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Getting a Real Estate License in North Carolina 2023: All Requirements for Taking the Exam

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This article will familiarize you with the process of getting a real estate license in North Carolina.

We’ve included pertinent details gathered from information currently published by the North Carolina Real Estate Commission, which regulates the profession in the state.

Ready to dive in? Let’s do it.

Table of Contents
How to Get a Real Estate License in North Carolina
Frequently Asked Questions
How to Get a Real Estate License in North Carolina

North Carolina Licensing Requirements for Real Estate Salespeople

Most of the states in the U.S. offer a real estate salesperson license. North Carolina is one of the few that do not. A broker license is the entry-level status in this state.

Those new to the profession start as provisional brokers. The licensing qualifications for this status are covered in Chapter 2 of this guide.


North Carolina Licensing Requirements for Real Estate Brokers

The North Carolina Real Estate Commission issues only one type of individual real estate license – a broker license. However, there are three different status levels.

  • Provisional brokers are entry-level licensees supervised by a broker-in-charge.
  • “Full” brokers can work independently or under the supervision of another broker.
  • A broker-in-charge can oversee transactions and manage other brokers.

Regardless of the status level, broker applicants have to meet the qualifying criteria established by the Commission.

There are a few exceptions to taking the pre-licensing course and the exam. But generally speaking, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old and have a social security number.
  • Be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, permanent resident, or legally living in the U.S., according to federal immigration laws.
  • Complete the state’s 75-hour broker pre-licensing course.
  • File a complete application with the Commission and pay the required fee.
  • Take the licensing exam and get a passing score.
  • Meet the requisite character requirements for licensure.

As mentioned, there are times when the pre-licensing course is not required.

You can ask for a waiver if you’ve recently passed an equivalent salesperson pre-licensing course in another state or completed a substantial amount of higher education in real estate.

If you qualify for a North Carolina license based on current licensure in another state, the education and exam requirements may also be different (see Chapter 3 on reciprocity).

For new brokers, though, the 75-hour pre-licensing course is more often than not a must.

You are required to take it through an accredited education provider. You can choose from our list of the best real estate schools in North Carolina.

Once you’ve met the education qualification, your next required action is applying for a license.

When you apply, you’ll need to order a criminal record report if you haven’t already done so. This report must be included with your application submission.

If the Commission accepts your application, you’ll get a Notice of Exam Eligibility. Use it to schedule an exam appointment with PSI, the testing service contracted by the Commission.

You’ll have 180 days to take and pass the exam.

The licensing exam has two sections that are scored separately. To pass the national section, you need to answer 57 of the 80 scored questions correctly.

To pass the state section, you must answer 29 of the 40 scored questions correctly. The exam format is multiple-choice, and the sections cover the following:

  • National section – this portion covers topics such as basic real estate concepts, brokerage relationships, contract law, real estate math, and more.
  • State section – this is the shorter of the two parts and focuses on real estate laws, relationships, and practices specific to North Carolina.

Pass the exam, and you have one more condition to satisfy – the character and fitness review.

The Commission will look over your criminal record report, submitted with your application, plus any character-related disclosures you made.

If the Commission finds that you have the requisite character, you’ll be issued a license.

Be aware that you and a broker-in-charge must both apply to activate your license before you can engage in any work in the real estate business.

Our detailed guide – How to Choose the Right Real Estate Brokerage to Work For as a New Agent – can help you find the broker-in-charge who’s right for you.

Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the top qualities to look for, refer to our directory of the best real estate brokerage firms in North Carolina.

This information will help you make the right decision.

Once your license is active and you’re working in the real estate business, here are the requirements you should complete in order to maintain your license:

  • Ninety hours of post-licensing education completed within 18 months of initial licensure.
  • Renewal annually by the June 30 deadline at a cost of $45.
  • Eight hours of approved continuing education every year.

Note that fulfilling the post-licensing education requirement will end your provisional broker status. You become a “full” broker at that time.


Reciprocal States

What Is Real Estate License Reciprocity?

Many aspects of real estate are state-specific. Therefore, real estate licenses do not necessarily “transfer” from state to state.

