about your success, a school that has a great reputation, and one that has professional tutors. Ensure you take this course seriously because it will serve as a foundation for your career as a real estate agent in North Carolina.

Step 3: Conduct a criminal record check

sold signYou cannot take the real estate exam in North Carolina without getting a criminal record report. They only accept a report that was prepared within six months before filing your application for a real estate license. There are substantial costs you will need to pay to get the criminal records to report for people that have lived in different states or people that have resided outside the US for seven years, or for people that have used different names previously.

You must have completed your seventy-five hours pre-licensing course before you can request a criminal record report. As soon as you request the criminal record report and pay the necessary fees, you cannot get a refund of the fees.

Your criminal record report usually contains all the misdemeanor convictions (traffic convictions included) and felony convictions you have had. The Commission gathers all the personal information that they need for them to be able to carry out their record searches. They request a different fee for every state or county record they search for, every extra name they search for, and for gathering and verifying the personal details you sent to them. So, the cost of getting a criminal record report is based on the number of places you have lived in for the previous seven years and the number of names you have used in the past.

Step 4: Apply for your real estate license

Note: Immediately after you finish your seventy-five hour course and pass the course exam, you will need to apply for your real estate license. There are applications you can find on the website of the North Carolina Real Estate Commission.

Step 5: Pay for, schedule, and sit for your North Carolina licensing examination

signing contractAfter paying your real estate examination fees, proceed with the scheduling of your exam. When you apply for your license, you will get a notice of the examination eligibility from the Commission. As soon as you get that notification, you can go ahead to schedule your State Licensing Exam with PSI, which is the approved state’s selected exam provider. You would need three years from the date you filed an application to pass the examination. You will need to take the exam electronically. Your results would be made available to you as soon as you finish taking the exam. If you pass the exam, you would be given a provisional broker’s license.

Step 6: Collect your state license and work with a broker

man with for sale signAfter passing your real estate examination, you will be able to practice as a licensed North Carolina real estate broker. But the license you would be given is a provisional broker’s license. You must finish your post-licensing education before the provisional status on your license will be removed. The post-licensing course is a ninety hours course and you are meant to finish all the three courses contained in it within eighteen months of licensure.

After getting your provisional broker’s license, you are required to get a broker-in-charge to work with. As a provisional real estate broker, you are authorized to act on behalf of a broker-in-charge, you cannot work independently.

You should know that you cannot enroll in a post-licensing course, without being licensed first. According to the North Carolina Real Estate Commission, you will not be granted a post-licensing credit if you started the post-licensing course without first receiving your real estate license.

Make sure you carefully choose a broker to work with. The broker you choose should be able to support your growth in the real estate industry.


Getting a real estate license in North Carolina will be less stressful if you follow all the steps in this article.

We wish you all the best on your journey to becoming a licensed real estate agent in North Carolina.

Chris Heller Headshot


*This article was updated on 11/15/2021

This information was reviewed and approved by Chris Heller. Chris serves on the AgentAdvice Editorial Board and is the Chief Real Estate Officer at OJO Labs. Chris brings deep expertise having held influential industry positions including CEO of mellohome and former CEO of Keller Williams Realty International.

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North Carolina Real Estate Licensing FAQs

Becoming a real estate broker in North Carolina is not that difficult. It requires time and dedication as any other state licensing requires, and if you work hard enough, you will earn a good income.

It is slightly more complicated, though. There are more requirements and approvals you need to receive, so it may take longer than it does in other states. You need to pass a background check and obtain a Notice of Eligibility, which adds a bit to the time required to become a real estate broker in North Carolina.

Perspective from a real estate pro:

will hendrick headshotWill Hedrick
Realtor in Charlotte, NC
Founder & CEO of SPEEK Brokerage

“Find what study tools & strategies will work for you. Some like to hand write, some like Quizlet, some like online quizzes. Spend a little time using each and decide which you will most likely study with.

