When you think about it, picking the right career and company in any industry is not something you do every week.
Perhaps that’s why many new licensees or those wanting to make a switch go out looking for a Real Estate Company to affiliate with often aren’t totally prepared to pick the right combination of company and broker of record for their particular personality.
In truth, the residential real estate industry has a poor track record of developing systems to help new and experienced people make more educated decisions about who they ought to join.
Mistakes Experienced Real Estate Agents & New To the Business Make When Choosing a Real Estate Brokerage & The Questions You Should Get Answered.
Not interviewing enough companies!
Make no mistake; picking your brokerage has a lot to do with your eventual success in the real estate industry. So talking to at least more than one broker seems to make palpable sense, and it does! A very high percentage of new real estate agents often go to work for a brokerage that was recommended to them, or a good friend of theirs happens to mention that you can come to work “at our place.” Sometimes this is fine; sometimes, it’s a disaster.
The key is to talk with at least three (3) brokerages in your area so you can gather enough data to feel comfortable comparing your notes. One of those three will likely be a good fit, and you’ll know it when you complete the interview process.
Mistake # 2:
Not grasping that companies are not the same!
As is true in almost any industry, most brokerage companies tend to fall into three categories: 1) Young growing companies, 2) Mature larger operations, and 3) Older companies with owners looking to sell or retire. These companies can either be independent operations or belong with a franchise affiliation.
Besides the fact that most real estate organizations belong to the local Board of Realtors, the differences in how those companies operate can be as varied as snowflakes.
Also, younger companies may be more aggressive and active risk-takers where a more mature operation is more apt to stay with “what we’ve always done.” The key is to recognize what type of company you’re talking to. The questions we include in this package (The Interview Quest) are designed to help uncover those issues of concern to you.
If you go in understanding, there can be marked differences in how you, as an agent, are treated by the organization, and you’ll be able to identify just what type of company you’d fit in with.
Not starting with enough financial capacity!
If the company you’re talking to has an economic program based solely on commissions collected by you, you’ll need a financial cushion to get started. It is an arduous task to get into real estate on a shoestring. Today, most agents would offer that the average amount of time one can safely expect to have to go without expecting that first commission cheque should be somewhere around five to six months.
Yes, it is possible to do that faster, and no doubt brokers can tell you stories about their fastest “rookie” agents doing it in three months. Still, the realities are that there is a lot to learn and invariably, the new challenges need 100% of your focus without the added concern about where the money is coming from.
Who’s doing the interviewing?
Believe it or not, you are. Most potential agents think they are being interviewed, but the reality is that you should be in the hiring position. Think of it this way; you’re about to hire this brokerage as your trainer and consultant for the next few years and pay them “X” amount every year for that privilege.
Are they worth what they want you to pay them? That’s what’s at the heart of using this program. By asking all the questions in ‘The Interview Quest”, you’ll be doing the interviewing, and it will be a snap to show the brokers you’re quite serious about this decision. Most importantly, the answers you get help to make a straight “apples to apples” comparison.
Asking to verify what’s being said!
You’ve heard the term, “the proof is in the pudding.” Whenever a broker makes a statement that can be backed up with data or something you can see, you need to ask for that. For example, they expound on their new agent training program; you ask to see a copy of the material. They say they have 48% market penetration; you ask to see the actual numbers.
They say they have a mission statement; you ask where it is posted? In other words, almost everything a broker talks about can be visually witnessed, if indeed it exists. If they say they have a training calendar, you’d like to see it. In short, ask for proof that something exists. You now find out if they not only talk the talk but also walk the walk. As we say, “the proof is in the pudding.”
Mistake # 6:
Realizing how critical Training and Accountability are!
If you are a new agent to real estate, the Brokerage’s ability to get you trained and then offer career accountability is critical indeed! Pre-licensing courses can vary tremendously in what they teach new agents to real estate. By their very nature, many of those courses are geared to help you with a licensing exam, so their value in the real world may not be that high.
New agents have needs that create specialized training in at least no less than four core areas. Financing, contracts, and working with buyers and sellers are the least that you should expect in any new agent course. Look at who teaches it and how the course is structured. Having the ability to work in the field is helpful while you’re training.
If the company uses a “mentor,” Be very careful that the mentors are of the quality you’d want to learn from and that the system is highly structured. The most critical step for new agents is what happens after the training is over? Is there a type of “career start” program geared to get you on the right track with what you are supposed to do? This is the hidden weakness of many companies in that many have plans for new people, but it is in their lack of follow-up systems where leadership and accountability are missing just when they’re needed most!
Mistake # 7:
Where’s the Leadership?
Perhaps the most misunderstood ingredient in most agents’ successful careers is the impact of having a strong management team and agents that think like partners in the organization. If you genuinely have leaders running the company, they will inspire a high level of learning and accountability. Look at the most innovative and profitable companies in any city, and you’ll find a learning-based environment where everyone is continuously the “master” student. Strong leadership has a habit of creating an influential “culture.”
Mistake # 8:
Realizing who drives the Industry!
At the heart of all real transactions, an agent developed a relationship with a customer who turned into that agent’s client. Real estate is a very local, “what’s going on in your city” type business. A recent CREA study indicated that buyers and sellers are more apt to choose an agent, not a company. There is a revolution now occurring in the industry, and many brokerages are becoming wise to the fact that they don’t control the customers; their associates’ do.
So the goal of you, the potential associate, is to find a brokerage who believes that you are the central reason that the firm is or should be successful, not the company. Keep in mind; this is not the goal of many companies who might have you believe that they are the reason you have success.