Reciprocity determines whether and to what extent states recognize one another’s licensing requirements.

For you, it determines whether or not you’ll have to start from the beginning with pre-licensing work and the exam.

Instead of reciprocal licensing arrangements, North Carolina has what they describe as a “limited licensing approach.”

If you completed pre-licensing education and passed the national section of the exam in another jurisdiction, North Carolina will recognize that.

Then, you get to choose whether or not you’ll take the state portion of the exam.

To qualify for North Carolina licensure based on this approach, you must:

  • Be licensed on active status in another state, U.S. territory, or Canadian jurisdiction.
  • Hold a license equivalent to either North Carolina’s provisional broker or “full” broker.
  • Have been on active status within the previous three years.
  • Submit a license application along with all required paperwork.

If you meet the requisite character requirements and pass the exam (if applicable), you will be issued a license equivalent to the one you currently have.

There is one exception: if you are a “full” broker and skip the exam, you will receive a North Carolina provisional broker license.

Also, note that you must fulfill North Carolina’s post-licensing education requirements (90 classroom hours) if you opt out of the state portion of the exam.


US States Having a Reciprocal Agreement with North Carolina

North Carolina does not have reciprocal licensing agreements with other states. However, they do recognize some aspects of licensure from other jurisdictions.

These include completing pre-licensing education and passing the national portion of the exam in another state, U.S. territory, or Canadian jurisdiction.


How to Study for a Real Estate License Exam in North Carolina

Pre-Licensing Classroom Courses

If you prefer to complete your pre-licensing education in a classroom setting, you can choose between in-person classes and a real-time virtual classroom format.

Both options have set schedules, and yours will depend on what’s offered by the school you select.

Most schools offer day and evening classes. Some have weekend schedules as well.

As the course is for those entering the profession, it covers introductory-level real estate principles.

It also has a strong emphasis on real estate law and brokerage and prepares you for the exam.

Taking the course in either a physical or virtual classroom will allow you to actively interact with the instructor.

The virtual classroom, however, offers the added benefit of not having to travel to and from the class.

No matter which format you pick, you’ll have to work around the schedule. Note as well that a classroom course may cost more than the one delivered online.

Yet, if learning within a classroom setting best fits your learning style, both options will provide that structure.


Pre-Licensing Online Courses

You can also take the pre-licensing course online from real estate schools and other real estate education providers.

Some of them offer the option to take the course only or purchase a package that includes either exam prep or the post-licensing course.

As you choose, you’ll want to pay particular attention to whether the provider is certified by the North Carolina Real Estate Commission.

Your pre-licensing hours will not meet the state’s education requirement if they are not.

If you take the online course, you’ll get more flexibility than you have in a classroom. You can study whenever and wherever you prefer.

You also get to choose how quickly you work your way through the course.

Alternately, you’ll have limited or no live interaction with an instructor and other students.

Moreover, if self-discipline and organization are not your strong traits, studying may become an issue.

To identify which type of curriculum best fits your learning style, get to know the pros and cons of each through our useful guide – Real Estate Courses Online vs. Classroom.


Where to Take the Real Estate Exam in North Carolina

You have two options for taking the licensing exam: in person at a testing center or online from your computer.

You can select your desired option when you register and schedule an exam appointment with PSI.

If you choose the remote option, you’ll take an online proctored exam. A proctor will monitor and communicate with you on-screen throughout the entire test.

In-person exams are given at one of PSI’s testing centers. They have eight sites located throughout the state:

  • Asheville
  • Charlotte
  • Fayetteville
  • Greenville
  • Raleigh (2 locations)
  • Wilmington
  • Winston-Salem

Make sure you are fully prepared in terms of studying for the exam before making any appointments to take it.

To know what and how to study for the test, read our article on how to pass the North Carolina real estate exam.

I also have some tips on studying for the real estate exam that can help you pass it on your first attempt.


How to File for Your License After the Exam in North Carolina

You will get your score immediately after you complete the exam. So, you’ll know right away whether you passed it.

The testing service will also report your results to the North Carolina Real Estate Commission.