  • Practice situations and transactions. A large amount of the exam surrounds real life situations that you are going to encounter. Pretend you are an agent working on certain transactions and have “issues” come up. Inspection comes back poor, you do not receive your due diligence check, etc. Going through these situations will help you tremendously.
  • Build a study group with classmates and experienced agents. When I took the exam, I had another agent who was able to answer questions outside of class that I was friends with. The class is extensive and even if you have time to ask questions, you might just not want to. Coming back outside of class and having someone to ask your specific questions with is always helpful.
  • Set a schedule. Saying that you are going to study 8 hours a week is cramming that all into the day before the exam, is not going to work. Split up your studying evenly and when you are excited to study. There is nothing beneficial towards forcing yourself to study at 9:00pm after a long day of work.”

counting moneyThe annual mean wage of a real estate agent in North Carolina is $50,160, but the yearly median 90th percentile wage is $83,620.

The city with the highest mean annual wage in North Carolina is Wilmington, which brings real estate brokers $74,320 per year, with the highest 10% receiving almost $100,000 median wage ($99,330 to be exact).

north carolina real estate commission logoThe Commission’s primary purpose is to license and regulate real estate agents. It is the one stop shop for North Carolina’s 100,000-plus real estate agents who are licensed as brokers.

When time and resources allow, members of the Commission staff hold programs to address issues of special interest and concern to the Commission, real estate licensees and the public.

The Commission is not allowed to give legal advice or answer questions on legal subjects other than the North Carolina Real Estate License Law or rules set out by the Real Estate Commission.

The Commission is not to be confused for the North Carolina Association of REALTORS® which is a trade organization whose members are known as “REALTORS®”.

man studying for licensing examUnlike many other states, North Carolina has only one type of real estate license – a broker real estate license. However, there are different levels of the license, better known as status categories. Many other states have a separate licensing process for real estate agents or real estate salespersons – but in NC, it’s all the same.

The “entry-level” license status category is a Provisional Broker. It’s the initial license a real estate broker receives right after passing the licensing exam. A provisional broker has to be supervised by a broker in charge.

The next license status category is called a Broker. A Broker is a Provisional Broker who satisfies the broker requirements but has taken an additional 90-hour prelicensing education program. A broker doesn’t need the supervision of a broker in charge and can act independently and perform brokerage activities with minimal limitations, but cannot personally supervise provisional brokers.

The final and highest broker license status is a Broker in Charge, a person who performs all broker activities in a brokerage independently and supervises provisional brokers.

Finally, if you live in a neighboring state and want to do real estate business in North Carolina, you need to obtain a Limited Nonresident Commercial Broker real estate license. There is a $30 fee required to get it, and some additional requirements may apply, depending on the exact state.

A college degree is not necessary to become a real estate broker in North Carolina. Every bit of knowledge you need is provided through the prelicensing coursework.

When the applicant has previous experience or education in the area of real estate, there is no need for the prelicensing coursework (with the permission of NCREC).

calculating moneyThe overall cost of a real estate license in North Carolina depends on the prelicensing course you will take, as this takes up the most significant portion of the license costs. Each course is priced differently, but it generally starts at $200 and goes up depending on the school you choose.

The real estate broker licenses in North Carolina are issued at no charge, but the application fee is $30, and the exam fee is $66. If you fail the exam, the application fee increases to $100 besides the $66 for the exam fee.

All licenses in North Carolina expire on the 30th of June each year and should be renewed by then. The annual renewal fee for the real estate license is $45 and should be paid between the 15th of May and the 30th of June. A license paper pocket card can be issued to brokers upon the renewal of the license, which costs $5.

women studying for licensing examIt takes every individual a different amount of time to finish the whole process of becoming a real estate broker. It mostly depends on how fast you complete the 75-hour pre-licensing coursework, apply, and pass the exam.  

The 75-hours prelicensing coursework can be completed in merely two weeks if you’re determined and dedicated.  

Taking out a Criminal Report usually takes anywhere between 2 to 4 business days if you’re a resident of North Carolina. If you reside outside of the state, it may take longer, but a maximum of 3 weeks. 

If you’re approved to take the exam, you will receive a Notice of Exam Eligibility within 2 to 3 days after applying. The two portions of the exam should be passed within a 180-day period. After you pass the exam, your license will be issued within 7 to 10 days after passing the exam. 

All in all, the minimum time to finish the whole process is around1.5 months, depending on how long you’ll wait for the licensing exam. 

