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20
Jan

How Important is Your Real Estate Brokerage to your Business?

real-estate-officeThe idea for this post popped into my head on the eve of our quarterly new agent training class that we affectionately call Bosley U. For a little background, it was developed many years ago as a way to quickly ramp up new agents so that they could hit the ground running. Not only do they learn the art of negotiation, but we include panel discussions with top agents in the firm who talk about marketing and best business practices. To round out the program there is a property visit and an actual CMA has to be prepared and then there are three big sessions where we roll play a buyer meeting and a listing appointment and then a multiple offer session. It can be intense at times but also a lot of fun. In my opinion, agents come out of the 5 week program with more experience than someone who has been practicing for two years. As I like to say, OREA teaches the moves but Bosley U teaches you how to dance.
The forgoing leads me into a discussion about the value of the brokerage to the overall success of the agent on the street. Certainly how you start your career is critical to your success but after that, does the company remain as important? There are many schools of thought on this. Some would argue that the brokerage is just a necessity to selling real estate. While the law requires an agent to belong to a brokerage in order to buy and sell, the brokerage also provides some much-needed back-end support. At he very least there is a manager or broker/owner to oversee the running of the trust accounts, make sure the phones get answered and appointments get booked and provide some experience to answer questions or provide that next level support if required. With basic services agents run their own business, pay minimally to the “house”.
The flip side to the simplest licence holder model is the full service brokerage who takes a bigger slice of the commission but also provides more services. These services include, but aren’t limited to, things like broker loading, typing offers, education and office meetings, marketing services, printing, and maybe even access to significant technology, social media or a worldwide referral network.
Then there is everything in between with different brokerages offering different baskets of goods or services with a hundred different commission splits. Any new agent will find that wading through the choices is one of the hardest decisions to make. Then there are the myriad of other things to think about….Does a company’s perceived values line up with you as an agent? What about culture? Are you one who prefers a boutique brand over a national or international brand? Do the colours and style of the brokerage logo appeal to you? What about location? Parking? desk space? How professional are the business cards, buyer and seller packages and all other associated collateral material? The list is endless. In fact, there are even a number of single agent brokerages out there who just don’t want any association with a branded brokerage at all.
And what about the public? Our clients? do they care about the brand? Maybe? I used to work for a brand with luxury roots so people would call me because they thought their home met those requirements…they often did not, but having a prestige sign on their front lawn meant much more. Others chose a recognized brand because they had the lion’s share of listings in a particular neighbourhood. Still others wanted the brand that they imagined to be the most tech savvy. At the end of the day however, experienced agents would argue that clients rarely hire them because of the brand they work for, rather a combination of sales and marketing experience, reputation and market share.
So, is there a definitive answer to how important a brokerage is to your business? I asked many experienced agents this question and got a rather consistent response. Look and feel was important. lead generation was a big deal. Freedom to try new ideas. Smart and supportive management team. Culture played in to a lesser degree.
There is another factor to consider…The sub brokerage. While other industries allow independent contractors to incorporate, real estate brokers are currently excluded in Ontario. In response to this some brokerages are allowing for the creation of sub-brokerage models. The paperwork is excruciating and complicated but for experienced and successful agents it is an imperfect work-around. Unfortunately only a handful of brokerages have either the skill or impetus to incorporate this business model into their operations.
Of course in the small amount of research I conducted, the topic of splits was not even brought up…and here is why. Agents who see no value in a brokerage and prefer to run their own business as they see fit will gravitate to the company with the best splits while those who see the value in a more collaborative and supportive environment will be happy to pay for it.
Mark McLean is the Broker/Manager at the Bosley Real Estate Queen St W office, the Immediate Past President the Toronto Real Estate Board and a director at the Ontario Real estate Association .The opinions expressed here do not reflect the opinions of TREB, OREA or Bosley RE.
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17
Jan

Can You Automate Your Real Estate Business?

Osaka Tin Toy Institute – Tin Age Collection – Robby the Robot with Blaster – Front

Osaka Tin Toy Institute – Tin Age Collection – Robby the Robot with Blaster – Front

This week’s meeting topic was pretty straightforward. I was curious to know how many functions of our business could be automated. Were there any functions that you could assign and, essentially, forget about and were those functions important to our business? I taped up three boards to the wall marked; Completely Automated, 1-3 Touch Automated and Not Automated.

Category 1. The completely automated category are those that you would consider “set-and-go” type functions. One you set them up they pretty much look after themselves. For instance, you might opt to outsource your social media posts through services like City Blast. There are also newsletter companies that create content and mail out a set number of newsletters to your farm area each month. Many website companies will keep your site current with timely articles and IDX or Vow feeds can keep your site current. You can even find services to do email drip campaigns, Facebook ads and SEO. Additionally, your brokerage might have its own lead generating system that you participate in or online surveys to provide feedback on your services.

