Brokering a Business Opportunity

Q: A prospective client has approached me about selling his restaurant. It would involve subletting the real property as well as selling the business and related equipment  outright. I have never dealt with anything quite like this before. Do I need a special license to broker the business opportunity?

A: No. There is no “business broker” in North Carolina. However, you do need a special license to broker a business opportunity that involves the sale or lease (including  subleases, lease assignments and lease renegotiations) of real estate. It’s called a real estate license! You’ve got that covered, but don’t assume that because there is no  “business broker” license requirement that you should feel free to jump in headfirst. Article 11 of the Code says that REALTORS® shall not provide specialized professional  services outside their field of competence unless they engage the assistance of one who is competent on such service or unless the facts are fully disclosed to the client.  Although some may argue that business brokerage services do not fall within the scope of “specialized professional services,” the prudent course of action is at least to be  mindful of Article 11. If you do engage someone to help you, the Code says you must identify that person to your client and that person’s contribution to the transaction.  Moreover, sound risk management dictates that you not offer services outside your area of competence. So, since you have no experience with this kind of transaction, talk  frankly to both your prospective client and your broker-in-charge about it. Seek a solution that serves the best interests of the prospective client and represents a sound risk  management decision for you and your firm. Perhaps you’ll be able to identify one of your colleagues – or another firm – with experience in these matters who is willing to work with you on the deal. In any event, since the transaction involves real estate brokerage (the sublease) select someone with a real estate license, as you’ll likely be  sharing in the commission or otherwise compensating that person (or firm) for assisting you.

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