How to choose the right brokerage for a thriving real estate career

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Congratulations, you’ve completed your real estate courses and have become a licensed realtor. Now it’s time to find a brokerage and a broker of record to work under. But, how do you choose the right one to start your new career on a solid footing?


The mistake of smoke and mirrors: Do your due diligence


New agents often make the mistake of getting caught up in “smoke and mirrors or false promises” from brokerages, says Christopher Alexander, president of Re/Max Canada. Often, when you peel back the onion of what seems to be a flashy-looking brokerage, “there’s either a lack of productivity, a poor reputation or just a culture that is not inclusive or success-driven.” 

To avoid pitfalls, Alexander suggests new agents should do due diligence on the quality of the brokerage’s operator, its agents and its reputation by asking such questions as: How long has it been in business? What education and training systems does it offer? What’s the culture like? How invested is the owner in their realtors’ success? What are its education and training programs?


Consider at these factors


When it comes to choosing a brokerage, new realtors should focus on factors such as culture, training, branding and marketing, technology and commission structure, says Lynn Findlay, Exit Realty regional owner for Southwestern Ontario. 


Culture: You need to thrive, not just survive


New realtors should ensure that the brokerage’s culture aligns with their values and work styles. “Aligning yourself with someone that’s really like you is key because that’s the environment that you’re going to thrive in and not just survive,” Findlay says. “We have a lot of agents that are just surviving but we would really like to see agents thriving.” 

They should ask: Does the brokerage thrive on collaboration? Is leadership available and accessible? Does it give back to the community? “It’s important to know what involvement the brokerage has in the community because that’s exposure and a way for new agents to get known,” she says. 

New agents should also ascertain the brokerage’s mindset offerings. “It can be a lonely job if you’re working by yourself as an agent, so what’s available to help you through those peaks and valleys of the real estate industry? How are you going to handle those ups and downs?” 

Management support is crucial for new agents who may require guidance as they navigate their early careers. “Who’s going to pick up the phone when you have a problem or you’re writing your first deal and you’re nervous as heck?”


Training: “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room”


Look for a brokerage that offers training programs for both new and experienced agents, Findlay says. If you select a brokerage based solely on its program for new agents, it may not fit a few years later and you’ll need to jump ship to get to the next level, she says. 

Other questions: What is the availability of mentorship programs? Do training programs cover legal and compliance matters, marketing strategies and technology tools?

“Surround yourself with strong agents who are doing a good book of business that are willing to share and possibly mentor you so that you can become the best possible agent you can,” Findlay says. “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”


Branding and marketing: “Exposure for new agents is extremely important”


As an online presence is crucial, ask how the brokerage will help you create a professional website, optimize your social media profiles, market yourself and build on its branding, Findlay says. Does its website support CRM tools and other marketing materials or strategies to help agents market themselves and their listings? 

Since exposure for new agents is extremely important, agents should choose a strong, trustworthy and reputable brand with a major web presence, Alexander adds. Doing so “can really make the lives of a new agent much easier.”


Technology: How does it stack up?


Does the brokerage seek out the latest technology tools and teach realtors to use them effectively? And does it cost more to use the technology resources provided by the brokerage? Findlay notes technology fees are not always included as part of the brokerage’s commission structure. 


Commission structure: “It’s never about the split; it’s about the net you’re bringing home to your family”


New agents should evaluate the brokerage’s commission structure to see how it aligns with their financial goals, Findlay says. Are there transaction fees, desk fees, ongoing monthly fees or other additional fees?  Are there different commission structures based on performance or seniority? Does the brokerage do one or two or 10 to 15 deals a year on average per agent? Finding out will help you ascertain how many deals you can expect to get.

Findlay says agents often make the mistake of considering the commission split but not considering factors like office fees and additional brokerage costs that can be a financial hardship. “If you’re paying your brokerage a desk fee to be there and you haven’t earned anything, then you’re accruing debt.”

While commission splits are often top of mind for new agents, “if you are brand new and you haven’t done any deals, you’re not going to earn anything,” she notes. When selecting a brokerage, new agents should look to a brokerage that will help them get deals on the books. 

“It’s about who’s going to get you more business and if there is a cost associated, what is the cost? It’s never about the split; it’s about the net you’re bringing home to your family.” 

Alexander adds that instead of commission splits, new agents should focus on factors like brokerage leadership, whether there are systems and tools in place that help agents succeed and whether the culture is inviting, collaborative and looks like a good fit. “That, to me, is much more important than what my commission split is going to be out of the gate,” he says.


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