As you gather the answers to the questions in your interview packet, which type of company you’re visiting with will become “loud and clear.” The choice will be more comfortable with making, and you should be well prepared to meet the challenges and opportunities in one of the last great bastions of capitalism!
Best of luck making the right choice!
The Interview Quest
(Questions every Licensee should ask their potential Broker)
The Concepts behind the Company
- Can you give me a brief history of the Company?
Who are the owners? Why was it started?
- Is the company an independent operation or a franchise?
- History of the current management?
- Does the company have a mission statement? Values? Core beliefs?
- How many agents work here? How many are new agents? Experienced?
- How many agents would bring you to capacity?
- What is your typical turnover rate of agents?
- Tell me about your training philosophy?
- Do you have a New Agent training program? How is it structured?
- Can I see the plan?
- What is the cost of the program?
- Who are the instructors, and what are their backgrounds?
- Where is it held, and at what times?
- Is fieldwork encouraged during the program?
- Is there a follow-up career launch type program to help get started?
- Is there a system in place to promote new accountability?
- What type of ongoing training do you do? Can I see your training calendar?
- Is there an office orientation program?
- What kind of advanced training is available, and who teaches it?
BUILDING MY BUSINESS
- Does the company have a philosophy on how I should build my business?
- How does the company help me establish priorities and goals? Examples?
- Do we receive help creating a business plan?
- Can I “brand” myself and my business? If so, how?
- What legal status do I assume with the company? Independent Contractor or otherwise?
- Is there a contract required? Can I see a copy?
- Do you have a Policy/Procedures Manual? May I see it? Do I receive my copy?
- Does the company offer systems to help build my business? What are they?
- Concerning building my branding:
- What does your signage look like? Are there options?
- Are personal logos (logos) allowed?
- What card design is used? Flexibility?
- Can I acquire Builder accounts on my own? If not, how are they handled and at what cost?
- Can I acquire Relocation accounts on my own? If not, how are they processed and at what cost?
- How does the company handle incoming referrals?
- Does the company have an advertising policy? Explain how it works? Who pays for it? Can I do my advertising?
- How are sign and ad calls handled in the company?
- Do you have a floor time requirement?
- Can I direct my sign and advertisement calls to me directly?
- What is my exposure in the event of a lawsuit?
- Do you help with my accounting?
- If I were to leave, how are my pending commissions handled?
- How does your commission/compensation program work?
- Can you take me through a “live” example by the numbers?
- What is the office procedure for getting paid on a closing?
- Are agents in the office on different plans? Explain them?
- What is the initial and ongoing cost of my affiliation with the company?
- Can I hire a personal assistant? Can they be licensed? Does the company charge me a fee for the assistant? What commission program does the assistant fall under?
- Do you have a profit-sharing plan with agents? How does it work?
- Are there other investment opportunities with the company? How do they work?
- What are the policy and cost if I buy or sell real estate personally?
- What are the manager’s priorities and primary responsibilities?
- Do they list or sell the property as agents of the firm?
- Describe the additional staff and their responsibilities?
- Is agent input encouraged? If so, how is it acquired?
- Describe your meetings in the office? Frequency? Is attendance required?
- Who establishes office policies?
- Describe the type of culture you create in the office? How is this done?
- List the reasons an agent would be asked to leave your firm and why?
- Do you share the company books with the agents? If so, how often?
- How are “housekeeping” items conveyed to the agents?
- What is the company’s underlying philosophy concerning using technology?
- Does the company provide high-speed internet access, and at what cost?
- Are the printers/computers/machines in the office networked? Can I hook into this network? How much do I pay?
- Do you provide specific software/ what are the programs?
- Do you provide a voicemail?
- Do you provide an e-mail? Is it private?
- Do you offer a web site for the agents?
- Do you provide any computer training?
- Do you provide software training?
- Does the company have a website?
- Are their presentations available that is electronic from the company?
- Do you encourage using Personal Data Assistants? How?
- Does the company provide marketing templates?
- Does the company provide forecasting electronically?
- Can I do my accounting electronically?
- What type of long-term technology support can the company offer?
PHYSICAL OFFICE ENVIRONMENT
- Does the office look like a professional environment?
- Who and how are customers and clients greeted?
- Printer situation? High speed/ Color/ Laser?
- How are incoming and outgoing faxes handled?
- Copiers situation? The cost associated with them?
- Are other research tools available to help you? What are they?
- Is there adequate parking? For clients?
- What type of desk arrangements are there? What are the specific policies on this?
- Are there expansion plans?
- Is the heating and air conditioning adequate?
- Are there security issues to deal with?
And last but not least: Ask this question: Are you in the real estate agent business or the marketing of real estate? (Most real estate brokerages are in the real estate agent business; in other words, their income and profit come from the commission splits, dues, franchise fees and copier costs etc. and monthly payments!)
Well, there you go; after getting your questions answered, it should be easier for you to make a choice.
Remember: This is your career, your future, and you owe it to yourself and your family to make it the best!
Thank you for taking the time to go through these pages. Lots of things to think about, aren’t there?
I have a small office here in London, and over the years, I have made tons of mistakes, poor judgement and yet kept at it and learned things the hard way, and my aim is to mentor, help and guide a few agents to better their career.
My goal is to attract 5-8 agents who would like to do 30-40 transactions a year and still have time to enjoy their life. I wish to slow down, so I am offering the opportunity to a select few who can understand the value of experience and the importance of a like-minded office.
Not a brokerage where 100 agents are doing real estate 100 different ways and competing with each other!
If you take one stick, you can break it easily, three sticks they may bend, but ten sticks, being together will not break!