The 75-hour prelicensing education has to be taken in a live classroom at a location approved by the North Carolina Real Estate Commission. Unlike most states, online real estate education is not currently allowed. During these 75 hours, the course covers topics in the areas of: 

  • Real Estate Principles 
  • Law of Agency
  • Law of Contracts
  • Real Estate Law

The courses are held in private real estate schools and community colleges throughout North Carolina. 

As in most other states, you need to bring two forms of ID – a primary and a secondary. The primary identification has to be unexpired and contain a photo of you. It can be any of the following: 

  • A Driver’s License (plastic card only with photo and signature)
  • A US Learner’s Permit (plastic card only with photo and signature)
  • National/State/Country Identification Card
  • Passport or Passport Card
  • Military Identification Card
  • Military Identification Card for spouses and dependents
  • Alien Registration Card (Green Card, Permanent Resident Visa)

The secondary identification can be: 

  • Credit/Debit Card (must be signed)
  • Social Security Card
  • Any form of ID on the Primary list

classroom setting with studentsTo become a real estate broker in North Carolina, you have to provide proof of good character. This includes information about previous criminal offenses, disciplinary actions, or liens and/or unpaid judgments. 

If the applicant fails to provide the required proof of good character, the North Carolina Real Estate Commission may reject the real estate license. However, the North Carolina Real Estate Commission will analyze each case individually when the applicant has a criminal record. They will consider the following factors: 

  • Level and seriousness of the crime
  • Date of the crime and age of the person at the time of the crime
  • The circumstances surrounding the crime
  • The connection between the criminal conduct and the future duties of the applicant as a real estate broker
  • The prison, jail, rehabilitation, probation, parole, and employment records of the applicant since the crime was committed.
    • The completion of, or active participation in a rehabilitative treatment
    • A Certificate of Relief granted pursuant to NCGS § 15A-173.2.
  • The subsequent commitment of a crime by the applicant
  • Any written character references of the applicant

Applicants with any type of character issue will have to wait for 45 days after passing the licensing exam for the Commission to complete the evaluation of their characters and announce the results. 

You have 3.5 hours to complete the 120-question exam.

Thankfully, if you fail either the national portion or the state-specific portion, you can retake just that portion of the exam. However, both portions of the exam have to be passed within 180 days. If you’re retaking only one part of the exam, you will have to retake it within the 180 days. 

As mentioned above, the North Carolina real estate exam is split into two portions: the national portion and the state-specific one. Each of these contains different sets of questions designed to test your knowledge of the real estate sphere in the US and North Carolina. 

The national portion has 80 questions from the following areas: 

  • Agency Relationships and Contracts 
  • Real Property Ownership / Interest 
  • Finance
  • Real Property
  • Marketing Regulations (Purchase and Rental)
  • Property Management 
  • Real Estate Calculations 

The North Carolina portion of the exam has 40 questions consisting of: 

  • NC Real Estate License Law and Commission Rules
  • Other NC Laws and Practices
  • General Real Estate Topics

To pass the exam, you need to answer 75% of the questions from each portion correctly – 57 of the national and 29 of the state portion.

Brokers react as Compass gobbles up GlideThere are 120 questions in total on the North Carolina real estate exam – 80 of the national section and 40 of the state section. To pass the exam, you need to answer 75% of the questions correctly – 57 of the national and 29 of the state section. 

In general, around 62% of students pass the exam, which is a good percentage considering there are states with lower pass scores than this one. It goes to show that many underestimate the prelicensing coursework and how it can help students pass easier.   

Taking a prep course may be a great path to take for any student. It will give you an additional knowledge base from people who have already taken the exam and can advise you on what to focus your attention and how to study more efficiently.

Currently, North Carolina has reciprocity with ten other states. This means you’ll get the favorable status if you’ve had a license in one of these states in the past: 

  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Georgia
  • Iowa
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Nebraska
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • West Virginia

If you want to get a North Carolina real estate broker license through your reciprocal license, you will need to pay a $30 fee for the nonresidential license. Depending on the exact state you’re applying from, there may be some additional requirements. 

US map

Both portions are different in terms of what they cover. Every state includes a national portion of the real estate licensing exam that includes questions designed to test the candidate’s knowledge of the general real estate principles in the US. On the other hand, the state portion tests the candidates’ knowledge of real estate matters relevant to North Carolina.