How to Recruit and Retain the Best Real Estate Team

real estate teamWhether you favor a team-based model for your brokerage or rely on a roster of individual brokers, if you handle more than a couple of dozen transactions a year, you will have to put together a real estate team to ensure that the whole operation runs smoothly.

This is especially important if you’re planning to grow your operation. It’s usually best to start the team-building process before your need for more personnel becomes critical, to avoid any mistakes that haste might cause.

Who should be on your real estate team

If you’re putting together an organization that consists of more than one or two people, you’ll need to start with a detailed business plan that clearly states your goals, a timetable for reaching them, a list of the personnel you’ll need, and a job description for each position. Your team might include a chief executive officer (probably you), who would be mainly responsible for bringing in clients. You’ll probably want a transaction coordinator: someone who keeps track of every transaction from before it starts till well after it closes, and can tell you, at any time, where the deal is in its process. You might want an office manager, to ensure that supplies and machinery are all in order. Other possible positions include administrative assistant(s), event planner, marketing/public relations coordinator, and showing assistant.

Generally speaking, more agents should be the last people you add to the team. Start with various assistants and specialists. If you’re an entrepreneur, you’re probably a big-picture person, so look to hire detail-oriented subordinates. (If you’re more of a details person, you might not be the right person to handle the CEO/rainmaker function.)

Fafie Moore, executive vice president of Southern Nevada for ERA Brokers Consolidated, remarks that top producers who excel at sales start most real estate teams. Administrative skills are usually what these brokers are looking for, at least at the beginning, and new hires need to be trained in that broker’s particular culture.

“How you handle training will depend on the size of your team, but usually team members need a lot of one-on-one with the broker,” she says. “Brokers want to feel that what they have is proprietary. Brokers typically need a really good administrative person who will follow up with various parties to a transaction, and who can organize. Those are key functions that create a lot of anxiety for most teams. The rainmaker is the team leader. It’s coordinating what happens after you’ve made it rain that’s crucial. Failure to execute is the downfall of most teams, and the part they struggle with the most.”

One problem, Moore notes, is that team members don’t always have their duties spelled out for them—and thus end up with functions they’d been hoping to avoid.

“Team leaders want buyers’ agents to prospect,” she says. “But most buyers’ agents took that job because they didn’t want to prospect; they were willing to take a lesser income in return for not having to prospect. But nowadays, a major part of the leads are Internet leads, and agents need to be good at incubating and converting those internet leads. That’s a very important skill set—how to incubate and convert internet leads—and not many agents have it. There’s no secret to converting Internet leads: the key is to respond as quickly as possible. Therefore, you need a system for managing these leads.”

Identify the skills of those on your real estate team

Beth Gittleman, broker and head of sales at Bohemia Realty Group, New York City, says that when you’re about to add team members, your first step should be to assess the skills your current team members have, and diversify them.

“You need people on your team who have strength in each critical area,” she says, “and you need them to be compatible with each other. I look for communications skills. I need team members who can communicate the way I want them to, present themselves the way I want them to, represent my company the way I want them to. As for learning specific skills, there’s training available for all types of work in real estate.

“You’ll want people who have identified their long-term personal goals, who can work with our growth model, who can take our training and put it to use. They’re more desirable than people who want to do their own thing. We don’t want team members who try to reinvent the wheel. A new idea or two isn’t bad, but we want people who are on board with our culture.”

Recruiting agents is market-dependent

Christopher Lynch, founder and owner of Legacy Properties Sotheby’s International Realty (Portland, Maine) points out that you can’t always get what you want when you’re building a team. Your ability to recruit agents, in particular, is market-dependent.

“A problem with new agents entering the business is the time it takes to get to a minimum threshold of income,” he warns. “This can take one to three years. In 2010, that ramp-up time was probably closer to five years. We saw a flight to quality, during which people only wanted to work with the most seasoned agents because the markets were so tumultuous. We were looking for agents with a proven track record of maybe 10 years, so we came out of those years with not many new recruits. Now, with senior agents being busy, we can look for younger agents. It’s a major shift.”

Lynch explains that his firm doesn’t use a team system for transactions but is strong on in-house support. Developing that, he says, is where team-building comes in.

“We focus on the top 20 percent of properties in the state,” he explains, “so we look for agents with diverse and interesting backgrounds who have had success in this or another business.”

What makes up a successful real estate team

A successful team should start with support staff, and many brokerages outsource that staff from overseas. Madhura Gotarne, director of VDT Data Solutions Private Limited in Pune, India, says VDT provides residential appraisal report data entry, commitment typing, title search, MLS typing, and customized reports.

“We have a dedicated team of professionals—usually bachelor’s degree holders—who have domain knowledge for specific services,” she says. “Mostly, our client give us technical specifications, about how to process the data as per their requirement. If these activities are carried out from our location, our clients can reduce their costs by 40 to 50 percent. All these processes can be finished overnight from our location, and client data is ready in next six to eight hours—while it’s night in the USA.”

Finally, when you’re putting a team together, consider compensation for each team member. Will your agents be salaried, commissioned, or a combination thereof? Will your support staff be independent contractors or hired employees? Different tax laws apply to different situations—which is why an expert tax attorney should be on your team, as well!

Interested in growing your knowledge on the topic of building a good Real Estate Team? Click here for some great resources—including webinars, CE courses, blog posts, and podcast episodes.

Article by Joseph Dobrian. Joseph Dobrian has been writing about commercial and residential real estate, and real estate-related finance, for more than 30 years. His by-line has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Real Estate Forum, Journal of Property Management, and many other publications. He is also a noted novelist, essayist, and translator. His website is www.josephdobrian.com, and he can be contacted at jdobrian@aol.com.

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