What is a Real Estate Agent?

Real Estate Agent

Real estate agents are present in real estate markets throughout the United States but not everyone fully understands what we do. Many assume that we work like car salesman…but with homes. Not quite.

Real estate agents are individuals licensed to arrange real estate transactions and represent sellers and buyers in negotiations. They can show homes, fill in real estate contracts and other paperwork (listing agreements, addendums, disclosures, etc.), and give real estate advice. However, each state has its own rules for what a real estate agent can do.

What is a Broker?

North Carolina is a Broker-only state. That means you must have a Broker license to act as a full real estate agent. “Broker” is the next license above “Agent” and requires more education. Real estate agents in North Carolina enter the market as Provisional Brokers after completing 75 hours of classes and passing the North Carolina Real Estate Exam. They must then work under the supervision of a Broker-in-Charge until they take an additional 90 hours of postlicensing courses. They can do this all at once or they can do one 30-hour class a year for their first 3 years. Once the 90 hours are completed, they become full Brokers.

What is a REALTOR®?

In other states, the titles can be a bit more confusing – agent associates, broker associates, etc. The most common is REALTOR®. Matter-of-fact, the designation is often used interchangeably with real estate agent, because it’s so common (and easier to say than “real estate agent”). But REALTORS® are actually members of the National Association of REALTORS®, which is a trade organization that works to set industry standards in ethics, education, research, and all aspects of the exchange of real estate property. To maintain the REALTOR® designation, agents must adhere to their strict Code of Ethics, which is the main takeaway for buyer and sellers when they see it attached to a real estate agent’s name.

What About All Those Other Designations?

Because having to explain titles isn’t confusing enough, real estate agents like to add cryptic designations, usually in the form of abbreviations, after their names. Actually, it’s not entirely because we like to be difficult. They do identify that we’ve received specialized training in specific topics. But we’ve already gone over these in Does it Matter if My Real Estate Agent is Certified?

What Do Real Estate Agents Do?

Real estate is an ever-changing market. Laws and guidelines are amended and written every year. Public improvement projects constantly change. New communities are built. Marketing opportunities grow and die out. Bad guys find new ways to target home buyers and sellers. There’s a lot to know and be aware of. However, you don’t buy and sell homes every year, so how are you to stay on top of all this info? It’s a full-time job – a real estate agent’s job.

We are not attorneys, so we cannot give legal advice. We are also not accountants or loan officers, so we cannot give financial advice. We are not engineers, so we cannot give structural advice. We are not insurance agents, so we cannot give advice on insurance. You get the picture.

As real estate agents, we:

A) Present facts about the current real estate market and public projects that may affect value,

B) Use our resources to aid in marketing your home and/or choosing a home that meets your needs,

C) Advise on the appropriate people to utilize for questions and solutions that may arise during the process,

D) Act as a neutral third-party during negotiations to help get you the price and terms you want,

E) Facilitate the exchange of real estate property by bringing together all parties in a systematic way.

We legally cannot steer you one way or another when it comes to making a decision. For example, we can’t tell you to avoid a property in a specific neighborhood that we may personally label a “bad neighborhood”. We can, however, present you with the website for local crime maps and let you decide if it’s an area you’d feel comfortable living in.

We are the GPS of the real estate transaction. It’s your choice on the route you want to take.

What is a Brokerage?

Real estate agents work for brokerages, companies that act as the middleman that brings buyers and sellers together. When you sign a listing agreement or place an offer on a home with a real estate agent, you are actually entering an agreement with their brokerage. The agent is the representative of the brokerage. If you are unhappy with the services, you can often resolve things with the real estate agent. If not, you may speak to the broker-in-charge at the brokerage, and they will either cancel the agreement or assign you to a new real estate agent. Be forewarned, if you choose a small brokerage, you always risk the chance that the brokerage owner and your agent are the same person. Keep that in mind when agreeing to the terms of service.

Are We Required to Use a Real Estate Agent to Buy or Sell?

No. But there are some good arguments for why you should want to. Check out Yes, You Probably Need a Real Estate Agent.


If you’re thinking of buying or selling in the Wilmington area real estate market and would like to talk specifics about what we offer as real estate agents, give us a call or send us a message through our contact page.

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About the Author
Meghan Henderson
Meghan is the Marketing Specialist for The Cameron Team and a published author of two young adult books. She also creates digital and printable planners and trackers, as well as coloring pages for Larkspur & Tea.