My son, who was born and raised in the heart of Manhattan, came home from college for the summer. His first day out for a drive across town sent him into frenzy. He was used to some sort of semblance in the traffic patterns of the already unpredictable New York City drivers. However, he was unprepared for the confusing palette of newly colored street lanes, designs, plazas and pathways. Red for bus lanes, white for God alone knows what, yellow for plows and green for bikes or people, whichever dared step in first.
Once he put aside his road rage, he begged me to explain how one was supposed to make intelligent choices when signals can be so misleading. I realized he was on to something. Finding the right platform to associate oneself within the brokerage industry can now be as exhausting and frustrating as the city’s confusing tangle of street patterns.
There are firms for almost every need, and some firms meld many services into a one-stop shop. The flavor of the day can go from buyer-broker to seller-broker, off-market to on-market, leasing, management and mortgage brokerage. Before you let yourself crumble under the weight of uncertainty, start by researching all of the firms in the area where you plan to park your license.
Once you’ve done the preliminary investigation of the top five firms in your market, Google, Tweet and Facebook them. Scour the internet, periodicals, news and blogs to see if they’re involved in any interesting projects, sales, drama or litigation.
Next, call attorneys, reporters, accountants and other real estate professionals to get opinions of the firms you think may be a complementary fit. Seek out agents who left each of the firms you are interested in and find out why.
Ready with your arsenal of information, call the principals and get a meeting with them. If you can’t meet the owners, chances are you will never reach them when you have an issue that demands their attention.
Be wary of firms where the principals compete with the agents. Investors will always want to work with the principal over a broker who has little control over the decisions made. These principals are getting more compensation than the brokers who work there.
There are also many firms where the principals don’t disclose that they’re owners and are getting a higher percentage of the commission. Be careful when considering these firms, as they may be hiding other important information.
In firms where there is a sales manager to whom you will be reporting to, trace that manager’s history to see if she has any allegiance or personal ties to other agents in the firm that may cause conflict for you or jeopardize any decision making. While you’re checking historical facts, it’s significant to know if the firm consists of mostly new agents or experienced agents. It should be weighed more strongly towards seniors than to juniors. Find out how many years the senior agents have been in the business. Anything short of 10 years is not enough.
The ideal firm should have a deep bench of experienced talent. You should have access to this talent in order to be successful. A platform that allows you to leverage the expertise of the team offers you the ability to do more deals and provide your customers with the necessary skill set for their specific situation.
Ascertain if the firm spends money promoting their agents, rather than just themselves. Make sure the firm is financially stable, is in good standing among its peers, has credibility in the market it is competing in and has strong market share in that segment.
Some firms only work on exclusive representations while others work on open listings as well. Any reputable firm will be able to provide a thorough explanation of why they chose their particular method and how it benefits the customer and you as a broker.
Get specific details from the principals as to their future plans. Are they consolidating or expanding? What is their vision for the company in the next year, in the next five years and in the next 10 years?
Is there room for growth? How do they settle disputes? Who’s in the chain of command?
It is normal to be apprehensive and confused. If you still can’t make a decision as to which firm is the right fit for you, here are a few last suggestions.
Spend a day in the office shadowing one of the top agents and then spend a day shadowing one of the least experienced agents. How they are treated by others in the firm will be very telling.
Most importantly, check all your blind spots and keep your eye on the road as you find the best lane for what you want to do.
Adelaide Polsinelli is a veteran real estate professional with more than 25 years of real estate brokerage experience. She is senior director at Eastern Consolidated, an investment sales firm in New York.