The Commission will review the character portion of your application as soon as you pass the exam.

If they determine that you possess the requisite character, they will promptly issue you a license. Licenses are not issued at the test centers or by the testing service.

If your application raises issues related to your character that require special consideration, the decision on granting your license will be delayed.

If this is the case for you, allow the Commission 45 days after you pass the exam to finish its evaluation before making a status inquiry.

Also, you should be prepared to provide any additional information should the Commission request it.


How to Receive Your Real Estate License in North Carolina

Once the Commission has deemed you qualified for licensure, they will send your license certificate to the mailing address on your application.

You should expect to receive the certificate within 10 days of the date you pass the exam.

You will be able to download your digital pocket cards from the Commission website as soon as your license is granted.

With your license in hand, you’re now ready to begin your real estate career in North Carolina.

If you’re thinking of the best actions to take, check out our article – I Just Got My Real Estate License, Now What?

Whether or not you’ve decided on the type of real estate agent you want to be, it is best to be a part of a real estate team.

By joining a real estate team, you will know the pros and cons of the different types of real estate agents, and the information you’ll learn can help you choose the right path for your career.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to get a North Carolina real estate license when studying in the class?

Classroom courses are offered on varying schedules, including days and evenings. And a few schools offer weekend classes.

Daytime classes typically meet 2-3 times a week for a half-day each time. Most evening classes meet two days a week.

Therefore, the time it takes to complete your pre-licensing course will vary depending on your schedule. As a general rule, allow at least five weeks for the class.

After you complete the pre-licensing course, your next step is applying for your license.

According to the Commission, you can expect to receive a Notice of Eligibility to take the exam within 5-7 business days after applying (if your application is complete).

How far out your exam appointment is scheduled depends on what’s available.

The company that administers the test indicates that you should be able to get an appointment within seven days in most cases.

Getting a criminal record report can take anywhere from 2-4 business days to 2-3 weeks or longer.

It all depends on whether the search involves North Carolina records, out-of-state records, or records outside the United States.

If there are no issues relating to character, the Commission will promptly issue your license. It’s typically mailed within 5-7 days of the date you pass the exam.

If there is a character issue in connection with your application, the process can take longer.

You should allow the Commission 45 days to finish their evaluation before you ask about the status.

Refer to our guide on how long to get a real estate license in NC to know the timeline for completing all the other steps in the licensing process.


How long does it take to get a North Carolina real estate license online?

Finishing a course online can be faster than being in the classroom because you set the pace. Many of the online providers allow you to receive credit for 7.5 hours per day.

At that rate, you can complete the course in a couple of weeks.

If you can’t commit to such a brisk pace, studying just 15-20 hours a week will get you to the finish line in 4-5 weeks.

And if you carve out just 7.5 hours per week, you can complete the course in a little over two months.

So, how long you take to check the course off your list will vary and is up to you. You’ll typically have up to 180 days to get all the coursework done and take the final exam.

Once you’ve finished the course, the time to complete the rest of the process would be the same as if you studied in the classroom.

You can read all about that in Chapter 1 under Frequently Asked Questions.


Is there a background check for a North Carolina real estate license?

Yes. All applicants must submit a criminal record report in connection with their licensing application.

The Commission will only accept a report prepared by CriminalRecordCheck.com (CRC) within the six months prior to your application date.

The Commission indicates that the time it takes to obtain your report from CRC will vary based on the search parameters.

A report involving in-state records takes about 2-4 business days. Out-of-state record searches are typically done in 5-7 days compared to 2-3 weeks for those outside the country.

An important note: Your criminal record report must include a federal background check effective July 1, 2021.


How much does a North Carolina real estate license cost?

Required fees associated with obtaining a real estate license include the following:

  • Examination fee: $56
  • Application fee: $100
  • Criminal record report: $50 or less
  • Privilege license fee: $50

The cost listed above for the criminal record report is based on a North Carolina records search. If the search includes other states or countries, the price will increase.

The privilege license fee is an annual tax required for conducting certain types of business activities in the state.

In addition to these direct fees, you should also factor in your real estate education costs. You can anticipate paying $500-plus for the pre-licensing course.

