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Posts tagged ‘boutique’


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.


The Boutique Advantage Part One

The average real estate agent in Canada earns less than $20,000 per year.  And like most sales type functions, 10% of the agents do 90% of the work. Our firm consists of about 180 agents. Most make considerably more than the average. They work full time and are committed to providing professional and full service. In 22 years of being in business, I dare say I have never experienced a more cohesive group of individuals. Our firm stands out in a sea of mediocrity.

One of the keys to our success has been the deep care and support for our sales force. There are some that believe that this is a numbers game. Hire as many agents as you can, because you know statistically that only 10% are going to be performers. Our company believes in training, support, encouragement, and access to higher learning.  If, given all the support, our agents still struggle, then we have to re-evaluate their time with us. At the end of the day, we are interested in being the poster child for the best real estate company in the country.

Undoubtedly there is a shift in the brokerage business. I have talked about this before in previous posts.  Smaller companies are losing market share and the big regional and national companies are getting stronger. Their recruitment strategies are approaching aggressive. However the underlying ideas have not changed. Bigger is not necessarily better and while concern for the bottom line is staggering, the general consensus is that the larger companies are looking for quantity and not quality. Multi level marketing as a recruitment idea simply passes the buck. Eventually someone has to do the work.

 As a small boutique company it is next to impossible to compete with the big nationals when it comes to recruiting and advertising. But there is no reason to throw in the towel. If done right, I believe boutique companies can have an overwhelming advantage.  First of all, they are not bogged down in multiple levels of management. They have the ability to adapt and change gears quickly. Second, they can embrace and initiate technological advantages easily and third, they can create better niche advertising and marketing efforts.

After the realignment in the brokerage business happens I believe the true standout will be the boutique, refined, mid sized, and niche company that offers its clients a unique value advantage.  They will have built a near cult following of agents and customers.  The level of professionalism and service will be recognized and admired. So, how is the boutique real estate office going to stand out? I am going to answer that in Part Two. Of course, I would appreciate any thoughts you would like to share with me.

The views expressed in this blog may not reflect the views and opinions of Bosley Real Estate Ltd.


The Changing Face of Real Estate Companies in Ontario

Lately I have been thinking about how real estate brokerages in Toronto will change over the next few years. My company is expanding into new markets so I have been thinking about  what makes a strong company and what are the factors that make some companies successful and others failures. I’m not simply talking about the selling process. After all, for the last 10 years, we have been in a healthy market. It has been easy to sell properties and easy to build real estate businesses. A strong market has consistently generated sales and those sales have kept brokerages financially fit.  But when the market becomes more balanced, or when the rules of how MLS is accessed are changed, we are going to see a shift in the Real Estate profession.

First. Like natural selection, many agents will not be able to understand or adapt to changes and they will reluctantly leave the business. A large percentage of agents have not lived through a balanced or difficult market. They have only seen the good times. I could forecast a 10% decrease in the number of agents in Toronto.

Second. Organized real estate will continue to raise the educational bar for licensing agents. More regulation will discourage part timers.  I could see another 30% who will probably park their licences or simply let them lapse. Having fewer agents will put a larger financial burden on existing agents, and further weed out those who just don’t have the money to pay into the system. The end result will be fewer and better agents.

Third. Newer agencies, those established within the last 3 years, will probably suffer significantly because they may have not had time to build a war chest for leaner times, or perhaps they simply thought that the good times would never end and had no backup plan.

Fourth. Older agencies, near the tail end of their lifespan, will probably pick a slowdown in sales as an excuse to gracefully exit the business. They probably own the buildings they are in and may simply find it more profitable to rent or sell their locations.

Fifth. Many good real estate companies with a solid agent base will not have anticipated the significance of how the internet would influence how properties are traded. These companies continue to spend their advertising dollar on newspapers rather than beef up their online presence. They will be behind the eight ball while other companies demonstrate their value added services, not just to buyers and sellers, but to agents. If agents are not given the very best in technology, training and support, they are likely to seek different companies. That may force mid sized companies to downsize.

Sixth.  There will be a rise in the number of discount brokerages; as well many midsized agencies will be forced to discount commissions in order to survive. What most fail to realize is that when the market is more balanced, or even tips in favour of the buyer, it actually is harder to sell properties. It takes longer and costs more money. This is actually the worst time to consider being a discount broker. Becoming a discount brokerage is a one way street. Once you offer discounted services, it is next to impossible to become a full service brokerage again.

Seven. A significant shift in power within the real estate community will be created. As companies close, consolidate, wind down or simply lose their edge, agents will transfer to companies that are competitive, relevant, have cache and a history, and have excellent technical and office support.

So who is likely to survive and grow? The million dollar question. Certainly the large regional chains will survive. They have money and resources to ride out a real estate market slowdown. They can tighten belts a little here and there. The multinational companies should survive as well and continue to prosper but, afraid to lose stock value, they will download the costs of staying prosperous to the agents who work for them.

Overall, the barrier to entry for new agents will continue to rise. Many part-time agents will leave the business.  The cost of being an agent will increase significantly. There will be fewer privately owned single office brokerages. Multinational companies will continue to grow but the cost to agents will increase. Smaller multi office boutique players should benefit from market changes provided they keep lean and invest in a strong online presence and use the power of the latest technology to add value to the selling process.

Finally, it goes without saying, but being successful in the real estate brokerage business means being able to adapt quickly and not second guess your decisions. Above all, this is a service business. If a brokerage decides to remain and prosper as a professional, full service business, then the agents working for that brokerage must have the tools to guarantee professional service to their clientele.  This will be achieved through solid management; agent support, training, and a strong internet presence are the keys to success.

At this piont, I have a responsibility to tell you that the opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone and may not represent the opinions of Bosley Real Estate.

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