Category 2. The next category is the 1 to 3 touch automated. It is slightly more complicated than the fully automated category because its success relies on you either entering data or pushing a few buttons to make things happen. Unlike fully automatic functions you will need to spend some time at a device, like a computer, iPad or smart phone. There will be some data to enter either in your CRM system or perhaps just setting up a prospect match. If you have done the templates ahead of time then just listed or just sold cards fall into this category. For the busy agent there are a number of touch point services to help you build connections with potential clients like sending thank you cards from your phone or choosing closing gifts and depending on your skill level you could incorporate automated email response systems.

Category 3. Finally there is the not automated category. These are functions like home showings, putting offers together and negotiating deals, door knocking, open houses, writing blogs and doing research. To accomplish anything in this category you need to be fully invested in the real estate business. There is little chance that over the near future these tasks could be performed by an automated source.

The truth is that real estate is a business that requires a great deal of attention from many different directions. At the heart of it is relationship building, networking, and staying top of mind with the people in your network. While some of those functions can be completely or almost completely automated to be a standout success you must have boots on the ground. It is important to note that neither category 1 and 2 can work in silos without input from category 3, yet category 3 can function without 1 and 2. Also interesting is the costs associated with each function. Category 1 relies the most on outsourcing the jobs and is therefore the most expensive, while category 3 is the least expensive but the most time-consuming.

Mark McLean is the Broker/Manager at the Bosley Real Estate Queen St W office, the Immediate Past President the Toronto Real Estate Board and a director at the Ontario Real estate Association .The opinions expressed here do not reflect the opinions of TREB, OREA or Bosley RE.

11
Jan

Thinking About a Brokerage Change? Include This One Question in Your Interview

one-questionTis the season. The start of a new year things are a little slow and agents are laying out plans to increase their business in 2017. If the previous year was less than spectacular many agents look inward to analyse their performance, where they spent money, what worked and what didn’t and formulate a plan for improvement in the new year. As I mentioned in a previous blog, the business plan can go along way in planning what the year ahead will look like. Then there is the other group of agents who blame their bad year on external forces like the market, bad luck or even their brokerage. Their knee jerk reaction is to switch things up with radical ideas like hitting a yoga retreat for a couple of weeks to get realigned or, heaven forbid, uproot their lives and change brokerages. Now I’m not saying a move isn’t a bad idea. There are other factors at play but if you are making a move it has to be for the right choices.
As a manager for nearly 10 years I have interviewed more than my fair share of agents, both new and experienced, and I can safely say there is one question no one has asked. ‘What happens when I get a RECO complaint? What is the company policy and how will you help me if I am right or wrong?’ You see, no one goes into the real estate business expecting to have someone file a complaint against you, so naturally it’s not on your radar. However, as the old expression goes…if you are going to make an omelette you need to break a few eggs. So be prepared.
The reality is that most RECO complaints that come by my desk are frivolous at best. They are either misunderstandings that could be resolved with a quick phone call or are as a result of an irate agent or member of the public who felt they were mistreated or lied to. But innocent or guilty a RECO complaint puts you on the defensive right away followed closely by a sinking feeling of shame which moves to anger and finally frustration. Now you have to deal with it. Full stop. Oh and it will drag on for years and just when you think they forgot about you, a letter comes asking for more information.
Recognizing that over the course of your career you are likely to do thousands of deals. Take it from me…you will get a complaint. It is inevitable. So it should be one of the first questions you should ask a manager at a potential brokerage office. In my experience, there is no standard for handling complaints. Here are just a few I have experienced; One company I knew had a very simple strategy… if you get a complaint, you are fired. One manager of a large company asked the complaining agent to write out the details of the complaint to him, and then he passed it to his agent with a simple message…deal with it. Still another had a lawyer on retainer and the agent simply pays a set fee to handle the complaint, while other companies, like ours, have legal counsel on staff.
As silly as it sounds, there is a belief that the new shiny new companies out there have great ideas, fancy marketing materials, and promises of real estate glory, but if they cannot support you through the inevitable RECO complaint process you may regret your decision down the road.
Mark McLean is the Broker/Manager at the Bosley Real Estate Queen St W office, the Immediate Past President the Toronto Real Estate Board and a director at the Ontario Real estate Association .The opinions expressed here do not reflect the opinions of TREB, OREA or Bosley RE. Currently Mark is writing this post from a yoga retreat in The Bahamas.

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