If you are required to take the post-licensing course, expect to pay $600 or more, on average.

Check out our article on the cost of a real estate license in NC for a complete breakdown of expenses to expect when getting licensed in the state.


How long do you have to wait to retake the real estate exam in North Carolina?

You won’t be allowed to retake the licensing exam until at least 10 calendar days have passed since you failed it. You can make an appointment for any time after that.

Pay close attention to the timing of your appointment if you are nearing the end of your exam eligibility period.

You have a 180-day window to pass both portions of the exam. And you must have 10 days remaining before your eligibility expires to qualify to retake the test.


How many times can you retake the North Carolina real estate exam?

Other than the 10-day waiting period after you fail and a 180-day exam eligibility window, there are no restrictions on retakes.

So, if you fail the exam, you can retake it as many times as required to pass it within 180 days, just as long as you observe the waiting period.


Do you have to pay to retake the real estate exam in North Carolina?

Yes, you are required to pay the $100 application fee, plus the $56 exam fee, each time you take one or both sections of the licensing exam.


How much does it cost to retake the real estate exam in North Carolina?

You will pay $156 to retake the exam. This amount includes the $100 application fee and the $56 exam fee.


Can you get a real estate license with a felony in North Carolina?

To obtain a North Carolina broker license, you must affirmatively demonstrate that you have the requisite character for licensure.

If you are concerned that your criminal history will disqualify you, petition the Commission for a pre-determination before starting the licensing process.

According to the Commission’s definitions, a felony conviction would be considered a “character issue.”

But that does not necessarily mean the Commission will deny you a license. They evaluate each application with a character issue on a case-by-case basis.

As part of that evaluation, they look at 10 factors as required by North Carolina law.

However, keep in mind that the Commission may deny your application if they find that your criminal history is directly related to your prospective real estate duties.

The same holds true if the crime is violent or sexual in nature.


Can you get a real estate license with a misdemeanor in North Carolina?

Having a criminal record is considered a “character issue.” And it triggers further review and evaluation by the Commission.

They will consider factors such as the severity of the offense, how recently it happened, the circumstances surrounding it, and so forth. (See their Character and Fitness review description).

The Commission also has the right to deny an application based on criminal history in these instances:

  • The crime is directly related to your prospective duties and responsibilities.
  • The crime is violent or sexual in nature.

If you would like to know upfront if the Commission may deny your application, see the steps for getting a pre-determination.

Also, check out our tips for applying for a North Carolina real estate license with criminal record or misdemeanor.


Will a DUI prevent you from getting a real estate license in North Carolina?

While there is not a fixed rule that says you can’t get a real estate license if you have a DUI, the Commission does regard serious traffic offenses, especially DUIs, as a “character issue.”

They will review and evaluate your case and render a decision on whether you satisfy the character requirements even with a DUI on your record.

You can ask for a pre-determination if you think you might receive an adverse decision.


Can I get a real estate license without a high school diploma in North Carolina?

Yes, you can. North Carolina does not require a high school diploma or an equivalent certificate such as a GED to obtain a real estate license.


Follow this guide, and you’re on your way to becoming one of the professional real estate agents in North Carolina.

Make your start as real estate agent easier by reading the pros and cons of being a real estate agent, which shares insight from experts on what you can expect once you begin your career.

To help you build and grow your real estate career quickly, we at Real Estate Bees created a directory for real estate professionals.

It’s designed to help you get more exposure for your business, including receiving leads. Create a free profile by signing up here.


If you want to contribute your expert advice on a topic of your expertise, feel free to apply to our Expert Contributor Program.


About the Author

Kristina Morales is a REALTOR® with over 20 years of professional experience. She actively practices real estate in Ohio but also has practiced real estate in California and Texas. Conducting her real estate business in three states has allowed her to gain unique experiences that make her a well-rounded realtor. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Business Management and her MBA with a concentration in Banking and Finance. Prior to real estate, Kristina had an extensive corporate career in banking and treasury. She ended her finance career as an Assistant Treasurer at a publicly traded oil & gas company in Houston, TX.

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